Umno president Zahid plays down ship scandal, says Malaysia's GE15 likely this year

BN chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that that the general elections should not be delayed as more issues could crop up in the future. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The much-anticipated 15th General Election is likely to be held this year, said Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on Sunday (Aug 14).

He said the Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob might have different expectations but he will definitely consult with Umno's top five leaders.

"I am confident that he is a party man and he knows the best timing," said Zahid, also the Umno president, in his closing speech at the convention of Wanita Barisan, the BN coalition's women's wing.

Umno's top five leaders are Zahid, deputy president Mohamad Hasan and vice-presidents Ismail Sabri, Khaled Nordin and Mahdzir Khalid.

Zahid added that the general elections should not be delayed as more issues could crop up in the future.

"We know that they (the Opposition) want to turn up the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) project issue, like the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) issue during the 14th General Election (in 2018). But they are making a mistake, because we have countered it immediately," he said.

The LCS project that is fast turning into one of the biggest financial scandals since the 1MDB debacle.

The BN government had in 2011 commissioned six LCS for RM9 billion (S$2.8 billion) without open tender, to be built by Boustead Naval Shipyard (BNS) and delivered from 2019.

But the contractor has failed to deliver a single ship despite the government paying more than RM6 billion to date.

Directly under fire is Zahid, who was defence minister when the contract was awarded in 2011.

At a press conference later, he said next year would not be suitable for GE15 due to factors such as rising inflation.

The BN chairman, who is currently on trial for corruption charges, said the coalition had started preparations at all levels.

He also said that BN, which consists of Umno, MCA, MIC and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah, was set to go solo for GE15.

Prime Minister Ismail's current administration is propped up by an uneasy alliance with the Muhyiddin Yassin-led Perikatan Nasional coalition.

Mr Ismail had said he will dissolve Parliament once a study could provide some reassurance that the coalition has a chance to emerge victorious from GE15.

He said he wanted Wanita BN to conduct a thorough study to assess the mood on the ground for the coming polls.

"We cannot go to war in the dark. We don’t know our strengths. How do we get voters on polling day if we don’t have this survey?" he said.

He said on Sunday that Malaysia's economic growth for the second quarter of 2022 outperformed many countries in the region.

"This disproves claims that this is a failed government," he told reporters after the Wanita convention.

Mr Ismail added that he had given his assurance to Malaysians that the government would never go back on the decision to keep the economic sector and international borders open, even if there is a resurgence in Covid-19 cases.

Malaysia's economy expanded 8.9 per cent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2022, which was significantly higher than the median expectation of 6.7 per cent growth by a Reuters poll of economists.

The improved performance, compared to growth of 5 per cent in the first quarter of the year, brought the first half of this year's GDP growth to 6.9 per cent.

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