Monday, February 28, 2011

RM6 billion OPVs: The Navy Can Sue Me

Utusan Malaysia proves to be the master of “putar-belit” with its article published on the 24 February entitled “TLDM akan saman Tony Pua” when the only comment made by the Navy Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar was that he does not rule out the possibility of filing a defamation suit against me. To quote Utusan itself, “Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia (TLDM) tidak menolak kemungkinan akan memfailkan saman fitnah terhadap Setiausaha Publisiti Kebangsaan DAP, Tony Pua.”

But then again, we are already used to the lies spun by Utusan Malaysia.

Nevertheless, given the possibility that I may be sued for alleged defamation by the Navy, I’ll make the open declaration that I’m ready to face any suit filed against me, in the line of my duty as a Member of Parliament.

When Defence Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi announced the order for 6 units of offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) for the amount of RM6 billion from Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd, he did so without any accompanying details. Given the size and scale of the expenditure with the tax-payers’ money, it is imperative for an MP to be demand for the details of such an acquisition. This is especially so in the light of the fact that there are different types of “patrol vessels” priced between RM100 million to RM1 billion or more.

Malaysian citizens have a right to know what exactly we are getting for our money’s worth especially given the less than stellar track record of our Ministry of Defence which is engulfed in scandals after scandals over the past decade, including the purchase of 6 offshore patrol vessels for RM5.35 billion in 2000 which was not only delayed for nearly 2 years, but had a major cost overrun of 26.2% or RM1.4 billion, costing the people a total of RM6.75 billion.

Tan Sri Abdul Aziz who subsequently clarified that the new patrol vessels purchased were very powerful and heavily equipped vessels which could take part in surface-to-air, surface-to-surface and anti-submarine warfare in the class of “littoral combat ships (LCS)”.

Assuming that Boustead is indeed supplying 6 LCS for the Malaysian Navy which is worth an average of RM1 billion each, the Minister of Defence will still have to answer as to the rationale behind such extravagant purchases for our security needs.

In fact, there are only 2 Littoral Combat Ships in operation today in the world, the USS Independence and USS Freedom in the United States (US). Due to budget constraints, the US Navy had to undergo months of negotiations with the US Congress in the House of Representatives and Senate which voted against various plans before finally securing approval to place an order of 2 ships in 2010, another 2 in 2011 and more subsequently with 2 world-class military defence companies, Lockheed Martin and Austal.

While the United States which faces threats and fights wars in all parts of the world is cutting back on defence spending, owns only 2 LCS, Malaysia has chosen to spending RM6 billion to build 6 LCS in a region not anticipated to be facing threats or confrontation for a foreseeable future.

Worse, the proposed spending comes at a time when the Government is fighting to reign in the budget deficit, control the country’s ballooning RM406 billion debt and has imposed austerity measures by cutting subsidies and increasing taxes of basic goods and services.

The Government needs to practice what it preach in the Government Transfrmation Programme (GTP) and New Economic Model (NEM) which called for accountable and transparent procurement practices. The threat of a lawsuit is not a first, for I have been similarly sued by SYABAS for calling upon the company to return its water concession to the Selangor state government to protect the interest of the rakyat, and I will continue to ask pertinent and uncomfortable questions to our Ministers to check on the excesses of the BN Government.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

SPAD Need To Take The Bus

The debate over the proposed MRT system in the Klang Valley between various non-governmental organisations (NGO) with the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) appears to indicate that the latter is banking heavily on the MRT to resolve the public transport woes of Klang Valley residents. The MRT system is kicking off with the proposed 51km Sg Buloh-Kajang line with 35 stations. It also appears that SPAD is neglecting and writing off the bus services not only as an important, but also a critical means of an effective public transport to not only complement but also to enhance the utilisation of the MRT.

As pointed out by the NGO Transit’s statement yesterday, the average daily ridership of MRT in Singapore is 1.95 million, which is only about 63.2% that of buses at 3.09 million. This is despite the fact that Singapore has a much more extensive MRT network of 130km with 79 stations. It also leads to the conclusion that Singapore has a world-class public transport system precisely because of the prominence and role which buses play, as both an alternative and a complement to the MRT system in the city state.

The situation is no different in Hong Kong which has 212km of MTR and rail services with 150 stations ferrying an average of 3.76 million passengers a day. Despite the highly efficient MTR system, the island state has an extensive bus services network dominated by 3 bus companies serving the equivalent number of passengers or more daily. The largest bus company, Kowloon Motor Bus Company alone for example, serves an average of 2.7 million passengers daily.

