KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 14 — A group of people wearing mostly black have gathered outside the Sogo shopping centre in the national capital in a show of public unhappiness with the much delayed delivery of the navy’s RM9 billion littoral combat ships (LCS).
Holding up cardboard posters and a black banner in the rain, around 50 demonstrators, also wearing black, demanded incumbent Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein take responsibility for the military asset procurement scandal by resigning from the post.
“This is not a small matter because when the government is willing to sacrifice the safety of its citizens and the sovereignty of the nation... it is the biggest betrayal,” said Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, the president of the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance.
Besides Syed Saddiq, other politicians observed at the demonstration were Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad from PKR and Johor DAP vice-chief Sheikh Umar Bagharib Ali, a former Paloh assemblyman.
“We have not yet seen the end of the 1MDB scandal and this week we have heard of a new big scandal in which Malaysia has spent RM6 billion for ships, but we still not have received even one ship,” Sheikh Umar said.
Stephen Doraisamy from the Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) and a representative from university students' group also spoke in criticism of the project.
The demonstrators also demanded that authorities take action against former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and former defence minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi over the scandal.
Around 80 policemen monitored the event and asked the attendees to conclude the demonstration, which ended peacefully ended after Syed Saddiq’s speech.
The demonstration had been announced on social media by a group calling itself Jawatankuasa Protes Mana Kapal LCS, which issued a statement yesterday demanding for an investigation into the scandal, among others.
The LCS scandal came to light last Thursday when the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) tabled its report on the project in Parliament.
The report said the RM9.128 billion, 10-year contract from October 2013 to October 2023 was awarded through direct negotiation to contractor BNS for the supply of the six LCS.
The report also said the Malaysian government had to date already paid RM6.083 billion to the contractor, but none of the six LCS vessels have been completed. Based on the original schedule, five of the six LCS vessels should have been completed and handed over by August 2022.
The LCS project is the largest procurement in the history of the Ministry of Defence.
*Editor's note: An earlier edition erroneously named Sheikh Umar Bagharib Ali as Paloh assemblyman and has since been corrected.