See to FDS: Why is the plane 5 to 10 times more expensive?

See (second from left) holding a copy of the police report he lodged at the Simpang Tiga police station this afternoon.

KUCHING, June 9: Sarawak PKR vice-chairman See Chee How lodged a police report this afternoon claiming that the fixed-wing aircraft purchased by the Forest Department Sarawak (FDS) to provide air surveillance and to monitor illegal logging activities in the state was “overpriced”.

The Batu Lintang assemblyman wants the police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), National Audit Department and the Federal Transport Ministry to investigate why the four-seater DA42M-NG Diamond plane was purchased from Austrian firm Diamond Aircraft Industries for RM35 million when it was supposed to cost between RM3.5 million and RM6 million only.

“There is nothing wrong with FDS purchasing the plane with the allocation provided by the Federal Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. They can make the purchase, but not in this (overpriced) manner.

“It is too expensive. It should be worth between RM3.5 million and RM6 million for the most high-end, with all the surveillance equipment,” See told reporters after lodging the report at the Simpang Tiga police station.

He claimed he had done his research on the aircraft and found that the government had paid excessive sums for the light twin-engine utility and trainer aircraft, albeit it being a special mission variant with modifications from the standard DA42 aircraft.

He also wondered why the aircraft was now with the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) even though the commission only deals with private companies and not the government.

“So I’m asking whether if there are some private companies or individuals involved in the purchase of the aircraft, and if so, what kind of arrangements the ministry or FDS have with the company or person.

“It is not right (for the aircraft to be tested by Mavcom) because with the ministry or FDS are not doing any economic matters related to the civil aviation industry with the aircraft,” See said.

He explained that Mavcom, established pursuant to the Malaysia Aviation Commission Act 2015 (Act 771) and whose tasks were set up under the same Act, primarily regulate economic matters relating to the civil aviation industry.

See said he would be going to the MACC headquarters at Jalan Lapangan Terbang here on June 11 to find out if the commission had already look into this matter.

“If not, we will be happy to lodge a complaint. But if there is already an investigation into this, then we have to find out what is going on,” he said.

See (in white collared T-shirt) speaking to reporters outside the Simpang Tiga police station this afternoon.

FDS acting director Hamden Mohammad told DayakDaily on Thursday that his office was initially scheduled to take delivery of the propeller-driven plane sometime this month but due to the stringent technical inspection by MAVCOM, it has now been delayed.

With the acquisition of the plane, Sarawak will be the first state in the country to have its own fixed-wing plane to provide air surveillance and to monitor illegal logging activities.

Hamden said the plane could fly without refuelling for nine hours, and it is so sophisticated that it can identify the species of trees below it. — DayakDaily