Hence it is beyond doubt that in a holistic land public transportation plan, bus services form 1 of the 2 critical pillars in any successful public transport model and its contribution cannot be under-estimated.

As at this point of time, RapidKL which provides the main operator of bus services in the Klang Valley has only approximately 800 buses to service a 6 million population in an area the size of 2,800km2. This is a far cry from Singapore which has more than 3,300 buses servicing a 5 million population in a country the size of 482km2 or Hong Kong which has more than 5,500 buses servicing a 7 million population within an area of 1,095km2.

What is more, a plan for the intensification of bus services should precede the implementation of the MRT mega-project for 2 reasons. Firstly, it will be faster to increase the number of buses within a short period of time, to immediately provide relief both traffic congestion and reducing the cost of living for the city dwellers.

Secondly, it’ll also be a much cheaper exercise compared to the MRT project. Assuming each bus costs RM600,000, “flooding” the Klang Valley with an additional 3,000 buses will only cost RM1.8 billion, a tiny fraction of the RM46 billion bill for the MRT.

Therefore, SPAD must immediately provide its Klang Valley bus services blueprint as an adjunct to the MRT blueprint to “complete” the public transport equation for feedback and evaluation by the Klang Valley community. Otherwise the risk is, Malaysians are being presented with a massive RM46 billion proposal which may fail to achieve its lofty goals of transforming our public transport landscape.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Will Hishamuddin Dare Bring Down the Gates?

The Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein once again rejected the Selangor state government’s offer to set up an auxiliary police team to assist the Royal Malaysian Police to reduce crime in the state.

The excuse given by the Home Minister, that an “auxiliary police team” is against the constitution is completely lame, as there’s no such provision in the constitution barring the setting up of such a team just as there is no provision against the employment of security guards.

The excuse is not only lame, it is also completely irresponsible as Hishammuddin has prioritised politics, for the Selangor state government is ruled by the Pakatan Rakyat coalition, over the safety and security of Malaysians living in the state.

The Minister has also argued that since crime has declined, the current measures are sufficient and hence there is no necessity for additional assistance from the state in the form of an auxiliary police team, which was first proposed by the Petaling Jaya local council (MBPJ) last year.

Since Hishammuddin is so confident of the rate of decline in crime and the effectiveness of the existing police force, I’d like to openly challenge him to order the removal of all security barricades, boom gates, guard houses and other barriers which have sprouted like mushrooms in Petaling Jaya and other cities over the past 2 years. These security obstructions have undeniably contributed to the lower crime rate in the state.

Given that it is technically illegal for anybody to block public roads for any reason, will the Home Minister dare to order the complete removal off all such obstructions?

The Selangor state government has taken the decision to tolerate the reasonable use of boom gates, barricades and other barriers despite their illegality because we understand and empathise with the residents’ fear of crime which had peaked in 2008/9 and respect their rights to protect the safety of their family and loved ones, as well as their property under such fearful circumstances.

As a result of residents taking action into their own hands and paying hundreds of ringgit annually, they have managed to contain the level of crime in the city. These actions by Malaysians instead proved that they do not trust the police to have enough resources to protect them, and have to take over the functions of the police themselves.

However, given a choice, Malaysians would rather not have to pay for their own security guards and live with the inconvenience of illegal barriers and barricades which have made cities like Petaling Jaya a literal “war zone”.

The Selangor state government has chosen to take concrete steps to alleviate the current circumstances by offering to set up an auxiliary police force at the state’s expense to assist the Royal Malaysian Police to beef up security and patrols in the state. The offer is particularly timely and appropriate because “the lack of manpower” has been one of the key reasons given by the Police for not having enough officers to patrol the streets. This auxiliary force will come under the direct command of the Police and will play an important role in further preventing and reducing crime in the state.

We call upon the Home Minister to stop playing politics and give completely lame excuses to reject the sincere offer from the Selangor state government. Hishammuddin by put the interest of the “people first”, and ensure that Malaysians have sufficient police officers to protects their lives and property.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Obviously the Selangor state's campaign against water price hikes and the return of the water concessions to the state have hit a nerve, for Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor has filed a defamation suit against me.

