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Spinning around with the chopper deal

I refer to the Malaysiakini report Eurocopter scandal: No inspection done on choppers .

Recently, the fracas behind the purchase of the Eurocopter (EC725 Cougar) helicopters is making my head spin faster that helicopter rotor blades but after giving it much thought, I now see the picture more clearly.

The government announced that it has signed a letter of intent with Eurocopter to purchase the long-range multi-mission helicopters to replace its ageing helicopter fleet comprising the Sikorsky S61-A4 Sea Kings, better known as the Nuri.

Previously, when many pilots got killed in Nuri crashes, then defence minister Najib Abdul Razak defended the chopper saying that the Nuri was a ‘reliable workhorse’. After much uproar, he then declared they would be phased out gradually.

Then at the Lima expo in Langkawi last year, he saw the Eurocopter in action and got excited.

Never mind that these helicopters were not workhorses but long range tactical copters.

Who knows, while transporting military personnel if war breaks out, there then would be no need to call for backup. After all, our country is vast and it would take forever for the Sukhoi jets to come to the rescue. So a copter can take on any threats head-on and independently.

We could also take advantage of its long range capabilities and offer the Australians back-up support to patrol their coastline.

Then something happened and we found out that Brazil was buying the same machine at a much lower price.

The opposition brought this up in parliament, ah, but did they not realise that ours were fitted with additional accessories like rear-view mirrors, air ionizers and flat screen TV's not to mention radar warning receivers, 20mm cannons, rocket launchers and machine-guns.

All this, however, could not justify the more than 200 percent price hike so the PAC (Public Accounts Committee) was asked to investigate.

While this was going on, the government declared the project ‘on again-off again’ several times leading Malaysian citizens who love conspiracy theories to get even more suspicious.

Finally, they declared it off, citing the economic downturn which they keep telling us we are immune to which is quite puzzling really. Nevertheless, PAC was still asked to investigate this chopper deal.

Then in true Malaysian fashion the ‘pass the buck game’ commenced. The former defence minister (soon to be our next PM) and current finance minister said he no longer oversees the defence portfolio.

Our soon to be ex-PM and current defence minister said the deal was not done during his time and besides he is new to the defence ministry so he had delegated the matter to the deputy defence minister.

The deputy defence minister said that he is a military man and not familiar with costs, so he pushed it to finance ministry, guessed it....

The finance minister who was the ex-defense minister said that the finance portfolio was new to him, so he had delegated it to his next-in-command in the finance ministry - who, of course, only understood macro economics like how Malaysia was immune to the global financial crisis.

So he in turn delegated it to the finance ministry’s secretary-general and so on and so forth but Malaysians were very pragmatic people as this is the same runaround we are given when dealing with government departments so we just shrug it off as something normal.

Then the day came when the PAC was supposed to grill the finance ministry’s secretary-general and guess what ? He doesn't turn up.

So who have become the fools? We all lah .

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