Eurocopter answers PAC must give in its report

I thank Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid for committing a grave parliamentary impropriety yesterday in compromising his position as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman and trying to hit out at me in Parliament for my earlier criticisms of him in mishandling the PAC inquiry into the RM1.6 billion Eurocopter helicopter deal, resulting in our joint appearance before the media at yesterday’s lunch-break.

This has refocused parliamentary and national attention on the RM1.6 billion Cougar EC725 Eurocopter deal and the PAC inquiry, which I had described as the most important and high-profile PAC inquiry in the 51-year history of Malaysian Parliament.

Azmi gave a public undertaking yesterday that the PAC report into the Eurocopter inquiry would be ready to be tabled in two or three days.

I therefore expect the PAC report on its inquiry into the Eurocopter ideal to be tabled in Parliament by next Monday or Azmi should explain why he has broken his solemn undertaking both inside and outside the House.

I have no personal quarrel with Azmi as all I wanted is a PAC which is capable of discharging its mandate to be an effective parliamentary watchdog on government misappropriation and abuses of public funds.

I have always taken the position that centuries of parliamentary experience world-wide have demonstrated that a PAC chaired by a government MP – what more, if chaired by a former Minister who had just stepped down from the Cabinet – will not be able to play the role of an effective and efficient parliamentary watchdog.

The PAC inquiry into the RM1.6 billion Eurocopter deal will be a test whether my reservations about Azmi as PAC Chairman is well-founded, although I have no personal animus towards him.

In fact, I am prepared to offer all possible help to the PAC to ensure that it conducts a thorough and satisfactory inquiry, and this is why I had made numerous proposals and suggestions about the proper terms of reference of the PAC inquiry in my dozen statements on the issue, both in and out of Parliament.

If the PAC inquiry had not been as comprehensive and wide-ranging as it should be to enable the production of a satisfactory report, Azmi should reconvene PAC meetings to get answers to many questions which MPs and Malaysians expect to find in the PAC finding on the Eurocopter deal.

To assist the PAC Chairman, let me summarise some of the answers which the PAC report should furnish, viz:

1. The very grave issues about propriety, accountability and professionalism in the decision-making process, whether at the technical, off-set or price stages, especially when it is now established that the government had not conducted physical and specification inspections of the three short-listed aircrafts – the Cougar EC725, Sikorsky S92 and AgustaWestlands AW101.

2. Why is Malaysia paying about twice the price for the EC 725 helicopters as compared to Brazil?

3. Are Nuris “flying coffins”? If not, why not just upgrade them for a few hundred million ringgit, a small fraction of the cost as compared to the billion-ringgit purchase of Cougar EC725 Eurocopters, which are 40-year-old Cougars in any event? Is it true that (i) 85% of the RMAF Nuri crashes were due to human error, 10 % enemy aggression and another 5 % only maybe technical; and (ii) the Nuris are still “good for another 20 years and more”, having “very low airframe hours, with an average of 9000 hours per aircraft” as compared to “worldwide standard for this type of helicopter currently is more than 50,000 hours and some even reaching 60,000 hours”.

4. Is there a middleman involved in the Eurocopter deal, the identity and the commissions involved, whether paid by the government or Eurocopter.

5. Has the PAC secured firm undertaking from the Defence Ministry that when the government finally decides to purchase the helicopters, there would be a new open tender for the helicopters in view of the procedural abuses in the Eurocopter deal?

I had also proposed that the PAC should invite representatives from all the aircraft manufactures who had submitted bids for the helicopter tender to appear to help the PAC in its inquiry.

I had right from the beginning stressed that the PAC must have independent and professional advice from people knowledgeable and have working experience in the aviation industry, especially those who know about helicopter operations and the history of Nuri/RMAF such as experienced helicopter pilots or ex-pilots, particularly to enable the PAC to ascertain whether Nuris are “flying coffins”.

What has the PAC done to ensure that it is not totally dependent on the one-sided submissions of the Defence Ministry and RMAF?