They found an article in the Chinese daily, Nanyang Siang Pau on 16 November last year which quoted me as saying (as translated by Syabas lawyers):

"Tony Pua Kiam Wee mendesak SYABAS untuk mengembalikan hak pengurusan pembekalan air kepada Kerajaan Negeri Selangor. Kerajaan negeri telah melancarkan kempen "Kembalikan Hak Air kepada Rakyat"... Beliau berkata bahawa selepas perundingan bagi Kerajaan Negeri Selangor untuk membeli 4 syarikat konsesi air tidak berjaya, ini telah membawa kepada kempen untuk menghalang kenaikan tarif sebanyak 37%... Beliau berkata bahawa jika syarikat-syarikat konsesi air tidak mempunyai wang yang cukup untuk membayar hutang mereka, mereka perlulah memulangkan hak pembekalan air kepada kerajaan negeri. Kalau mereka tidak mempunyai keupayaan untuk menukar paip air baru, mereka perlu menghentikan atau menamatkan servis pembekalan air mereka..."

You decide if it was defamatory.

Anyway, Syabas served the Writ of Summons dated 28 January 2011 on me claiming:

  1. (a) an injunction be granted to restrain YB Tony Pua Kiam Wee whether by himself, his servants or agents or otherwise howsoever or wheresoever from further publishing or distributing or causing or permitting to be published or distributed, the defamatory words complained of as set out in the Statement of Claim filed or any similar defamatory words of and in relation to SYABAS (the Plaintiff);
  2. (b) general damages;
  3. (c) interest at the rate of 8% p.a. from the date of judgment to date of full payment;
  4. (d) costs; and
  5. (e) such further or other relief as deemed fit and proper by the High Court.

Syabas sues Khalid Ibrahim, Pua for defamation
UPDATED @ 04:20:12 PM 15-02-2011By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal February 15, 2011

SHAH ALAM, Feb 15 — Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) has filed defamation suits against Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and the DAP’s Tony Pua over recent statements against the water utility company.

Both Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders were served with a writ of summons on February 11, they confirmed today.

The first mention for the case was heard yesterday at the High Court here, where Pua (picture) and Khalid were each given a month to prepare their statement of defence. Gobind Singh Deo will represent Pua while Edmund Bon will act as counsel for the Selangor MB.

“Our lawyers have been directed to prepare our defence,” Khalid told reporters here today.

Khalid is being sued over statements made last year, where he claimed that Syabas’ Tabung Budi fund was in violation of its water concession agreement.

The fund allows Selangor residents who wish to waive their right to free water to pay for the 20 cubic metres they receive gratis from the state every month, worth RM11.40.

The sole water distributor then uses the money collected to help other residents who lack access to clean water.

A total of 11 households in Selangor have received assistance from Syabas since the fund’s inception on August 24 as an internal Syabas and Puncak Niaga (M) Sdn Bhd initiative. The fund has collected over RM350,000 to date, according to Syabas.

“This suit does not change our stand in the Tabung Budi issue. Syabas has not right to ask water users to surrender their funds because these funds were given by the state government through the free 20 cubic metres of water programme,” added Khalid.

He said that state officials have already written a letter to Syabas to ensure that all legal fees in this suit would be borne only by Syabas directors and not the company, as the case has “nothing to do” with Syabas’ function as the water supplier to Selangor residents.

The Selangor MB maintained that his administration would still push for Selangor’s takeover of the four concessionaires including Syabas.

Pua, on the other hand, is being sued over recent media statements made to Chinese daily Nanyang Siang Pau Press.

He had said that if the water concessionaires could not settle their debts, the state government should take over the rights of management of water supply in Selangor.

“I don’t understand what is defamatory in my statement.

“The action by Syabas is an act of intimidation and comes at a time where the state is in the process of restructuring the management of water supply in Selangor,” said the Petaling Jaya Utara MP who was also present at the press conference today.

The Malaysian Insider understands that Syabas has sent a letter of demand to another Selangor PR federal lawmaker over remarks against the water utility.

Syabas has already sued Selangor for RM472 million on November 10 last year for preventing the water distributor from increasing water tariffs in 2009 as provided for in its concession agreement.

The deal involving Syabas, the Selangor government and the federal government allows for conditional tariff hikes every three years.

Selangor’s water players — Syabas, Puncak Niaga Sdn Bhd (PNSB), Syarikat Pengeluaran Air Sungai Selangor Sdn Bhd (Splash) and Konsortium ABASS — are at risk of debt payment default as water bonds approach their maturity dates.

The debt service problem started when Syabas was barred from implementing a 37 per cent tariff hike agreed upon in January 2009 after the Selangor government claimed the sole water distributor had not done enough to reduce leakages which cost the state millions.

