KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 6 ― Testifying at the bribery trial of Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Umno’s Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid told the High Court that he felt pressured by the wife of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to award a solar hybrid project to Sarawak schools worth RM1.25 billion to Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd.
The fifth prosecution witness, Mahdzir also said he was repeatedly harassed by Jepak managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin and business partner Rayyan Radzwill Abdullah to speed up the award of the contract to their company.
“Datin Seri Rosmah herself once showed her interest in the hybrid solar project. This incident happened on June 8, 2016 after the breaking of fast banquet at the Prime Minister’s official residence in the Seri Perdana Complex, Putrajaya.
“When I was shaking Datin Seri Rosmah’s hands before heading off, she in a way told me to ‘you tengok la project solar Cikgu Aazmey. Cepatkan sikit’. (Please look at Cikgu Aazmey’s solar project. Please hurry it along).
“What I understand from Datin Seri Rosmah’s message is that she ordered me to expedite the approval process for the solar hybrid project to Jepak,” said Mahdzir.
In his witness statement, Mahdzir said “Cikgu Aazmey” referred to the Pekan Umno division secretary Datuk Datuk Ahmad Aazmey Abu Talib, who was also formerly a Pahang education director.
Mahdzir said the incident with Rosmah back then reaffirmed his belief that she had vested interests in the project and was part of “Team Saidi”.
He added that because Rosmah spoke to him about it directly, he felt compelled to take her “instructions” seriously.
“I felt so because the wife of the prime minister is influential and has authority. Datin Seri Rosmah’s authority is evident when she, as the wife of the prime minister dared, to order me as the education minister to look after and expedite Jepak’s hybrid solar project,” he told the court.
Earlier today, Saidi’s driver Shamsul Rizal Sharbini testified that his employer and Rayyan had approached Aazmey to leverage on his close relationship with Najib in order to gain the contract.
Najib had also repeatedly instructed Mahdzir, through written notes and verbal instructions, to award the contract to Jepak.
In May 2016, Mahdzir said he decided to have Jepak carry out a pilot project to install solar panels in 28 schools in Sarawak instead of two other alternative options involving 140 schools or 358 schools, as Jepak’s proposal only had a lump sum calculation of operating costs without any detailed or specific planning to tailor the project to each school’s needs.
However, in August of that year, he was informed by then Ministry of Education secretary-general Tan Sri Madinah Mohamad that the Ministry of Finance had approved the Education Ministry’s request to appoint Jepak through direct negotiations.
However, the Education Ministry was at that time still required to conduct due diligence before it can formally produce a letter of award (LOA) to Jepak, said Mahdzir.
He added that this process infuriated Jepak executives’ Saidi and Rayyan who continued to harangue him for the LOA.
Mahdzir also recalled getting a call from Rosmah’s former aide, Datuk Rizak Mansor who expressed her displeasure over the delay in awarding to LOA to Jepak.
“Datuk Rizal Mansor had asked me to expedite in awarding the solar hybrid project approval papers to the Ministry of Finance as soon as possible. I told Datuk Rizal Mansor that all matters were being handled by the Education Ministry and I did not want to get involved in such matters.
“I am well aware that Datuk Rizal Mansor was calling on behalf of Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor. This is because Datuk Rizal Mansor mentioned ‘mem’ when he asked me to expedite presenting the approval papers to the Ministry of Finance,’’ he said.
During this period, Mahdzir also recalled that Saidi stated to him that Rosmah was already angry due to the delay for the Ministry of Education to produce the LOA to Jepak.