Dr M: No one is above the law on land swap deals

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN & SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

PRIME Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad welcomes investigations into the contentious land swap deals involving the Ministry of Defence (Mindef), saying that no one is above the law, even those serving under his first stint in office.

“Yes, the government can still take action and it is our intention to report on the wrongdoings done in the past. Whether the wrongdoer is here or no longer here, they will make the report and legal action will be taken,” Dr Mahathir said at a news conference in Putrajaya yesterday.

Responding to a question that defence ministers — including those under his first tenureship — were allegedly involved, Dr Mahathir said, “The police will investigate the PM as well. Nobody is above the law.”

Mindef said it will release detailed reports for each of the 16 land swap deals under the previous administration starting from Monday, May 13, until this Friday, May 17, 2019.

“The ministry takes serious note of the recommendations on the investigations by the committee.

“Mindef will be releasing each report for the projects involved according to the schedule,” it said in a statement yesterday.

The PM and defence ministers of the previous administration were involved in 13 of the 16 swap deals, says Mohamad (TMRpic)

Last week, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu revealed a report from the Governance, Procurement and Finance Investigating Committee led by former Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang on the 16 land swaps under Mindef.

At the briefing, Mohamad mentioned that the reports will be accessible to the public in stages through the ministry’s official website.

Mohamad said the PM and defence ministers of the previous administration were involved in 13 of the 16 swap deals, including the plots in Bagan Datuk, Perak, and Batu Pahat, Johor.

A source confirmed with The Malaysian Reserve that the ministers involved are Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

Ahmad Zahid served as defence minister from 2009 to 2013 and is MP for Bagan Datuk. Hishammuddin, who is Sembrong MP, succeeded Ahmad Zahid and held the role until the change in government last year.

Mindef said it filed a report to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in February over two of the 16 swap deals, and that the antigraft authority has initiated investigations into the matter.

The Election Commission has also confirmed that some military camps, including those in Bera, Segamat, Paloh and Hutan Melintang, were built for a political purpose and not for military strategy.

Mohamad said land swap is a common practice for the ministry and has been carried out since 1997 as it resolves the issue of inadequate development provisions in upgrading and developing military facilities.

However, he said the 16 deals involving 2,923 acres (1,182.9ha) of land valued at RM4.88 billion had failed to meet the government’s standard operating procedures.

The minister added that the contracts were directly awarded without comprehensive due diligence by the companies involved, particularly on their technical and financial capabilities.

Mohamad stated that over RM500 million has been lost from the discrepancies, excluding the RM1.48 billion lawsuit for a failed project in Pulai, Johor.