This, in turn, led to payment problems between Syabas and water treatment concessionaires PNSB, Splash and Konsortium ABASS, who supply it with treated water.

Selangor, which already owns 80 per cent of the state’s water assets, is in the process of taking over the remaining assets from the concessionaires to fulfil a statutory restructuring which will see water supply across the peninsula centralised under the federal government.

Selangor’s latest RM9 billion offer for the assets and liabilities of all four concessionaires fell through after it was rejected by three of the four water players.

A project to obtain water from Pahang has also been delayed due to the issue.

The state government has made two previous offers for the water assets.

But privatisation plans under a federal water agency have been put in deep freeze as federal and state governments engage in what industry watchers have called “excessive politicking”.

PR wants to control the state’s water assets so it can fulfil its promise to keep water cheap for Selangor residents by controlling tariffs.

Monday, February 14, 2011

MACC Ridicules Itself Over RM6 billion OPVs

MACC ridicules itself by claiming that it requires a report from me to commence any investigations on the Ministry of Defence RM6 billion of purchase of offshore patrol vessels.

Bernama quoted an unnamed source from the Commission claiming that "the commission cannot carry out an investigation based on wild allegations", insinuating that the issue which I had raised in the past week was completely baseless and frivolous.

The report added that "if the Petaling Jaya Utara MP did not come forward, the source said, the commission would try to get in touch with him to get “valid facts” to start sinvestigations".

I nearly choked on my breakfast reading the report, not because I fear being contacted by MACC but because the Commission has completely ridiculed itself on 2 counts.

Firstly, MACC should perhaps read both my statements, which are published on my blog on the issue. And if there's difficulty in comprehending the statement in English, then I'd be more than happy to translate it for them.

When the Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zahid Hamidi announced the purchase of 6 naval patrol vessels (OPVs) for RM6 billion ringgit without accompanying details, what I asked was what exactly was the Navy acquiring in terms of the exact type of OPV.

I cited examples where lower end OPVs could be purchased at costs significantly lower such as the Irish Roisin class (US$34m) or what was recently acquired by New Zealand for NZ$90 million (RM210m). Similarly, I cited the example of the US Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) which will cost substantially more at US$300 million.

My statement did not accuse the Ministry of purchasing low-end OPVs at for RM1 billion each. My statement requested the Ministry to justify its purchase by giving detailed specifications on the type of OPVs which was being acquired since the original Minister's statement as reported also by Bernama did not carry details.

Hence the call by MACC for me to file a report with them is irrelevant and the need does not arise at this point of time.

Secondly, MACC's claim that its unable to do anything without a report from me is even more ridiculous. Should MACC require clarifications on the details and cost of the ships, they have the power to summon the relevant officials with the information, which I'm powerless to do.

As an MP, in the interest of the rakyat, I can only ask the right questions when the need arises to check on the various government agencies. Similarly, it would have been MACC's proactive responsibility to at the very least conduct preliminary inquiries on the very substantial RM6 billion OPVs purchase which didn't come with details when it was first announced, and not have to wait for an MP to raise the questions.

MACC's abdication of responsibility in cases such as this is disappointing and is clearly a factor in the decline in the Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index for Malaysia, that the Government is losing the fight against corruption.

Not every inquiry investigated will lead to a genuine abuse or corruption case. But the fact that MACC failed to even monitor developments in mega-government acquisitions in the billions of ringgit marks its failure as the agency to fight against corruption in the country.

Instead by attempting to shift its responsibility to an MP who is raising very relevant questions on the RM6 billion acquisition is makes a mockery on the commitment and competence of MACC.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Questions for Parliament 2011 Session I

Parliament starts again on 7th March and MPs have been asked to submit their usual list of 10 oral and 5 written answer questions by today. Below are my set of questions.

Soalan Jawapan Lisan

1. Tony Pua meminta Perdana Menteri menyatakan prestasi dan kedudukan syarikat 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) sejak ianya ditubuh
(a) Nilai 'current assets', 'return on equity' dan 'total assets'.
(b) Kedudukan terkini kesemua pelaburan termasuk nilai dan jangkaan pulangan setiap projek

2. Tony Pua meminta Perdana Menteri menyatakan
(a) Hubungan dan perkaitan antara Jabatan Perdana Menteri dengan pertubuhan NGO 1Malaysia
(b) Peruntukan daripada Jabatan Perdana Menteri atau kerajaan kepada NGO 1Malaysia secara langsung atau tidak langsung

3. Tony Pua meminta Perdana Menteri menyatakan butir-butir projek kad pintar untuk mengawal pembelian petrol mengikut keupayaan yang telah dihentikan, termasuk nama pembekal, kos yang terlibat, skop projek dan sebab-sebab terperinci projek dibatalkan.