  1. #1 by k1980 on Wednesday, 12 November 2008 - 10:49 am

    The real meaning of PAC is ” Packup And Coverup” so that the truth remains hidden from the public

  2. #2 by Yee Siew Wah on Wednesday, 12 November 2008 - 12:45 pm

    Uncle Lim, make sure this so called PAC chief Khalid do his job properly.
    Grilled him to the core. He seem to be snaky nowadays as if trying to cover up somebody in the higher ups.
    He is not fit to lead PAC, I repeat NOT fit. He should resign before he further screw up his already tainted credibility.
    Hope that the opposition in parliament keep up the pressure to go to the bottom of this billions dollar scandal.
    Enough of rakyat hard earned money have already been robbed and squandered by these corrupted and greedy politicians. Enough is enough.

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 12 November 2008 - 12:45 pm

    The problem is that the government wants to be “seen” having a world class parliament or world class education or a judiciary of repute and enjoy – for populist reasons and votes to be seen such – and yet is not really prepared in substance and reality to have all these fgor fear of losing grip and control….

    The inability to reconcile the image of good, accountable and transparent governance and the substance of it is the mark of all recent efforts to get the Public Accounts Committee (“PAC”) to do its job, the reforms to the judiciary by instituting an independent Judicial Appointment Commission (“JAC”) to get going and to address the fall in malaysian tertiary educational ranking by international standards of THES by change of vice chancellor.

    Each and every effort made is marked and fraught with conflicts of interest issues.

    The PAC for example cannot pursue an aggressive scrutiny and audit of government funds and expenditures because it is chaired by a “government MP – what more, a former Minister”. It should be chaired by a senior Opposition leader to avoid conflict of interest.

    On the JAC, the 1st draft of the Bill proposed by Zaid was rejected but subsequent one proposed by Nazri limiting its size and composition and preservation of the powers of the Prime Minister to make appointments to the Bench is likely more acceptable to the government. Again here conflict of interest because only a bigger composition will allow more civil society’s stakeholders to play check and balance role.

    [According to the MalaysianInsider ‘s sources, our Chief Justice “Tun Zaki Azmi favours the setting up of the body to advise the PM direct on the selection and promotion of judges by-passing the CJ (as compared to present system in which the PM takes advice from CJ), which the former may or may not heed….]

    Se link to The MalaysiaInsider -

    Zaki’s suggestion is an improvement though the ideal would be for PM’s prerogative be whittled down to mandatorily having to take the recommendation of the JAC in his advice of appointment to the Rulers!

    Just as in the last case of sourcing for the most comptent Vice Chancellor for MU, the greater priority to achieve substantial improvement is to first take the politics of NEP/NDP (in recruitment, admission and examinations) out of the tertiary education system altogether but this will not be done.

    How can one really have change for the better on one hand and yet desire not to “rock the boat” on the other at the same time when they are diametrically opposed motivations?

    It only shows that the desire for change is only token and cosmetic – offered in order not to lose votes. The overarching imperative is for the Executive to maintain control over all these areas to serve its interest in continuing power.

    Trouble is Malaysians are by now comparatively more educated and sophisticated. We can see hypocrisies for what they are.

  4. #4 by ch on Wednesday, 12 November 2008 - 1:39 pm

    Dear All,

    Credit should be given to YB Kit Siang for running the few extra miles on the Eurocopter case. It is another case of him fighting and upholding for transparency and accountability.

  5. #5 by taiking on Wednesday, 12 November 2008 - 2:35 pm

    the report in full:

    Soal: Samada semua ok.
    Jawab: Ya. Ok semua.
    Soal: Semua ikut procedure.
    Jawab: Ya. Ikut procedure semua.
    Conclusion: OK. Ikut procedure.

    Dont ask me for my source. OK?

    Cant say there was no investigation and no accountability.

    Cant say that they have something to hide.

    Cant say that they fear the truth for the truth is on their side.

    The report says it all conclusively and finally.

