I am writing this Open Letter to the Defence Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, on ten reasons why it is necessary to have a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the RM9 billion littoral combatant ship (LCS) scandal and why he should present the RCI proposal to the Cabinet tomorrow, although views had been expressed that an RCI is not needed now but only action by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
The ten reasons are:
(1) Although the all-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had done a great job in opening up on the subject of the RM9 billion LCS scandal, not all the facts of the scandal had been unearthed. For instance, the origin of the RM9 billion procurement, its development and the rationale for the various important decisions taken in the scandal resulting in the massive scale and prolongation of the scandal are not known.
(2) There have been four Prime Ministers and nine Defence Ministers in the past 22 years, and everyone of them should be able to throw light on the LCS scandal by testifying at the Royal Commission of Inquiry.
(3) What were the roles of the then Prime Minister and Finance Minister in the scandal.
(4) The RCI should inquire whether the decision to procure Gowind LCS was decided right from the beginning of the six LSC procurement process, when was Gowind LCS procurement decision first taken and why the views and needs of the end-user, the Royal Malaysian Navy, had been completely ignored.
(5) The RCI should inquire whether the Gowind LCS procurement was in the best interest of the nation, whether from the financial or security viewpoint.
(6) UMNO President and former Defence Minister, Zahid Hamidi had expressed fears that explaining the LCS scandal could expose national defence secrets and he asked the PAC to be “more sensitive on defence matters”. But he was unable to cite a single instance in the PAC report of 247 pages, together with 489 pages of Hansard proceedings and 192 pages of slides which compromised the nation’s defence secrets or where the PAC had not been “more sensitive on defence matters”. On the contrary, the opague nature and lack of transparency in defence procurement bred corruption, breaches of trust, abuses of power, malpractices and manipulation in defence procurements leading to Malaysia being classified in the low “D” rating in Transparency International’s Government Defence Integrity (GDI) Index, signifying there is “high risk” of corruption. The RCI should make recommendations as to how to upgrade Malaysia’s TI GDI to “C” status, which signifies “moderate” status in the company of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland , France, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden and the United States.
(7) Well-known columnist P. Gunasegaram has written an article entitled “Enough meat on LCS bone for MACC to act”. MACC had dragged its feet involving inordinate delay of several years in investigating the RM9 billion LCS scandal. The RCI must investigate into the reasons to improve MACC efficiency so that Malaysia’s Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) can approach the National Integrity Plan 2003-2008 objective to be among the top 30 countries in the world with the least corruption.
(8) To work out a system where hundreds of millions or billions of ringgit of defence procurements do not end up benefitting foreign contractors at the expense of military and ex-military personnel as well as a handful of cronies of the powerful to become multi-millionaires if not billionaires, although the procurement was justified in the name of the military and ex-military personnel, the rakyat and the nation.
(9) To learn the lessons of the RM9 billion LCS scandal, as to what good governance practices should be followed in Malaysia so that corruption in whatever sector can be reduced to the minimum, and not wait for fortunate events like the 2018 general election where there was a change of government and allowed parliamentary reforms to start, resulting in an Opposition Member of Parliament (Wong Kah Woh) helming the Public Accounts Committee and the expose of the RM9 billion LCS scandal.
(10) To move forward on the best possible way to complete the construction and delivery of the six LCS which are critical to safeguard the country’s security and sovereignty as the navy needs to have a combat capability in line with developments in the regional geostrategic and geopolitical security landscape.