China and Malaysia signed 14 agreements worth RM144 billion on Tuesday (Nov 1), including one on navy vessels, after a meeting between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Both countries have agreed to jointly develop and build 4 LMVs (Littoral Mission Vessel) for the Malaysia’s naval forces.
“On Nov. 5, 2016, the Defense Ministry will sign a contract for the procurement of Littoral Mission Ships (LMS) with SASTIND (the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense), which is an important part of the schedule during the Prime Minister’s official visit to China,” – says Malaysia’s Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.
That was Malaysia’s defence ministry Facebook posting last week, but was later removed after Reuters asked a defence ministry spokesman for comment. Why was Mr. Hishammuddin, who is PM Najib’s cousin, so terrified on the posting when the news about Malaysia getting the military hardware from China would eventually be made public anyway?
According to Najib, the first two of the littoral mission ships Malaysia purchases from China would be built in China, with two then built in Malaysia. However, there’s no mention about the contract value for the 2-year defence deal with China, leaving the final cost to imagination and speculation.
Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein disclosed that Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd (BNS) and China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co., Ltd. (CSOC) will build the 4 units of littoral mission ships. He conveniently said the money to buy the vessels would come from the Royal Malaysian Navy’s savings, when in fact the money originated from taxpayers in the first place.
Littoral mission ships are not some high-tech aircraft-carriers but are merely small crafts that operate close to shore. It can be equipped with a helicopter flight deck and carry missiles. They are primarily used for coastal security, maritime patrol and surveillance, but can also be deployed for disaster relief and search and rescue operations.
As part of the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) transformation plan to be cost effective, there would be 5 classes of vessels (from the old school of 15 classes) in its fleet namely the NGPV (New Generation Patrol Vessel), MRSS (Multi-Role Support Ship), LCS (Littoral Combat Ships), LMS (Littoral Mission Ships) and submarines.
Back in 2014, Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd (BNS) received an order to construct six new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) for the Royal Malaysian Navy. Valued at RM9 billion, the local shipbuilder company was supposed to deliver the first ship next year (2017), follows by additional deliveries every 6 months. Here comes the interesting part.
If Boustead could build the faster, bigger and even stealth-capable LCS, why does Najib Razak need to buy slower, smaller and simpler LMS from China? Heck, the defence ministry had even boasted about weapon capabilities such as torpedo launcher, anti-surface missile launcher system, and anti-air missile launcher system to be built on the locally-made LCS.
It was like saying Malaysia is capable of building Mercedes Benz but couldn’t make a go-kart (*grin*). It’s puzzling that Boustead could build LCS costing a staggering RM1.5 billion a pop but could not build a RM300 million LMS. Coincidently (*grin*), the chairman of Boustead – Lodin Wok Kamaruddin – is the same man who was involved in various scandals related to Najib Razak.
Mr. Lodin was one of the directors of Perimekar Sdn Bhd until 2010, when the explosive procurement of two French-made submarines was revealed. The Scorpene scandal, which involved RM534.8 million in commission, which led to the gruesome murder of Mongolian Altantuya, speaks volumes about Lodin being Najib’s bag-carrier or crony in the defence ministry.
To add insult to injury, Lodin Wok Kamaruddin also sits on the boards of Affin Bank Bhd, one of Perimekar’s bankers. Amusingly, he was also the former chairman of 1MDB, and Affin Bank was somehow instructed to bailout 1MDB when it bought 1.25 acres of land in the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) from 1MDB for a whopping RM225 million.
Boustead is notorious for its reputation as a bad paymaster, which in turns affect deliverables to the Royal Malaysian Navy. As a result, projects awarded to the shipbuilder will always incur cost overrun, sucking more taxpayer’s money in the process. You can bet your last dollar that the 2 LMS to be built at Lumut, Perak, will cost more than the other 2 built in China.
That explains why neither Najib nor Hishammuddin dares to share the cost of building the 4 LMS, not even a rough estimation. The 4 ships, if they could indeed be delivered, would be one of many billion-ringgit projects that would help fund Najib Razak’s 14th general election. Costs would be jacked up too for commissions to respective corrupt politicians.
But why even talks about spending billions of ringgit building LMS when Malaysia could get them for free (sort of)? The latest U.S. Independence-class littoral combat ship (LCS) is 127-m long while Singapore’s latest littoral mission ship (LMS) is 80-m long. Two months ago, Japan agreed to give the Philippine Coast Guard two large multi-role response vessels (MRRVs) which were 90 meters in length.
Considering how President Rodrigo Duterte switched alliance to China from the U.S., what Najib Razak needs to do is to put up a drama – whine, cry and bitch about not having money to buy ships for coastal security, maritime patrol and surveillance. Out of desperation, United States and China would gladly “donate” vessels similar to the one offered by Japan to the Philippines.
Sure, a coast guard ship might not be as sexy as a real littoral mission ship (LMS) but beggars can’t be choosers, can they? China has lots of monster coast guard ships, some of which used to be war ships, and they could easily do the jobs – coastal security, maritime patrol and surveillance. With some modifications though, they could be quite deadly.
However, if Najib was a real great leader and not a corrupt scumbag, he could negotiate hard enough and convince China to give away some real littoral mission ships (LMS) in exchange for a shift in alliance towards Beijing from Washington. Of course, getting them free also means there would be no “commissions” for Auntie Rosie to do shopping in Europe.
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