  6. #6 by hadi on Wednesday, 12 November 2008 - 2:49 pm

    The fish rot from the head. The Defense ministry and the RMAF will not be able to give you the answers on the issues raised.
    Please publish the report so that the public can have a look at the so called verbatim report to see what kind of rubbish being presented.
    A misguided procurement invaded by evils that will be liabilities and devastating burden for the nation in future.
    Additional issues:
    a. Whose decision that allowing to do away the procedure-particularly on the physical evaluation.
    b. Is there a comprehensive study made by the RMAF on the employment of the Nuri helicopter now and future in term of attrition rate, logistic support and the upgrading plan and what is the engineering support plan for this Nuri. Don’t just say the Nuri crash and buy new expensive helicopter.
    c. Why the need of combat operation requirement-combat what? Typical rojak combination-search and rescue, combat ops and utility-I suppose for VVIP/VIP? How does it fit into Malaysia defense strategy-oh,..syok sendiri.
    d. With the number of crashes, human error? technical error? organizational error or whatever errors but most importantly , what are the actions taken by RMAF and the Ministry.
    e. The recent crashed at Genting Sempah, was there detail technical investigation conducted. If no, why?
    f. Why 12 helicopters? Is it a magic figure to the RMAF? 12 helicopters to conduct combat operations?
    g. Get the Ministry to list the break down figure of that 1.6 bln.
    YB Kit, there are many people out there who will be ready to assist you.

  7. #7 by MMW on Wednesday, 12 November 2008 - 4:12 pm

    Uncle Kit,

    Let me answer some of the questions poised by you in this article. I’m a military enthusiasts:-

    Question 1; I fully agree with you. Bear in mind at present the Switzerland air force is in the process of replacing their F-5E fighter aircraft. Several planes have been shortlisted and each candidates (Rafale, Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon) is in the process of evaluation. At present it is Rafale’s next t will be Eurofighter. Each candidates will go through evaluation process for at least 3 months!!

    So you are right to question why the government choose to buy EC725 only by looking at tender document without full and comprehensive evaluation!!

    Question 2: Do not compare the price of our EC725 with Brazilian EC725. The 1.2 billion paid is not the amount of the whole 50 EC725. It is the right to self produce the helicopter in Helibras Minas de Gerais plant in central Brazil. So 1.2b is actually the price of transfer of technology, blue prints, alloy formula, engine blue prints, etc. We buy the helicopter outright from France whereas the Brazilian produce it in country.

    Furthermore the amount is a cut-throat amount because the France is baiting the Brazilian for them to have some influence on Brazil’s choice of fighter for its F-X2 competition (future fighter). The French is trying to market its Rafale aircraft, which to date has failed to secure any export market compare to Su-30MK derivatives (China, India, Algeria, Venezuela, Malaysia, Indonesia), Eurofighter (Saudi Arabia), F-15E derivatives (Singapore, Korea), Gripen (South Africa, Thailand). So in short your question is like comparing an apple with an orange.

    Question3:Whether Nuri is relevant or not do not depend “whether the system or the airframe is good for another 20 years”. Whether Nuri is still relevant depend on the face of present and future threat and operation requirement (which also involve MAF doctrine). It is a combat helicopter which was design for operation and threat 40 years ago. The question is, can it withstand the present and future threat for the next 20 years?

    In short the system AS A WHOLE (air frame ruggedness, radar cross section, tolerance to ballistic impact, engine capability, aerodynamic, compatibility to night vision goggle etc, range, duration, multi-capability, etc) is simply obsolete in face of present and future threat and operation requirement. No matter how many upgrade/gadget being put in, it is just found wanting.

    EC725 IS NOT a 40 year old cougar. It is a new animal altogether compare to the 40 year old cougar. In fact the French air force did test the Cougar for their CSAR role but found the helicopter wanting, thus commission the Eurocopter to built and design a new specialised CSAR helicopter. Hence EC725 is born!!.

    Question 4; That is a correct question to ask. the Rakyat as a whole, i believe, also want to know. It does not matter whether the government or Eurocopter pay, because in the end it is the people money. Even if Eurocopter pays, the company would surely already include the payment into the contract. They are after all businessman.

    Question5; Yes. The undertaking should be asked from Government.

    Uncle Lim, EC725 is a reliable and proven platform. In fact among the 3 helicopters in the tender document it is THE ONLY helicopter that is COMBAT PROVEN in CSAR role. In fact it is being used as we speak in Afghanistan by the French in the CSAR role.

    So if you want to argue, do not argue on the merit of EC725 or Nuri worthiness but argue why there is no proper evaluation to buy RM2 billion equipment?. Why select the helicopter only based on DOCUMENTS/PAPER credential??


    And Mr Hadi, there is a comprehensive study made by the RMAF on the employment of the Nuri helicopter now and future. In fact RMAF already propose the replacement 10 years ago, we just simply has no money.