4. Tony Pua meminta Perdana Menteri menyatakan
(a) Skop dan syarat-syarat perlantikan Gamuda-MMC JV sebagai “Project Development Partner (PDP)” projek pembinaan MRT
(b) Kos perlantikan tersebut kepada kerajaan, termasuk kos “contingency” atau luar jangkaan, jika ada.

5. Tony Pua meminta Perdana Menteri menyatakan
(a) sebab projek pembangunan “1National Institute of Health (1NIH)” ditawarkan secara rundingan terus kepada Sentosa Jitra Sdn Bhd dengan bayaran secara “land swap”, termasuk pulangan kepada kerajaan
(b) syarat-syarat jitu bawah perjanjian di ini.

6. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Kewangan menyatakan
(a) Sama ada kontrak pembinaan Jambatan Kedua Pulau Pinang ditawarkan kepada syarikat China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) atas persefahaman bahawa kerajaan China akan memberikan sokongan dari segi “soft loan”
(b) Impek kos kepada kerajaan akibat perjanjian pinjaman yang masih belum dipersetujui

7. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Kewangan menyatakan sebab syarikat Pembinaan BLT (PBLT) Sdn Bhd diberikan konsesi untuk membina kesemua ibu pejabat polis seluruh Negara sehingga 2014 dan jaminan kerajaan yang telah diberikan supaya PBLT dapat pinjaman sukuk sebanyak RM10 billion.

8. Tony Pua meminta Perdana Menteri menyatakan impek pengurangan subsidi kepada makanan dan barang-barang keperluan seperti teh tarik, mee goreng dan lain-lain.

9. Tony Pua meminta Perdana Menteri menyatakan asas dan proses penswastaan Pelabuhan Pulau Pinang, yang dilaporkan bahawa Kabinet telah memputuskan secara prinsip untuk ditawar kepada syarikat berkaitan dengan Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bokhary. Apakah syarat-syarat penting dalam penswastaaan ini

10. Tony Pua meminta Perdana Menteri menyatakan kadar tarif elektrik yang berpatutan mengikut jumlah subsidi gas yang diberikan kepada penjana tenaga bila berbanding dengan Negara lain seperti Thailand yang memberikan subsidi gas yang lebih kurang.

Soalan Jawapan Bertulis

11. Tony Pua meminta Perdana Menteri menyatakan untuk setiap tahun dari 2016-2030
(a) Anggaran tambang yang akan dikenakan untuk perkhidmatan MRT dan jumlah hasil tambang yang akan dikutip
(b) Anggaran kos dan butiran pengurusan perkhidmatan MRT dan jumlah anggaran deficit perbelanjaan setiap tahun

12. Tony Pua meminta Perdana Menteri menyatakan senarai universiti luar negeri yang pemegang biasiswa Mara sarjana muda dan jumlah penuntut yang dihantar setiap tahun sejak 2000 untuk setiap universiti

13. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Dalam Negeri menyatakan dengan jadual terperinci mengenai indeks kadar jenayah:
(a)mengikut kawasan di negeri Selangor dan jenis jenayah dari 2005 ke 2009
(b)mengikut negeri di Malaysia dan jenis jenayah dari 2005 ke 2009

14. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Kewangan menyatakan senarai secara terperinci, pinjaman dan bon yang akan diterbitkan pada tahun 2011 dan 2012
(a) oleh kerajaan, anak syarikat kerajaan, badan berkanun
(b) oleh pihak swasta tetapi diberikan jaminan oleh kerajaan

15. Tony Pua meminta Perdana Menteri menyatakan perkembangan terkini projek-projek yang telah diumumkan oleh kerajaan dalam Bajet 2011 sebagai “projek strategic berimpak tinggi” termasuk KLIFD, pembangunan tanah Lembaga Getah Malaysia di Sg Buloh dan Warisan Merdeka.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

OPVs, LCS and What Have You

First of all, I’d like to express my thanks to Navy Chief Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar for taking the effort to make clarifications to my queries raised in my earlier press statement which were directed to the Minister of Defence.

1. Points of fact – OPV or LCS?

a. My statement on 7 Feb 2011 on this issue was responding to the statement made by Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on the government agreeing to allocate RM6 billion to build 6 “patrol vessels” as reported by Bernama on 5 Feb 2011.

