Shipbuilder Boustead said some parts of the LCS are becoming obsolete but can still be used.
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A media tour can be an excellent opportunity to gain positive press for an organization.
It can also backfire if specific steps aren’t taken.
In the case of the troubled Ministry of Defence (Mindef), attempts to shore up its standing with an aroused and irritable public opinion are seemingly alienating instead of strengthening its cause.
On Saturday (13 August), Mindef took reporters and photographers to see five littoral combat ships (LCS), currently under construction by Boustead Naval Shipyard (BNS), with the first ship 60 per cent completed.
Hari ini @MINDEFMalaysia bawa lebih 20 agensi media ke Lumut utk lihat kapal-kapal LCS yg sudah di peringkat pembinaan, dibawa ke gudang peralatan LCS & diberi taklimat rekabentuk. Lawatan baru bermula. Ini selari dgn ketegasan saya – saya & MINDEF tiada apa hendak disembunyikan. pic.twitter.com/aIsJfgKEkg— Hishammuddin Hussein 🇲🇾 (@HishammuddinH2O) August 13, 2022
BNS Chief Executive Officer Ir Azhar Jumaat, also gave updates on the other LCSs stationed at the Royal Malaysian Navy Base (TLDM) in Lumut, Perak.
According to him, the progress is as follows:
- LCS 2 (48 per cent)
- LCS 3 (43 per cent)
- LCS 4 (36 per cent)
- LCS 5 (22 per cent)
The five ships under construction with various stages to be completed signify that the RM6 billion spent by the government has been proven. We have set the path and level of capability, so please give us the opportunity and space to show the reality.BNS Chief Executive Officer, Ir Azhar Jumaat, giving his assurance during the briefing session.
During the two-hour tour, the media were taken to see the progress of the first LCS construction and to view the BNS ship storage warehouse that houses the equipment related to the LCS project.
Azhar is hopeful the public will now believe that ships exist, adding that the ships are made of steel and not wood.
The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had exposed the skeleton in the cupboard.
In a report of nearly 250 pages, PAC revealed that RM6.083 billion had been spent on the direct negotiation project, yet not a single ship had been completed.
Just simply shocking! The whole contract is RM9.13 billion for 6 combat ships. RM6 billion paid, but only one ship was delivered so far, which is only 44% completed, and not the Sigma-class vessel wanted by the Navy, but a Sigma-class vessel!! https://t.co/LCw3Kx2P15— Yap Swee Seng (@yapsweeseng) August 5, 2022
Nothing To Hide Or Show?
Critics said the ship shown to the media – far from the RM9 billion spent so far – looks more like scrap than a vessel that can contribute to the operational competence of the navy.
They pointed out that the ship seemed pretty much the same, if not worse, compared to what it was five years ago when it was presented to VIPs.
At the same time, netizens continued highlighting how the cost had ballooned over the years as the project dragged on.
People also see that RM1.4bil of LCS allocation had been used for other purposes, including cost overruns.
Netizens added that the scandal should not be compared to Penang’s controversial undersea tunnel project.
Syukur duit tak hilang melayang mcm skandal Kapal LCS 🤲 pic.twitter.com/savOmY5kZD— Burt Berkarat (@dermainejupri) August 13, 2022
The blame was also pinned on Umno as the dominant member of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.
They argued that Umno should own up to its mistake instead of taking potshots against the Opposition.
Numbers Don’t Lie
At the same time, critics said the relevant ministers in charge back then should be held accountable.
They said there should be no excuse as the maths just don’t add up.
Graf yg tak akan keluar FB Najib & BN.— Syo 🇲🇾🏴 (@forsyo) August 13, 2022
1. Graf kemajuan kerja.Jelas projek LCS tergendala bukan sbb PH.Kontraktor mula stop kerja sbb tak dibayar.
2. Graf pembayaran.52% @ RM4.7b telah dibayar as at Dis 2017.Siapa PM,Menteri Kewangan & Pertahanan?
Mana pergi semua duit ni? pic.twitter.com/M837I8e370
Heads Will Roll
Meanwhile, Senior Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the government would ensure the LCSs were delivered at the end of the day.
He regretted the project’s shortcomings and assured wrongdoers would be brought to justice.
All eyes will undoubtedly be on the investigation paper prepared by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (SPRM) to uncover the truth.
SPRM, tasked to hasten its investigation by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, has submitted its findings to the Attorney General’s Office for further action.
With the 15th General Election looming, the stakes could not be higher.