    CSAR is combat search and rescue. It is different a role as compare to utility or transport role. Let say our pilot was shot down somewhere deep in enemy territory. We don’t simply sent Nuri there to pick up the down pilot simply because Nuri is not a dedicated CSAR platform. It is most likely be shot down too and become a liability. We have to sent a dedicated CSAR helicopter.

  8. #8 by hadi on Wednesday, 12 November 2008 - 7:12 pm

    Mr MMW,
    Show the PAC and to Parliament where is the comprehensive study made by the RMAF. What are really the problems with the Nuri, tell the public whether the crashes occurred due to technical or some other reasons. Off course they propose replacement at their whim and fancy and if they have their way they want to propose everything new not only 10 years ago even earlier than that.
    Don’t be a dreamer, what threat?-deep in enemy territory?
    It is an issue of capability rather than threat and dedicated CSAR is not the answer for Malaysia and 12 does not make the number and it is meaningless and lot of bullshit by military planners.

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 13 November 2008 - 6:06 am

    MMW thanks for comments shedding light.

    Azmi Khalid’s said that PAC proposed the formation of an independent review panel to look into large purchases. (That’s fair, I suppose, because technical military aviation issues are involved.

    However if such an independent review panel has not yet been formed, much less give advice to PAC, how could PAC make a finding that there was no procedural abuse by govt ??? Somehow he appears to be saying that enquiring deeper on military aviation issues of EC725 has no bearing/relevance to the procedural issues of the intended acquisition. Is this tenable?

    Then there are issues raised about how they could select the military hardware based on ‘documentary evaluation’ without proper ‘physical evaluation’ in terms of physical tests.

    MINDEF’s secretary-general testified that its test pilots had flown EC725 during air shows like Farnborough, Paris, Brunei and Langkawi (LIMA). These have been derided as ‘joyrides’ not tantamount to proper ‘physical evaluation’ in terms of section 38 of tender docs.

    But if joyrides were no basis of a proper ‘physical evaluation’, what should be the proper basis?

    This capability of combat search and rescue – how could EC725 be really tested when there are neither real combat/search/rescue conditions nor simulated for us to test it except relying on representation that it has been proven in Afghanistan’s theater of war?

    Maybe the govt will argue on the simple analogy of buying a luxury car (say Mercedes E280) – perhaps not the most apt but does say something about how a buyer not on his own technically competent would proceed to buy an expensive hard ware based on repute and representation of the supplier.

    When such a buyer is buying a E280 from a long established distributor like the then Cycle & Carriage Bintang, the purchaser also reads the specs, goes first for a joyride, but does he also get an independent team of mechanic in to examine/test the E280’s conformity to physical specs & fitness? Likely if it were a second hand used car from some dealer assuming he has a mechanic experienced in Mercedes.

    However in relation to a new EC725, who do we have whom we could rely on who is independent yet technically competent to evaluate it?

    At this moment our pilots are learning how to fly that machine.

    The question here is what really constitutes sufficient “physical evaluation” in terms of section 38 of tender document from Malaysian point of view.

    On the other question of who are the muti-tiered middlemen, who is behind the corporate veil of these intermediaries and how much they increase the overall cost of EC725 – these are legitimate questions of expenditure for PAC to probe.

  10. #10 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 13 November 2008 - 6:48 am

    I guess Cycle & Carriage Bintang is not best reference, more likely Daimler Chrysler Germany but the point is clear : that though we know physical evaluation is more important than document persual, how do we conduct the first adequately beyond joyrides in air shows? Who do we have who is competent to c onduct technical evaluation of EC725 as compared to other helicopters? What more does flight test (beyond joyride in airshow) include? What’s criteria? Manoeuverity in inclement weather, precision & range of its fire power by life fire test or what? Can we make public via PAC or other agency such technical capability of our weapons system in terms of defence so that those whom we intend to defend against may also know in advance the strength and weakness of our weapon system??

  11. #11 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 13 November 2008 - 6:58 am

    Maybe “dedicated CSAR is not the answer for Malaysia and 12 does not make the number and it is meaningless and lot of bullshit by military planners” but whilst easy to say how is this substantiated? Do we know our Military Strategic Doctrine/Plan (which is secret) and what role EC725 pay within that platform to rebut & comment? Or we say we have no enemies or external threat or the country does not even need to upgrade the military defence weapons system? What exactly are we saying?

