KOTA KINABALU: There is no truth to the rumours that Malaysia’s two submarines are not in good condition.
Navy chief Rear Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar yesterday disclosed that the submarines are being utilised to carry out surveillance and patrols, along with three other navy ships, off Sabah’s maritime waters for the preservation of peace and harmony in the state.
“Do not listen to rumours. Our submarines are in good condition and are operational … we are using them to patrol, but no one knows because we do not make it public,” he reassured Malaysians, adding that the negative claims are demoralising the navy officers and personnel, especially those trained to man the two vessels.
When meeting 71 media representatives at the Sepanggar naval base, Abdul Aziz said, “The rumours were meant to discredit the government.”
He disclosed that to date at least 114 navy personnel have been trained to man the two European-made Scorpene submarines, with at least 70 being Advance Submarine Certificate holders.
“Twenty-six others are undergoing the Basic Submarine Certification course and some are expected to graduate this year,” he said.
In addition, he said that for the first time, three basic and two advance trainees underwent their submarine courses at the Sepanggar navy base.
“We felt it was better to train them in-house locally rather than sending them abroad as it is more cost effective and specific to time as they are straight away exposed to the Scorpene submarine, unlike others who were trained in the Augusta Submarine and had to spend time to familiarise themselves with the Scorpenes.
“We have the ability to train our own people,” he said.
Both submarines, named after the the country’s first and second prime ministers – KD Tunku Abdul Rahman and KD Tun Razak – arrived in Sabah on September 17, 2009 and July 16, 2010, respectively.
The two submarines have attracted controversies since the deal was signed in 2002.
Opposition parties had claimed that a RM540 million commission was paid to a close associate of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in brokering the contract.
Najib has since denied of any corruption in the purchase which was made when he was Defence Minister.
The issue escalated after several quarters questioned the government over the purchase of what had been termed ‘defective’ submarines.
In 2010, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi disclosed that KD Tunku Abdul Rahman had developed problems which had rendered it to become incapable of diving.
The KD Tunku Abdul Rahman sailed to a grand reception that year as the first of two commissioned submarines from French contractor DCNS and Spain’s Navantia for a total of RM3.4 billion.
Ahmad Zahid told reporters then that the submarine “can still dive but when we detected the defects, we were advised that it should not dive.”
Meanwhile, during his recent visit to the Sepanggar naval base, he said the continuous rumours from the opposition was aimed at gaining public support for their own political interest and undermining the image of Malaysia’s defence among the international community.
He described the action of a non-governmental organisation Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) of continuous questioning the government’s purchase of the two submarines as mocking the level of professionalism of the country’s security forces.
Ahmad Zahid also expressed regret over the opposition using the issue for political expediency as the general election looms near without considering the implications.
“We do not want the issue (purchase of the submarines) to dent the spirit of the submarines’ crew members. Do not belittle their capability and that of the submarines.
“Although we have political differences, we should not dispute the capability of our armed forces. We should all appreciate them as security cannot be compromised,” he said.
In another development, Abdul Aziz said they have 16 vessels and 12 boats, including the two submarines, docked at the Sepanggar Naval Base, of which four would be dispatched for round-the-clock patrols of the coastal waters.
“The area of the sea to be covered is wide and brings us great challenges. It is our hope that the government would provide us with bigger allocation to enable us to improve our existing facilities and assets for better service to the people,” he said.
He also described the media tour to the naval base as “successful”, adding that this time around, they were able to round a big number of media representatives.