Malaysia’s Defense Corruption Challenge in the Spotlight

The case of the missing helicopters is back in the headlines.

Malaysia’s Defense Corruption Challenge in the Spotlight

Malaysia’s Defense Minister Mohamad Sabu.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Last week, Malaysia’s defense ministry lodged a report with the country’s anti-graft agency over a previous non-delivery of helicopters. While the helicopter scandal is just one of several of such cases that the Southeast Asian state has exposed, it has once again put the spotlight on the future of Malaysia’s defense policy under the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, which took power following a shock election outcome last May.

Corruption is among the many issues that Malaysia has been confronting within its defense policy. Since coming to power last year for the first time, the Pakatan Harapan government has been working to manage several scandals in this respect. A case in point is the issue of land swap contracts, where land near big cities was handed out to private companies in exchange for the building of military camps in remote areas on questionable terms. Defense Minister Mohamad Sabu claimed that more than 500 million ringgit had been lost due to these projects. This scandal management has been part of a broader reform effort that also involves other initiatives as well, including the drafting of the country’s first-ever defense white paper.

Another scandal that had been in the headlines was one related to Malaysia’s purchase of helicopters. Local media reports last month cited defense sources as saying that although six McDonnell Douglas MD530G lightweight combat helicopters worth 300 million ringgit were believed to be purchased by Malaysia back in 2015 and were all meant to be delivered by 2018, they have yet to be delivered even though Malaysia has paid 35 percent of the contract value to date. Mohamad, popularly known as Mat Sabu, had said that an internal investigation had been initiated and the findings would then be forwarded on to other agencies.

Last week, this issue was in the headlines again with reports that the defense ministry had lodged a report with the country’s anti-graft agency over the helicopter deal in question, as Mat Sabu had indicated previously. Per Bernama news agency, a defense ministry representative filed a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on June 13 over the non-delivery of the helicopters.

No further details were provided about the report, including details of the internal investigation that had been conducted as well as potential next steps that could be taken. But as the PH government continues to tackle such issues, developments such as these will continue to be important to watch to get a sense for what progress can be made in the coming years.