Salahuddin admits asking Dr M to award RM1.4b project to farmers’ group

Opalyn Mok
Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub speaks to the press after attending the Department of Fisheries’ 125th anniversary celebrations in Batu Maung November 22, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Nov 22 — Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub admitted writing to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad asking for a RM1.4 billion farming tender to be given to the National Farmers Organisation (Nafas).

The lawmaker said he was merely doing his duty by writing the letter of support to assist Nafas as the tender has yet to be finalised.

“As long as the tender is still open, anyone can submit their tender, anyone can see me to participate, and I was fulfilling my responsibility by writing that letter of support for Nafas,” he told reporters during a press conference here after opening the Department of Fisheries’ 125th anniversary celebration at the Fisheries Research Institute in Batu Maung.

He added that as long as the tender was not finalised and it had not been awarded to a successful bidder, he was not wrong to write the letter of support for Nafas.

He said Nafas is not any normal organisation but one that issues dividends to farmers and takes care of their welfare.

“It is managed by the ministry for our farmers so do not equate Nafas bidding for the project as for ourselves. This is to benefit the farmers,” he said.

Salahuddin was responding to allegations by Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong that the former had written to the prime minister on November 7 to request the direct appointment of Nafas for agricultural imports in the paddy sector for a three-year period between 2020 and 2022.

Labelling it as “dubious dealings”, Wee claimed that several local companies that had won the open tenders placed by Salahuddin’s ministry had seen their tenders cancelled.

He alleged that the companies were suddenly told that their tenders were cancelled and that the projects were awarded through direct negotiation.

Salahuddin told Wee to show proof of his allegations.

“We do everything according to procedure. There is no proof that we cancelled tenders that had been offered,” he said.

He said all calls for tenders are finalised by the Ministry of Finance so it all depends on the latter.

“I am not involved in the tender process. I want to explain this so that we are not trapped into thinking that I want to give the project to our cronies,” he said.

He said when the ministry called for tenders, the rule of law and procedures are followed.

“We did not break any laws. Everything was done in accordance with the procedures of open tender,” he said.

He brushed aside Wee’s allegations of a “RM1.4 billion scandal” by pointing out that none of the money went into his personal account.

“What is a scandal? A good example of a scandal is 1MDB. A scandal is when money is deposited into my account, my wife’s account, my deputy’s account, his family’s account,” he said.

He said if Nafas were to be given the project, the funds would go directly to the organisation which is managed by the ministry.

As for allegations that the money from the project that went to Nafas was channelled to the recent Tanjung Piai by-election campaign, Salahuddin denied this.

He again asked Wee to prove his claims.

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