KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 10 — Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and her former aide Datuk Rizal Mansor had all exerted pressure over the award of a RM1.25 billion project to a company managed by a man then attached to Sarawak’s now-defunct Barisan Nasional coalition, a former minister told the High Court today.
Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid, who was education minister from July 2015 to May 2018, today continued testifying tof how he was pressured to have his ministry award the electricity supply contract for 369 rural Sarawak schools to Saidi Abang Samsudin’s Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd.
What Rosmah said over the phone
Mahdzir, who last week testified about how Rosmah ordered him during a June 2016 buka puasa event to expedite the project award to Jepak Holdings, today spoke of how she had again pressed him to speed up the matter several months later.
Mahdzir said Rosmah had called him on December 22, 2016 to talk about the solar hybrid project, adding that she had abruptly denied knowing the individual named Rayyan and that she had claimed to only be assisting “Cikgu Aazmey” in the matter.
“Datin Seri Rosmah also told me to just follow the orders in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s minutes and that she did not want me to delay matters relating to the solar hybrid project.
“I just answered more or less ‘Ya, ya Datin Seri’ only. I have no doubts that Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor was involved in helping Saidi get the solar hybrid project from the Education Ministry,” he said.
Mahdzir previously said that those lobbying the education ministry to give the contract to Jepak Holdings were “Team Saidi”, which comprised Saidi, Saidi’s business partner Rayyan Radzwill Abdullah, Rosmah, Rizal and Pekan Umno secretary Datuk Aazmey Abu Talib.
Mahdzir is testifying as the fifth prosecution witness in Rosmah’s corruption trial, over her alleged seeking of RM187.5 million in bribes and taking bribes totalling RM6.5 million from Saidi in exchange for helping Jepak Holdings get the RM1.25 billion project.
Najib’s handwritten orders
Mahdzir last week testified about how Najib had issued three handwritten notes through minutes since June 2016 to instruct him to give the contract to Jepak Holdings, noting that Najib had also ignored his advice when met on November 9, 2016 to wait for Jepak to comply with certain requirements first before the issuance of a letter of acceptance —- which effectively awards the project.
Mahdzir today spoke of how Najib responded when told on November 9, 2016 that Saidi and Saidi’s business partner Rayyan had belittled Mahdzir as part of the two businessmen’s efforts to get the project quickly.
“I also told Datuk Seri Najib Razak that Saidi and Rayyan from Jepak had disparaged me as education minister. I told Datuk Seri Najib Razak that Rayyan accused me of failing as education minister and not able to be minister for long. Rayyan made such threats several times to me during July to October 2016,” Mahdzir told the court.
But Mahdzir said Najib had asked who Rayyan was, and did not say anything when told that Rayyan was Jepak Holdings’ representative, adding that he felt Najib’s lack of response was as if he accepted such comments by Saidi and Rayyan.
“Datuk Seri Najib Razak only ordered me to follow his orders to immediately issue the letter of acceptance to Jepak immediately. I only complied with his orders,” Mahdzir said.
Mahdzir said he had on November 10, 2016 asked an Education Ministry official to prepare the letter of acceptance in compliance with Najib’s instructions even though price negotiations and other matters had yet to be done.
Noting that the letter was then drawn up that morning itself for the project a sum of RM1.325 billion — inclusive of the project value of RM1.25 billion and the Goods and Service Tax (GST), Mahdzir said he then signed it as the education minister was required to sign off on projects worth more than RM100 million.
Rosmah’s aide’s role
Mahdzir said that Saidi and Rayyan had at around 2pm or 3pm of November 10, 2016 met him at the Education Ministry to protest over the letter of acceptance’s content, demanding that he order the ministry to remove a clause that enabled the ministry to reserve its right to terminate the contract and reduce the number of schools under the project if the Sarawak schools get connected to the electricity grid.
Mahdzir said he had initially refused to remove the clause as it was the ministry’s decision which would have been based on the project’s requirements, but said Rayyan then name-dropped Najib.
“Rayyan was not satisfied and told me more or less ‘Takkan benda ini nak sampaikan kepada Datuk Seri Najib lagi’ (Can’t be that this thing has to go to Datuk Seri Najib again),” Mahdzir said, adding that Rayyan then made a phone call and passed the handphone to him.
Mahdzir said the person in the phone call was Rosmah’s aide Rizal, where the latter had told him to remove the clause if he could and “jangan buat susah perkara ini” (don’t make this matter difficult).
“Datuk Rizal Mansor also reminded me that this solar hybrid project is already in Mem’s knowledge and asked me to fulfill Jepak’s request. I know the ‘Mem’ that was meant by Datuk Rizal Mansor is Datin Seri Rosmah,” he said, noting that Rizal had used Rosmah’s authority when speaking to him.
Tired out from Saidi and Rayyan’s constant badgering and feeling pressured by Najib’s handwritten note to issue the letter, Mahdzir said Rizal’s phone conversation on behalf of Rosmah caused him to agree to remove the clause.
Having instructed his ministry officials to amend the document and telling the two businessmen to liaise with his officers, Mahdzir said Saidi and Rayyan met him that night at around 8pm to 9pm with the amended version of the letter of acceptance that no longer carried the clause and that he had then signed this new version.
Mahdzir said the November 10, 2016 letter of acceptance binds the Education Ministry and Jepak Holdings contractually and that its contents could not be changed once signed by both sides, adding that its issuance meant that the ministry had appointed the company as the contractor to carry out the RM1.25 billion solar hybrid project for the supply of electricity to 369 rural schools in Sarawak from January 1, 2017.
Mahdzir said however he had in December 2016 instructed the ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Alias Ahmad to prepare a back-up plan for the electricity supply to Sarawak schools via the buying of diesel for power generators, as he did not believe Jepak Holdings which was previously only a sub-contractor would be able to take over the work of 30 contractors to supply power to the 369 schools.
“I was confident Jepak will not be able to develop the solar photovoltaic system starting from January 1, 2017. In fact, until April 2018, Jepak still had not built the solar hybrid system as promised,” he said, having testified previously of how he had resisted the granting of the project to Jepak and attempted to only give them a limited pilot project to 28 schools before receiving further pressure from Najib.
The trial before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan continues tomorrow morning, where Rosmah’s legal team is expected to continue to cross-examine Mahdzir.