Suaram to Putrajaya: End harassment, probe Scorpene scandal
KUALA LUMPUR, July 4 — Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) wants the authorities to stop their “harassment” of whistleblowers and focus on investigating its allegation of abuse in the multibillion ringgit Scorpene submarine deal as it faces attacks over its status as a non-governmental organisation (NGO).
The human rights group that has been exposing the federal government’s alleged acceptance of kickbacks over the purchase of two submarines was recently questioned over its move to register as a company instead of a society, drawing accusations that it was hiding its source of funds.
“We question the political motive of the CCM when they perform a ‘routine’ inspection for the first time after more than 23 years in operation,” Suaram said in a statement today.
“Suaram has nothing to hide and we are prepared to comply with any requirements specified under the law in submitting our fully audited records,” it added.
The group has repeatedly accused the government of abusing its power and using state agencies to divert public attention from an ongoing French probe into the Scorpene purchase.
Its workers were surprised by a sudden visit yesterday by officials from the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM), who attempted to search Suaram’s office here for registration documents and financial records without a warrant.
The team of four CCM officers called off the search after they were challenged.
They were due to return at 10.30am today, but have not turned up as yet, a Suaram spokesman told The Malaysian Insider when contacted.
“We do not know when they are coming, still waiting,” lawyer Wong Kar Fai, who is also Suaram’s documentation and monitoring officer, said in an emailed response.
The human rights watchdog stressed that it was strictly a non-profit group, adding that it was forced to register as a company in 2002 because “freedom of association in Malaysia like many other freedoms is not realisable”.
Kua Kia Soong, who is one of Suaram’s most active directors, has taken to denouncing the authorities’ “attack” via Twitter, saying “We’re registered under RoC (Registrar of Companies) because 23 years ago, it was very difficult to be registered under RoS (Registrar of Societies).”
Suaram had filed a complaint at a Paris tribunal in April against Malaysia’s failure to address the serious allegations of kickbacks in the Scorpene deal involving the government, suggesting a deliberate suppression of information to keep the issue under wraps.
The human rights group had submitted a long list of potential witnesses including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Najib’s former political adviser, Abdul Razak Baginda.
The French court is investigating submarine-maker DCNS over allegations it had paid bribes to senior Malaysian government officials to expedite the RM6.7 billion sale in 2009 of the two submarines, in which RM574 million was earmarked for co-ordination and support services for Perimekar Sdn Bhd — the firm owned by Abdul Razak.
Since then, allegations have surfaced that Abdul Razak had sold secret defence documents to the French for some RM142 million in 2006.
Suaram’s lawyer, Joseph Breham, last month revealed that a highly-confidential government document on the Royal Malaysian Navy’s evaluation of the Scorpene submarines, which it was then planning to buy, was sold by Terasasi (Hong Kong) Ltd to French defence giant DCNS for €36 million (RM142 million).
Abdul Razak, a former think-tank head who was at the centre of a 2006 investigation into the murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, is listed as a director of Terasasi together with his father, Abdul Malim Baginda.
The data was purportedly for “commercial engineering” works, Breham had told a news conference in Bangkok last month. The lawyer is acting for Suaram in the ongoing inquiry in Paris.