MP SPEAKS | Few eyebrows were raised today at the discovery that high-tech military radar equipment worth millions of ringgit had gone missing from the Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP) after the shipment arrived a month ago.
Malaysia's descent into a globally-renowned kleptocracy has sunk to a new low when not only can billions of illicit funds be siphoned offshore through the 1MDB scandal, but our nation is now vulnerable to become a transit point for arms smuggling.
The greater cause for concern is that the authorities did not even realise that the radar system was missing until an audit check accidentally stumbled upon the mysterious disappearance.
Is this a repeat act of the 2009 missing F5 fighter jet engines, where authorities kept mum about the theft and only came clean after it was revealed by Wikileaks?
How Malaysian authorities respond to this alarming theft of sensitive military equipment is paramount to restore the confidence of Malaysians and the international community, that our Defence Ministry and Customs Department have taken necessary steps to curb and prevent Malaysia from becoming a hub for arms smuggling.
Serious questions about our security competence have been raised when incidents such as the 2009 case of missing F-5 fighter jet engines and the assassination of Kim Jong-nam four months ago have revealed loopholes where our national security may have been compromised.
Given Malaysia's strategic location in a sensitive geopolitical region and less than stellar corruption record, we are unfortunately a potential magnet for international crimes.
Today's discovery of the missing radar system raises three red flags:
1) How did sensitive military equipment arrive on our shores without possessing the required documentation?
To gain clearance, the importer must submit information and declare the contents of a shipment to the port authority even if it is passing en route to the final destination. It could not arrive under the radar unless the importer was confident they could cobble together the documentation during the layover, with the aid of certain well-placed insiders who were in cahoots with the covert operation.
2) Why didn't the customs authorities take action once they discovered the equipment was without a permit, instead of keeping quiet until the audit check revealed that the equipment had conveniently gone missing?
According to the procedure, a shipping agent must submit the load list to the port operator. When PTP became aware of the contents of the shipment during customs clearance period and the equipment was found to not possess the necessary permits, why was it not immediately returned and action taken? The port authority and Customs Department must explain what the wait was for because the long waiting period conveniently allowed the radars to go missing, presumably smuggled out.
3) How could the radars have been smuggled out of the port without clearance?
Neither the importer or receiving party raised alarm bells even after the shipment was supposedly stranded at customs for a month, seems to indicate a strong likelihood of the equipment already being smuggled out and reached its intended destination.
A proper investigation from an independent body should be conducted, instead of just relying on internal investigations by the Customs Department and Ministry of International Trade and Industry, which are inexplicably linked behind the scenes of this smuggling operation.
LIEW CHIN TONG is Kluang MP.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.