  12. #12 by MMW on Thursday, 13 November 2008 - 10:54 am

    Mr Jeffrey, you are right on target :). If you ask me I would select AW101 and I’m not coming from any companies that is related to Agusta Westland. Just a military enthusiasts. I have my reasons for selecting AW101 but that’s another story.

    Mr Hadi to answer some of your questions:-

    1) Some of the crash reports are not meant for public consumption. Anything involving military hardware that we already POSSESS such as number of helicopters/aircraft in operation readiness, maintenance problems, spare part problems, spare part sourcing and inadequacies/inefficiencies of the pilot are classified information.

    Usually what happen in Malaysia, when the military recommend to replace some equipment, the request is a genuine request. They are the user, they LITERALLY put their LIFE on the reliability of the purchased equipment. So who are we to question them? Our military is professional but the politician are not. What happen is when the military request something, the middleman or politicians “menangguk di air keruh” to get ‘something’ from the military predicament/ request.

    So attack the politician/middleman, don’t attack the military by saying “if they have their way they want to propose everything new not only 10 years ago even earlier than that”. They have sacrifice a lot already for us to have a good night sleep and to enable us to put nice food on our table every morning.

    2. You have to understand the different between CSAR and utility helicopter. CSAR is a specialised platform. So being a specialised platform you don’t have to have a lot of it. Like our commando regiments, there are only 2 commando regiments in kem Sungai Udang Melaka, the 21st RGK and 23rd RGK. Compare this 2K++ commando’s to the our 80K++ army. Mind you, the French has 400K++ troops but they also operate only about 18 EC725. So 12 CSAR helicopters are good enough for us. But if you mention about UTILITY helicopter then yes, you have to have at least 20 to replace Nuri. That’s why I love AW101 because it can effectively function in both categories thus minimise logistics (albeit in CSAR it has no combat experience).

    3. When we are talking about “threat” you must understand that it does not mean NATION! We layman when talking about threat, we always imagine NATION. We don’t have enmities with Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei and our other neighbours. But Military when talking about “threat”, they means anything that can bring down a helicopter; from bad weather (tolerance to gust, wind, cold and hot weather, rain, blizzard, mist, , sand, especially in global warming scenario, etc) to pilot (tolerance to pilot error/inadequacies, computer correction, pilot assistance to ground approach warning, mountain approach warning) to real threat of existing anti aircraft weapon systems (Starstreak, Mistral, Starburst, Igla, Anza, Barak, Stinger and even a simple hand gun or RPG).

    So I ask again, comparing Nuri to a modern helicopters (EC725, AW101, S92) which helicopters more tolerance to present and future ‘threat’ (in military definition) for the next 20 years? if you are a pilot on a combat mission, which helicopters you are willing to flyand put you life literally for the next 20 years?

    And lest you question why we buy all those modern weapon system let me remind you of a 2000++ years old adage from the Roman, i.e. “SI VIS PACEM PARABELLUM”. Literally it means “IF YOU WANT PEACE PREPARE FOR WAR”. Remember Bosnia Herzegovina? Remember old Yugoslavia? and remember Malacca? At the time of Portuguese attack, we defend only using keris and panah but the Portuguese used cannons (which were more modern at the time compare to what Malacca had) and matchlock rifles. Do you want the same thing happen again?

    In short we just have to keep abreast with modern technology, much so if the equipment that we have is not suitable anymore with the present ‘threat’ and 40++ years in age (the ‘newest’ Nuri was delivered to us in 1968!!).


  13. #13 by taiking on Thursday, 13 November 2008 - 5:55 pm

    Didnt an ex-air force guy write to the star papers a few days ago on this subject. He said that eurocopter is a fighter chopper – very advance very good.

    Umno government said they needed the new helicopter to do rescue work during flood and lost in jungle sort of scenario etc. If my memory serves me well, there was no mention of using the helicopter in warfare.

    So do we need eurocopter? Arent we over-equipping our missions. What the heck for?

  14. #14 by Godfather on Friday, 14 November 2008 - 8:16 pm

    What ? You want a PAC report to implicate the den of thieves ? Says Azmi Khalid.

    What ? You want a PKFZ report to implicate the den of thieves ? Says Ong Tee Keat.

    What ? You want a Valuecap report to implicate the den of thieves? Asks Nor Mohamed Yakcop.

    Please Sir, how can you expect us to implicate ourselves ? You ingat kita orang bodoh ke ?

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