One of six Maharaja Lela class frigates, based on a French design, being constructed for the Royal Malaysian Navy.

PETALING JAYA: As Malaysia’s military leaders called for an increase in the 2021 defence budget, a former member of the PPBM leadership has urged that the government review the country’s defence procurement contracts with France.

Akhramsyah Sanusi, who is also a former member of the Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT), said the review should be made in light of the remarks about Islam made by French President Emmanuel Macron.

He said much of Malaysia’s critical defence equipment was supplied and maintained by French companies, such as the Navy’s Maharaja Lela class frigates and Scorpene submarines, and aircraft supplied by Airbus Defence.

Earlier today, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob had said a larger allocation in the 2021 Budget was needed for the ministry, especially to strengthen military preparedness as well as to provide for military housing needs.

Ismail Sabri, who is also senior minister for security, said more new assets were needed, including an additional 19 military control posts on the Sabah and Sarawak border areas to deal with the continuing problem of illegal immigrants.

“We not only mobilise personnel but assets must also be increased, especially on the east coast of Sabah, we also plan to build a military camp in Lahad Datu,” he said.

Later in the evening, Akhramsyah, urging the review of defence ties with France, criticised the lack of technology sharing with the Boustead subsidiary which is building the Maharaja Lela class frigates. Boustead is owned by LTAT. The frigates are based on a corvette design by DCNS of France.

He said the lack of technology-sharing had caused the Royal Malaysian Navy to rely heavily on French expertise, while the Royal Malaysian Air Force is still using the Airbus A400M airlifter, supplied by a company in which the French government is the largest shareholder.

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He added that future military relations with France should be postponed or cancelled.

“It should be very worrying when our country’s military equipment still depends on consultants from a country whose president is willing to present himself as anti-Islam,” said Akhramsyah.

The contract to deliver six of the Maharaja Lela class frigates was reported last year to have run into a cost overrun of about RM1.4 billion, and further delays of several years.

The contractor was alleged to have failed to complete detailed design by deadline and there was a delay in finalising the acquisition of a large portion of the equipment.

The defence minister then, Mohamad Sabu, was quoted as saying in November 2019 that the unsatisfactory quality of work, not according to specifications, had caused delays and vessels which should have been ready in April had still not been delivered.



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