Friday, October 31, 2008

Govt defers another helicopter deal

The Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Musa Hassan said the Royal Malaysian Police will add 21 more helicopters to their fleet to improve the efficiency of the force patrolling the nation's waters. [Utusan Malaysia, 12/8/08]

In a report by Utusan Malaysia dated August 12, Tan Sri Musa Hassan announced that the purchase of 21 helicopters by the Royal Police was approved by the Cabinet. The force currently has 12 helicopters patrolling the country's waters but Musa expressed the limited numbers of helicopters were not adequate to effectively monitor our borders.

The total cost of the deal was never revealed to the public; fueling speculation that it may have been similarly overpriced as the recent controversial Eurocopter scandal. Information of the manufacturer, model, specifications, tenders and the company involved remained illusive from the public even two months after the Cabinet's decision to allocate funds for the purchase.

However, DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang questioned Musa's claim of the apparent "Cabinet approval" of the deal. In his blog (, the Ipoh Timur MP wrote "When did the Cabinet approve the purchase of 21 helicopters for the Police...?"

If there was indeed an official Cabinet sanction of the purchase, how could an MP not know about it? Even if such approvals by the Cabinet had indeed slipped Lim's mind , it still does not justify the government's failure to disclose the details of the purchase to taxpayers.

On October 28, the government decided to call off negotiations on the ostentatious purchase of 12 Eurocopter EC-725 Cougars in the wake of falling crude and palm oil revenues. The next project to be deferred was the procurement of 21 helicopters for the Royal Police. The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Amirsham Aziz announced so on the same day during the final minutes of the Parliament session. Indeed, such expensive undertakings like the purchase of the Eurocopters and the ones for the police had to be shelved to enable the government to divert precious public funds to more pressing matters.

Nonetheless, the question arises as to how many more mega projects are still hovering behind the backs of the Malaysian public that need to be scrapped to weather the global economic uncertainty. Whose call is it to make then, on which project goes and which ones stay?

Such of a responsibility lies in the hands of politicians whose cronies would have to endure massive financial setbacks whenever a government deal is called off.