Media Conference Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on Wednesday, 12th November 2008 at 11 am: 

Azmi should reconvene PAC meetings to get answers to many questions which MPs and Malaysians expect to find in the PAC report on the Eurocopter deal

I thank Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid for committing a grave parliamentary impropriety yesterday in compromising his position as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman and trying to hit out at me in Parliament for my earlier criticisms of him in mishandling the PAC inquiry into the RM1.6 billion Eurocopter helicopter deal, resulting in our joint appearance before the media at yesterday’s lunch-break.

This has refocused parliamentary and national attention on the RM1.6 billion Cougar EC725 Eurocopter deal and the PAC inquiry, which I had described as the most important and high-profile PAC inquiry in the 51-history of Malaysian Parliament.

Azmi gave a public undertaking yesterday that the PAC report into the Eurocopter inquiry would be ready to be tabled in two or three days.

I therefore expect the PAC report on its inquiry into the Eurocopter inquiry to be tabled in Parliament by next Monday or Azmi should explain why he has broken his solemn undertaking both inside and outside the House.

I have no personal quarrel with Azmi as all I wanted is a PAC which is capable of discharging its mandate to be an effective parliamentary watchdog on government misappropriation and abuses of public funds.

I have always taken the position that centuries of parliamentary experience world-wide have demonstrated that a PAC chaired by a government MP – what more, if chaired by a former Minister who had just stepped down from the Cabinet – will not be able to play the role of an effective and efficient parliamentary watchdog.

The PAC inquiry into the RM1.6 billion Eurocopter deal will be a test whether my reservations about Azmi as PAC Chairman is well-founded, although I have no personal animus towards him.

In fact, I am prepared to offer all possible help to the PAC to ensure that it conducts a thorough and satisfactory inquiry, and this is why I had made numerous proposals and suggestions about the proper terms of reference of the PAC inquiry in my dozen statements on the issue, both in and out of Parliament.

If the PAC inquiry had not been as comprehensive and wide-ranging as it should be to enable the production of a satisfactory report, Azmi should reconvene PAC meetings to get answers to many questions which MPs and Malaysians expect to find in the PAC finding on the Eurocopter deal.

To assist the PAC Chairman, let me summarise some of the answers which the PAC report should furnish, viz:

1. The very grave issues about propriety, accountability and professionalism in the decision-making process, whether at the technical, off-set or price stages, especially when it is now established that the government had not conducted physical and specification inspections of the three short-listed aircrafts – the Cougar EC725, Sikorsky S92 and AgustaWestlands AW101.

2. Why is Malaysia paying about twice the price for the EC 725 helicopters as compared to Brazil?

3. Are Nuris “flying coffins”? If not, why not just upgrade them for a few hundred million ringgit, a small fraction of the cost as compared to the billion-ringgit purchase of Cougar EC725 Eurocopters, which are 40-year-old Cougars in any event? Is it true that (i) 85% of the RMAF Nuri crashes were due to human error, 10 % enemy aggression and another 5 % only maybe technical; and (ii) the Nuris are still “good for another 20 years and more”, having “very low airframe hours, with an average of 9000 hours per aircraft” as compared to “worldwide standard for this type of helicopter currently is more than 50,000 hours and some even reaching 60,000 hours”.

4. Is there a middleman involved in the Eurocopter deal, the identity and the commissions involved, whether paid by the government or Eurocopter.

5. Has the PAC secured firm undertaking from the Defence Ministry that when the government finally decides to purchase the helicopters, there would be a new open tender for the helicopters in view of the procedural abuses in the Eurocopter deal?

I had also proposed that the PAC should invite representatives from all the aircraft manufactures who had submitted bids for the helicopter tender to appear to help the PAC in its inquiry.

I had right from the beginning stressed that the PAC must have independent and professional advice from people knowledgeable and have working experience in the aviation industry, especially those who know about helicopter operations and the history of Nuri/RMAF such as experienced helicopter pilots or ex-pilots, particularly to enable the PAC to ascertain whether Nuris are “flying coffins”.

What has the PAC done to ensure that it is not totally dependent on the one-sided submissions of the Defence Ministry and RMAF?

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor