KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 — Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister (KKMM) Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin today took his former minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah and the current finance minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz to task, accusing the duo of engaging in secret discussions on the controversial fifth-generation (5G) project dealings, involving Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB).
During a press conference at the Dewan Rakyat, Zahidi also made sarcastic remarks towards Saifuddin, saying that he was probably kept in the dark as “perhaps minister Saifuddin was previously from another party, PKR; I was with Umno.”
“Perhaps a little bit of secrecy therefore.
“Just that I am making this press statement as I am a little disappointed, because why? The previous minister, Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah, said that they had discussed this with the finance minister. So, the minister and minister discuss; between the previous KKMM minister and the finance minister, they discuss and execute this DNB project that involves almost about RM20 billion, without discussing with the parties below,” he said.
Zahidi said that he was informed that Multimedia and Communications Commission (MCMC) chairman Fadhlullah Suhaimi Abdul Malek was however involved in discussions, as 5G spectrum matters fall under the Commission, adding that he also “sees Fadhlullah’s involvement here.”
He lamented that Fadhlullah was also never present in Parliament, on days he had to answer questions relating to the fifth generation (5G) project issues which were raised.
“So that’s why when I answer in Parliament, then I have no information. There is no information on the minister’s discussion with the minister, there is no information because it was not informed to me and also the MCMC chairman who was involved, also did not discuss it, why? Throughout the time I answered in Parliament, the MCMC chairman was never present. Only subordinate officers were present, and when asked to the subordinate officers, they do not know why the monopoly, why Ericsson and the like. The answer is incomplete,” he added.
DNB, which is owned by the Minister of Finance (Incorporated), has been mandated by Putrajaya to be the single neutral party undertaking the deployment of the 5G infrastructure and network throughout Malaysia. Swedish company Ericsson, meanwhile, has been appointed as the network hardware supplier.
“This project is the rakyat’s project worth RM20 billion and there is also a monopoly here. So we want to know, why is Ericsson monopolising? Why is DNB monopolising it? As we want to know what the mitigation plan is, the risk management. Because if Ericsson goes bankrupt, what happens to this project? So the rakyat want to know. We do not want Ericsson, an international company to be bankrupt, while suddenly, we already have a RM20 billion project. So the rakyat would need to be responsible. So let us not be secretive,” he said.
Zahidi said that he had also received complaints from several local companies that wanted to compete for the project’s tenders, which were reportedly accused of tender fraud.
“So we need to know. So if the rakyat asks, I need to explain. So let us not be secretive.
“It’s like this. The minister summons us. We can’t summon the minister. So the minister summons us. Sometimes, these ministers, they feel they are more intelligent than us. We understand that. But he has to call us, who are not that intelligent,” he said during the press conference.
Last week, Zahidi told the Dewan Rakyat that the Ministry of Finance (MoF) insisted on handling Malaysia’s 5G rollout despite knowing that the formation of DNB would monopolise the telecommunications industry in the country.
He said its officials met with representatives from DNB and told them they were not keen on a monopoly, but in the end MoF insisted on handling the 5G rollout.
Zahidi added his ministry was only providing a service within the spectrum of 5G.
He said questions on investments should be channelled to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti).
DNB has come under public scrutiny for lack of transparency and its establishment, administration and financial management.
Opposition MPs have pointed out that DNB gets its funds from MoF in the shape of bonds, and raised concern over its potential to become another financial liability like scandal-riddled 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
DNB is currently offering local telecommunications companies a free trial of its 5G infrastructure, which has so far only been taken up by Telekom Berhad.
Previously, Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa said the final decision to use the Single Wholesale Network (SWN) model for the rollout of the 5G network is still pending, adding that the negotiation process between DNB and telecommunication companies is being handled by the MCMC.