By Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--The Cabinet has recently announced that it will continue the Littoral Combat Ship although a detailed rescue package has not been announced.

This is an issue that my colleagues and I in Pakatan Harapan have long been monitoring, in my case as the-then Chair of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Defence and Home Affairs.

The LCS, as has been reported in the media, has been plagued by numerous controversies, including delays and cost overruns.

No one will deny that Malaysia needs these vessels to defend itself and that the project has to be seen through.

What PH has been consistently doing is to urge the PN and BN governments that succeeded us to ensure that the “lessons” from this saga are not forgotten so as to prevent further losses for the country and that proper corrective action is taken to address past failings.

For one thing, while there have been several arrests related to the project, the public has the right to expect more speedy and thorough action from the relevant authorities in this affair.

There must also be more than just repeated assurances that the previous leakage issues which plagued the project do not occur.

While the pledge to set up a special governance committee to be jointly chaired by the secretaries-general of the Treasury and Defence Ministry is welcome, there must also be transparency over who its other members are and how much power it will have over the project.

Will, for instance, there be representatives independent of the government on it? Will Parliament have any representation?

Also, the additional costs and new deadlines for the project’s completion must be fully disclosed.

One is haunted by the remarks that the former Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang reportedly made to the Select Committee when testifying to us, when he noted that the LCS, which is one of the biggest defence procurements ever undertaken in Malaysia’s history, was treated by the government at the time:

“As if you’re buying a toy, you know, we can wait, relax… So, unless an external force comes in and pushes the thing, they will take their own sweet time. There is the lack of agency...nobody seems to want to take charge. No stewardship.”

So again, while no one is questioning Malaysia’s need for the LCS’, there has been a clear shortfall of apparent effort to correct the errors of previous years.

We should not forget the scandal of the New Generation Patrol Vessels by the Penang Shipyard Corporation in 2005.

And as long as this is wanting, the Malaysian public cannot be blamed if concerns linger among them that such problems, which are hurtful to the nation, will crop up again in the future, despite the government’s assurances.