By : GHOTI POISSON
THE MALAYSIAN Ministry of Defense will sell the two Agosta-class submarines it bought from the French munitions maker DCNS in 2001, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak announced today.
"The damn things have never caused us anything but trouble," Najib told a packed press conference. "If we hadn't bought them, we could have held that stinking election a year ago and I'd be home and dry by now."
They were never worth the money the country paid, the prime minister continued, pointing out that the water around peninsular Malaysia is too shallow for them and that they have to be based in Kota Kinabalu, which, as he pointed out, "hasn't got anything to defend anyhow," although as he noted, since the submarines wouldn't dive, shallow waters weren't that big a problem.
While the continuing scandal surrounding the subs was the primary inducement to sell them, the incident that triggered the royal navy's decision was the arrival of 200 invading supporters of the Sultan of Sulu. While the navy spotted the oncoming skiffs and paraw sailing canoes, they were too small to use torpedoes on and too fast for the subs, and landed at Lahad Datu without incident.
Upkeep was another problem, Najib said. With the treasury slipping further into deficit because of election costs, they were too expensive to run.
They did allow for Najib and his best friend, Abdul Razak Baginda, to make several trips to France in the company of glamorous women and to tour the continent in Razak Baginda's red Ferrari. The subs also kept the then-defense minister in enough money to pay US$24 million for a diamond ring for his wife, Rosmah Mansor.
"You should have seen the strippers in Le Crazy Horse," Najib sighed. "Although I swear on the Quran that I never did."
And, of course, there was the matter of the 114 million euros in commissions earned by Razak Baginda's company Perimekar, and the additional 32 million euros paid to Terasasi Sdn Bhd through a Hong Kong subsidiary that "Razak and I split between us," Najib said. "That paid for some high old times indeed."
It is unsure what country will buy the submarines, defense analysts say. DCN and its subsidiaries did such a good job of selling vessels to countries that didn't need them by bribing politicians and defense officials across the world that there appear no third-rate satrapies out there who might want them.
The Malaysian government is toying with the idea of bringing them ashore and selling them to an UMNO-linked company that would make them into restaurants. (Asia SENTINEL)