It was only in yesterday’s press conference that Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar or the Navy or Ministry of Defence for that matter, made reference to the specific term “Littoral Combat Ships” or LCS.

I have been accused in the Internet, on blogs and twitter that I can’t tell the difference between a “sampan” from a “speedboat”. Perhaps these criticisms, if valid, should be directed at the Minister of Defence himself, unless of course, Bernama misquoted the Minister.

b. However, more amusingly perhaps, Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) are a broad class of ships above 700 to approximately 2000 tons used for mixed purposes such as fishery protection, pollution control, fire-fighting, search and rescue, humanitarian operations, EEZ patrol and wartime deployment. Such ships built to wartime requirements are sometimes referred to as “corvettes”.

LCS on the other hand specialised variant of combat ship designed in the United States, which is arguably the “high-end” model of OPVs. The USS Independence, which is 1 of the 2 LCS in the US is 127m long, weighs 2,176 tons and has a speed of 44 knots. Our current Kedah-class OPV for example, is 91m long, weighs 1,650 tons and has a speed of 22 knots. “Littoral”, in layman’s term means “close to shore”.

Hence the question isn’t “OPV or LCS?” – but “what type of OPV is the navy buying?”.

2. Point of fact – The Price of Ships

a. Questions were raised as to the accuracy and relevance of the prices of OPVs which I had quoted in my earlier statement. For example, again according to Bernama, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar claimed that my figure of NZ$90 million (RM210m) for each of New Zealand’s recent purchase 2 OPVs was incorrect as the New Zealand’s Ministry of Defence website claimed the cost isn’t finalised.

Attempting to split hairs over the NZ$90 million figure is however a pointless exercise. The figure is an estimate as at December 2010 for ships which have already been delivered and commissioned in the middle of 2010. Hence even if one were to allow for a generous 10% variance, it’ll still be priced only at RM231m, and a far cry from the Royal Malaysian Navy’s RM1 billion per ship.

My point isn’t whether New Zealand bought its ships for NZ$90m or NZ$99m. My point was that the price range for different types of OPVs is huge, from US$34m (RM103m) to US$300m (RM913m) or more. Hence the question I asked per my earlier statement:

“The obvious question then, is whether the Government is procuring the construction of OPVs nearer the Irish Roisin class or closer to the US LCS? And if we are indeed making an order for the best-in-class LCS type ships capable of fighting a full scale surface and submarine warfare, does Boustead even have the skills and technology to make these ships?”

3. The Point

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a military man nor am I as knowledgeable as many of the military analysts and self-confessed military enthusiasts out there. I’ll also raise my hands to say that I’ll have tonnes to learn from our Chief Admiral in terms of military expertise. At the same time, I’m also not questioning the Navy’s need for additional ships.

But the indisputable fact of the matter is the price gap between the lower-end OPVs and the top-of-its-class models is huge. Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi’s statement of a RM6 billion purchase of 6 patrol vessels was vague and required detailed clarification. And it is our duty as parliamentarians to ensure that the tax-payers’ receive the value for their buck.

From the reports on the Chief Admiral’s press conference yesterday, I’ve to hear the additional specifications which make our ships being priced substantially higher than that paid for by New Zealand. For example, will our “LCS” be in the similar class as the American “LCS” in terms of armament for surface to air, surface to surface and anti-submarine warfare? The features of these ships such as the types and quantities of guns, electronic warfare and decoys, speed, sensors and processing systems are no secrets and are widely published in various defence magazines.

Hence, we MPs from Pakatan Rakyat are more than happy to accept the gracious offer by the Chief Admiral to meet him in person and be “educated” on the RM6 billion transaction.

NEM No More?

A confluence of criticisms by a member of the National Economic Action Council (NEAC), a former Minister and the former US Ambassador to Malaysia, together with an announcement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak himself have confirmed the death and irrelevance of the New Economic Model (NEM). Instead, the Government has chosen to extend the lifespan of the New Economic Policy (NEP) with no expiry date in sight.

Reluctant NEAC member Datuk Dr Zainal Aznam Mohd Yusof argued that Najib’s administration has “insufficient political will” to implement the required reforms, and this has resulted in the canning of proposals such as the “Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC)”.

Similarly, the NEM Part II which was intentionally “watered down” reintroduced the NEP’s 30% bumiputera equity target, which was originally rescinded in NEM Part I. Instead the NEM Part I had proposed the “deliberate shifting of affirmative action towards moving down to the bottom 40 per cent.”

