Malaysiakini News

Pro-BN websites jog Dr M's memory on Scorpene deal

Published:  |  Modified:

Several BN-friendly websites and Facebook pages have accused Dr Mahathir Mohamad of being complicit in the acquisition of the two French-made naval submarines in 2002, which are now subject of a French corruption probe.

This was because Mahathir was both prime minister and finance minister at the material time, and such procurements would have required the consent of the Finance Ministry, the sites said.

An often cited source for the Mahathir-Scorpene submarines link is the Seademon Says blog, reportedly operated by a former air force captain, Rahmat Omar Mohd Haniff.

For instance, Umno's official website Umno Online uploaded an article citing Rahmat Omar claiming that Mahathir and then finance minister Anwar Ibrahim had given the green light for a naval submarine project as far back as 1995.

Similarly, the Friends of BN Facebook page uploaded an image outlining the timeline of Mahathir's purported involvement, implicating Mahathir, Anwar and former finance minister Daim Zainuddin.

While the Seademon Says blog never explicitly link Mahathir to the procurement of the submarines, the blog repeatedly implied it was so.

For instance, in one article, the blog cited the May 14, 2008, Hansard in which Najib Abdul Razak, who was then defence minister, as saying the contract to procure the submarines "will only be executed upon approval by the Finance Ministry".

This, argued the blogger, was proof that Mahathir had knowledge of the deal, something which the former prime minister recently denied in his recent interview with The Malaysian Insight.

"The inking of the deal to purchase the Scorpene submarines was made in June 2002 when a now-amnesiac (former) prime minister was (then) the finance minister," wrote the blogger.

During the interview, Mahathir said he was against the idea of buying naval submarines for Malaysia because they were expensive and useless in Malaysia's shallow waters.

"But suddenly, after I resigned, I found out that the defence minister had made an order for two submarines.

"The decision was probably made when I was prime minister, but I was not informed of it," he said.

Mahathir was prime minister from July 1981 to October 2003 and finance minister from June 2001 to October 2003.

Najib, as defence minister, signed a deal with France's DCNS for two diesel-electric attack submarines. These were delivered in 2009. It is unclear how much the deal was worth, but it is estimated at one billion euros.

Little was heard about the deal until the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Since 2009, the French justice system has initiated investigations on alleged kickbacks involved in the DCNS deal with Malaysia.

Thus far, French investigators have named four French nationals and Malaysian political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda as persons of interest.

To learn more about the Scorpene affair, read our KiniGuide: Dredging up the DCNS Scorpene scandal.

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