Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Latiff Ahmad yesterday said that inviting the French lawyers representing human rights NGO Suaram to brief parliamentarians "lowers the dignity" of the House.
"These two lawyers representing Suaram want to be heroes, (and) be placed at a high position in our Parliament. We are lowering our dignity. Who are they?
"It (the briefing) should be on a government-to-government basis. We are open to that, we can listen but not from (the) Suaram lawyers, this William ‘Bodoh' (Bahasa Malaysia for stupid, which is also a play on word of the lawyer's surname Bourdon) and Joseph Breham. I hope that's clear," he said.
When winding up during the committee-level debate for the Defence Ministry (Mindef) budget, Abdul Latiff (left) said that the government would, however, be open to the French investigating magistrates visiting Malaysia.
"But they (investigating judges) don't have locus standi. If they want to investigate, they need to cooperate with our justice department, and the department can appoint the police, who take care of our laws, to gain information," he said.
Ahmad Latiff was replying Tian Chua (PKR-Batu) who asked if the government is open to allowing Suaram's lawyers to brief parliamentarians and to present Putrajaya's side on the matter at the same time.
The lawyers were due to brief MPs on the matter today, but the event was cancelled as the Home Ministry could not guarantee them safe passage.
Bourdon (left) was deported when he was in Malaysia last year, allegedly for violating his visiting pass by speaking at a Suaram fundraiser.
The minister said the lawyers, who are "not that famous" anyway, were revealing "all sorts of investigation secrets" - an act that would cause any "responsible government", including France, to deport them.
"If they want to come for the purpose of giving a briefing, then we cannot allow it. If they want to come for a holiday, and then to use Suaram's platform to talk about things they don't know at a dinner with people who don't quite understand, that causes confusion...," he said.
No procurement agents for Mindef
Ahmad Latiff also accused Chua of trying to mislead the House, including stating that Defence Ministry contractors Perimekar and Hong Kong company Terasasi were both owned by defence analyst Abdul Razak Baginda.
He said that Perimekar is owned by the Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) and KS Ombak and both have no ties with Terasasi.
"I don't know if Razak Baginda name is in KS Ombak, but it belongs to his wife... We have never done business with or appointed Terasasi as an agent.
"Never in the history of the Defence Ministry has an agent been appointed for procurement purposes," he said, noting that this was across the board for all procurements, and not just for the submarines.
Chua had asked if there is an issue of conflict of interest as leaked French investigation papers show that Terasasi, owned by Abdul Razak and his father, had sold secret Malaysian naval documents to French defence giant DCNS.
DCNS later sold the two Scorpene submarines to the Malaysian government, which appointed Perimekar to provide after-sales service worth 114 million euros (RM447 million).
The minister also chided parties for allegedly misrepresenting the role of the French investigating magistrate, who only has investigative powers, unlike a magistrate in the Commonwealth, who has judicial powers.
"It's just that parliamentarians who are closely-linked to Suaram are using this House to twist facts - an investigating magistrate is seen as a judge while an investigation is called a trial.
"This is clearly a case of misconstruing (the facts) to portray the Scorpene case and Razak Baginda as linked to the Altantuya (Shariibuu murder) and to Pekan (MP and premier Najib Abdul Razak). It's slander," the minister said.
Suaram: Welcome or not, French lawyers are coming