Datuk Dr Zainal also added that the appointment of Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad as the chairman of FELDA with his “track record of graft had raised alarm bells. It was a sad day when Isa was appointed chairperson of Felda.”

At the same conference, former Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir also lamented that “if the founding fathers could see what is happening now, they will turn in their graves. Corruption is everywhere, you have to bribe people to get things done. Cronyism is everywhere.”

In a reference to Najib’s plans such as the NEM, GTP, ETP etc., he added that “there are beautiful statements (made), but they do not reflect the real state of affairs.”

Similarly, former ambassador to Malaysia, Mr John Mallot wrote in his Wall Street Journal column that “although Mr Najib held out the hope of change a year ago with his New Economic Model, which promised an ‘inclusive’ affirmative action policy that would be, in Mr. Najib’s words, ‘market friendly, merit-based, transparent and needs-based,’ he has failed to follow through.”

What is perhaps most damning for the NEM is Mr Mallot’s prognosis that Malaysians “will continue to vote with their feet and take their money and talents with them. And foreign investors, concerned about racial instability and the absence of meaningful economic reform, will continue to look elsewhere to do business”.

The Prime Minister himself, has chosen the very same day to hold a “Bumiputera Agenda Supreme Council” meeting and announcing the setting up of “Unit Peneraju Agenda Bumiputera” to drive and co-ordinate bumiputera economic participation. This confirms the criticisms that Najib is placing the race agenda above the original intention of the NEM, which was to steer affirmative action programmes towards the bottom 40% of income earners of the population.

Najib is now proving to be a failed reformer, with his much vaunted “Najibnomics” turning out to be nothing more than an endorsement of the controversial NEP which favours the influential elite and a copycat of Mahathir’s mega-projects and privatisation policies of the 1990s.

The concerns raised in the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and the NEM Part I on the NEP increasing the income disparity between the rich and poor, the sense of discrimination dissatisfaction between races as well as the resulting brain drain will only worsen as a result. While the major infrastructural spending spree will lead to short term stimulation of the economy as happened in the 1990s, history will only repeat itself as we suffered a decade of real income stagnation and falling competitiveness in the 2000s.

It is most unfortunate that the Prime Minister has chosen to pander to vested political interest of race-based extremists groups such as Perkasa, and forsake his opportunity to make his mark by embarking on genuine reforms on Government policies which will reverse the decline in our economic competitiveness.

Monday, February 07, 2011

RM6 billion for 6 Offshore Patrol Vessels - Deal?

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi announced the order for 6 units of offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) for the amount of RM6 billion from Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd two days ago.

While it is understood that the price is yet to be “finalised”, it brings to questions the practice by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to award contracts well before the terms of the contract, including the price, have been finalised. Last year, MoD awarded another RM8 billion contract to purchase 257 8x8 Armoured-Wheeled Vehicles (AWVs) from a DRB-Hicom subsidiary when the latter has not even built a prototype vehicle for testing. These contracts were also awarded with no competitive bids which raise the likelihood of massive leakages in the process.

What is the point of making major announcements on such awards, including the value of the contracts when the Government will subsequently explain that “everything is still subject to finalisation of specifications and negotiations on price”? In that case, isn’t it better to finalise the specifications, conclude the price before the relevant announcements?

A cursory check on the prices of OPVs revealed a wide range in prices per ship. The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) took delivery of its 85-metres 1,500 tonnes OPVs from world-renown global defence and security company, BAE Systems last year at the cost of NZ$90 million each or approximately RM210 million. The OPVs were built for maritime counter-terrorism, surveillance and reconnaissance, surface contact detection, apprehension and escort of vessels as well as maritime search And rescue (SAR).

The Irish Roisin class will cost US$34 million (RM103m), the Greek Super Vita US$108 million (RM329m), the German Type 130 US$188 million (RM572m) and the Israeli Saar V US$260 million (RM791m) each. The MoD’s price tag of RM1 billion per OPV is between 26% and 870% above the cost of the various international-class OPVs listed above.

Even at the very top of the range, ships were to be built by Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, two of the best and biggest military companies in the world were to build the US “Littoral Combat Ships (LCS)” at a budget of less than US$300 million (RM913m) in 2004. These ships are sized at 115 metres and 3,000 tonnes and fully equipped for full-scale anti-mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare as well as surface warfare. The ships will even have helicopter hangers built on its deck and equipped with the most sophisticated combat data weapons system.

