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Malaysia’s opposition demands Eurocopter deal probe

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October 30, 2008

Malaysia’s opposition demands Eurocopter deal probe

Malaysia's opposition, led by Anwar Ibrahim, is demanding an investigation into the defence ministry's plans to buy several helicopters. He is asking for a royal commission to be set up, reported Singapore’s Channel News Asia on its website.

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi announced on Tuesday that the purchase of 12 helicopters from Eurocopter would be deferred to 2011. His government is reprioritising its spending amid the global financial crisis.

Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, the opposition said there were irregularities in the defence procurement.

They also pressed for an emergency motion to discuss the US$470 million purchase, which they claimed was way above the market average.

Lim Kit Siang, Opposition, Democratic Action Party (DAP), said: "It must be a shotgun deal because the letter of intent must have been issued early this month after the announcement by Pak Lah of approval and maybe in less than two weeks, you have this cancellation. Something seems to be very extraordinary."

The opposition is holding Deputy Prime Minster Najib Razak responsible.

The letter of intent to purchase the 12 cougar helicopters was issued to Eurocopter two days before he switched defence portfolio with the prime minister last month.

But the public accounts committee, which began its investigation into alleged impropriety, said everything had been done in an orderly fashion.

Azmi Khalid, chairman, Public Accounts Committee, said: "Up to now, the technicalities from what we saw were not professionally done, but I'm not going to comment."

Najib who is now the Finance Minister maintains that the purchase was necessary to replace the ageing fleet of Nuri helicopters.

He has proposed extending the repayment period with Eurocopter instead of deferring the purchase.

Meanwhile the supplier Eurocopter, which is a wholly-owned division of European Aeronautic Defence and Space, is optimistic about the deal.

It maintained that negotiation is still ongoing, despite the latest controversy plaguing the sale.

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