I read with great surprise that Dato' Seri Zahid Hamidi has once again reiterated his "invite" to me to meet him with regards to the cost increase over the acquisition of 6 naval patrol vessels from RM6 billion to RM9 billion. I feel extremely honoured because this is the third invite in 4 days!
His first invite made via the press was on 29th December, followed by another on 31st, and another yesterday, on the 1st January of the new year - all of which were published in Bernama. He need not have made so many invites, he had me at "hello". I had immediately after reading his first invite, publicly responded that Pakatan Rakyat MPs, Nurul Izzah Anwar, Dr Dzulkefli Ahmad and myself are more than happy to take up his offer of clarifications on 30th December.
Unfortunately, despite his eagerness to meet me, our Defence Minister appears to be very poorly informed and does not read the news. So, I repeat again here, that we accept the invite from the Minister to offer clarifications and look forward to his honourable office to make the necessary arrangements for our visit.
What was however more shocking was his claim that I've never dared to face him over the controversial acquisitions even in parliament, and insinuated that I was a coward for raising the issue only during political ceramahs.
He said "when I answered his question in Parliament, [Tony Pua] was not present to hear my reply, but continued to harp on the matter in political ceramah. He is brave only before the opposition crowd but chicken out when asked for a face-to-face meeting."
The above is utter and complete nonsense as I was present in Parliament and even debated heatedly and extensively with him when he was replying in Parliament on these issues twice in March 2011!
When he was responding to the question from Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng on the 8th March 2011, I was there and chastised the Minister for un-ministerial behaviour for asking my colleague to "go back to kindergarten". (Hansard pg 5 - 9 http://www.parlimen.gov.my/files/hindex/pdf/DR-08032011.pdf)
In a more extensive subsequent debate on 21 March, when the Minister was directly reply to my questions raised in parliament, he had even threatened to sue me for defamation. I had stood my ground and debated extensively with the Minister over the procurement of 6 naval patrol vessels and 257 armoured personnel vehicles. (Hansard pg 34 - 54 http://www.parlimen.gov.my/files/hindex/pdf/DR-21032011.pdf)
Hence Dato' Seri Zahid Hamidi's allegations that I was not present in Parliament exposed just how forgetful and absent-minded he is. Even worse, it shows that our Defence Minister does not check his facts before making statements.
Given his absent-mindedness, I would further like to remind the Minister that he had twice in Parliament in March last year confirmed that the price for the 6 patrol vessels have not been finalised and a budget ceiling of RM6 billion has been set.
On 8th March 2011 in Parliament, Dato' Seri Zahid Hamidi had said "pada masa ini pihak kerajaan masih belum memuktamadkan harga. Sejumlah RM6 bilion telah diperuntukkan sebagai siling dalam Rancangan Malaysia Kesepuluh dan sebahagian akan melimpah ke Rancangan Malaysia Kesebelas dan mungkin hingga ke Rancangan Malaysia Kedua Belas." (pg 6). He repeated the same on 21 March 2011 in Parliament (pg 52).
However, the Defence Minister now has the cheek to say in his latest statement to Bernama that "the cost of procuring assets for the national defence inventory will not exceed the ceiling set by the government", when it has increased by 50% from RM6 billion to RM9 billion in less than a year!
All of the above points to the fact that we have a clueless defence minister who is arrogant, forgetful, ill-informed and ignorant. The manner in which budgets are so easily exceeded will only increasing the likelihood of realising Dato Idris Jala's greatest fear, that Malaysia may be bankrupt by 2019.
Media statement by Tony Pua Kiam Wee in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, 2nd January 2012