The obvious question then, is whether the Government is procuring the construction of OPVs nearer the Irish Roisin class or closer to the US LCS? And if we are indeed making an order for the best-in-class LCS type ships capable of fighting a full scale surface and submarine warfare, does Boustead even have the skills and technology to make these ships?

Finally, it should be noted that even the most advanced defence countries in the world such as the United States procure military construction and defence equipment via competitive bids, open to world class international companies from Canada, Australia and Europe to achieve the best value for its money. In addition, the defence budget and expenditure is not only monitored by the Congressional Committee on Defence, it is also the approving authority for specific budgets for weapons related development including the LCS.

The MoD must practise increased transparency and professionalism in its award of contracts to ensure that the interest of the rakyat are fully protected and money taxed from the people are not wasted on over-priced projects. Otherwise, the call by the BN government for the people to absorb subsidy cuts on basic goods and services to rein in the widening budget deficit only smacks of hypocrisy.

Malaysia is "Tanah Melayu"?

Pakatan wants Najib’s reply to Dr M’s Tanah Melayu remarks
By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal February 04, 2011

In a speech on Tuesday, Dr Mahathir told Malaysians to admit that the country belonged to the Malays and that they had to accept the culture and language of the dominant community. The former prime minister said that the country’s forefathers gave the Chinese and Indians citizenship because they expected the communities to respect Malay sovereignty.

“This country belongs to the Malay race. Peninsular Malaysia was known as Tanah Melayu but this cannot be said because it will be considered racist. We must be sincere and accept that the country is Tanah Melayu,” he said.


DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua called Dr Mahathir’s views “supremacist”, saying there were no provisions in the Federal Constitution which supported Dr Mahahir’s views.

“Najib and Mahathir should perhaps enlighten Malaysians where Mahathir’s supremacist concept is found in the Federal Constitution as designed by our forefathers. Najib will also have to explain how his 1 Malaysia fits into Mahathir’s scheme of things,” Pua told The Malaysian Insider.

According to another DAP leader, Lim Kit Siang, Dr Mahathir was “contradicting” himself as his remarks went against not only the 1 Malaysia concept, but also the “Bangsa Malaysia” concept bandied around during the Mahathir administration.

“What he said was full of contradictions... it contradicts his (Dr Mahathir’s) own Bangsa Malaysia concept and 1 Malaysia.

“The aim for Vision 2020 was to create a Malaysia full of people committed to the nation, all races working together on the same platform,” the DAP parliamentary leader told The Malaysian Insider.

Click here for the full article.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Tenang Campaign: For The Record

DAP Super Friday campaign dinner in Labis.  The 1,200 crowd goes wild.

DAP campaign team members at the dinner

Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching & I greets Labis folks at coffee shops

Vincent Wu, Wong May Ing & I signalling to Lim Guan Eng
that its time to go to his next stop!

At Labis town Ops Centre, waiting for turn to ceramah with Perak ADUNs
Chang Lih Kang & Leong Mee Meng

Tenang Analysis: What Happened?

In Tenang, Malay votes won the day for BN
By Shannon Teoh January 31, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — More than half of Barisan Nasional’s (BN) 1,200-vote gain over PAS in Tenang was due to increased Malay support in the constituency, DAP statistics have shown.
Malays who had in 2008 voted against Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s stewardship of BN or abstained from the general election, came out to signal its support for Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration.

The Malays make up about 49 per cent of the 14,753 voters in Tenang. Chinese account for over 38 per cent and Indians, 12 per cent.

Umno’s Azahar Ibrahim received 83.3 per cent of Malay votes, up four percentage points from Election 2008, said DAP publicity chief Tony Pua on Twitter earlier today. A Malay turnout of 81 per cent yesterday, up two points from 2008, translated to a 700-vote increase.

BN’s 3,707-vote majority was also due to Chinese voters skipping yesterday’s by-election.

Although Normala Sudirman managed to hold on to PAS’s 64 per cent Chinese support from the 2008 general election, an 18-point fall in turnout resulted in another 300-vote gain for BN’s majority.

Despite a 30 per cent increase in Indian votes for BN, less than 40 per cent turned up to vote. The lower Indian turnout meant BN only secured 200-vote increase from the hike in proportions.

Overall, Azahar polled 6,699 votes against Normala, who took 2,992 votes from the 12 polling districts.

A total of 9,833 voters or 67 per cent of the 14,753 electorate turned up to cast their ballots, nearly 1,000 fewer than in 2008.

BN had initially targeted a victory margin of 5,000 votes, similar to Election 2004.

It retained Tenang in 2008 by 2,492 votes.