Yesterday, Suaram teamed-up with youth movement Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) to train some 80 people on how to give ceramah on the issue in their respective constituencies.Human rights NGO Suaram has embarked on a programme to take information about the Scorpene submarine scandal to the masses in an attempt to fight back accusations by the authorities that it publicly lied on the issue.
The campaign plans to attract about 200 speakers, largely from opposition political parties, from around the country to focus on spreading the issue to the people, especially to villagers in the kampung.
Former Suaram director Cynthia Gabriel (left) yesterday conducted a ‘training of trainers’ programme for a group of people, made up mainly of PKR grassroots leaders from the northern region of the peninsula.
Cynthia spoke at length about the case during the two-hour session and distributed several documents on the explosive subject to the participants.
She explained the difference between the French and Malaysian court systems, saying that Suaram has always maintained that the case was being investigated by two Paris-based judges and not going through a full-blown trial in France.
The participants were also told that Suaram’s revelations on the Scorpene case have so far been based on French judicial papers.
The information was derived from findings made after Suaram filed a complaint against state-owned shipbuilder, DCNS, in 2009 for alleged payment of commissions, which is illegal in France, to top Malaysian officials for the purchase of the two Scorpene-class submarines.
Cynthia was referring to a recent statement by French prosecutor Yves Charpenel, who was quoted by New Straits Times as saying that, despite claims by Malaysian online media, there was no trial going on in the Scorpene case.
Charpenel’s statement on this was then corrected by Suaram’s Paris-based lawyer, William Bourdon, who said the “inquiry is ongoing” and the question of a trial on the Scorpene matter would be decided by the investigating judges and not by the prosecutor.
“Since the BN-controlled media and the government are all out todemonise and harass Suaram and its efforts to promote transparency and accountability in military spending, which amounts to billions of the rakyat’s money, we have no choice but to take this issue to the ground,” Cynthia said.
“Since it is impossible for us to be everywhere, we are happy to work with various groups that are interested in the truth and can help us share it with the people,” she said.
By harassment, Cynthia was referring to the action of six government agencies probing Suaram, which has been active since Operasi Lalangin 1987 when 106 social and political activists were detained under the Internal Security Act.
Cynthia and her team later spoke at a Bersih event in Padang Serai featuring the coalition’s co-chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan, before launching the Jelajah Scorpene campaign with SAMM in Telok Ayer Tawar late last night.
‘Mother of all issues’
SAMM chairperson Badrul Hisham Shaharin told PKR political speakers to equip themselves with proper knowledge about the Scorpene scandal that cost the country RM7.3 billion.
However, Badrul Hisham, who is widely known as Chegu Bard, cautioned them not to be too technical so that the crowd they were speaking to fully understood the details of the deal, which was inked in 2002 when Najib Abdul Razak was defence minister.
Badrul reminded the audience that Najib, who is now prime minister, and Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, may have to attend the court in France should they be subpoenaed.
Najib and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin have refused to respond when asked about the inquiry in Paris, while Ahmad Zahid made a U-turnabout testifying in the matter, after having said earlier that he was prepared to.
Two of Najib’s former bodyguards were charged with the murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, who is believed to be involved in the deal.
Najib’s close associate, defence analyst Abdul Razak Baginda (right), was charged with abetting them in the murder, but he was acquitted without his defence being called.
“The Scorpene issue is the mother of all issues and we plan to make it the main issue during the coming general election,” Badrul in his speech at the launch of the campaign.
“This issue has opened a can of worms and revealed so many other issues, including possible corruption, transparency and accountability issues, rakyat’s money being wasted on military spending and the murder of a Mongolian national,” added the former PKR Youth leader.
Other speakers who spoke briefly in support of the campaign included Penang PKR vice-chairperson Abdul Halim Hussein, Kebun Bungah assemblyperson Jason Ong Khan Lee and state PKR Youth chief Amir Ghazali.