Ex-education sec-gen has changed her stand on solar project, says lawyer

Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex today. (Photos by Shahrin Yahya)

Former education secretary-general Tan Sri Madinah Mohamad, the sixth witness in Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s graft trial, at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex today.

Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor's red handbag today matches her baju kurung.

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*story updated*

KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 18): Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor's lawyer argued today that the stand taken by former education secretary-general Tan Sri Madinah Mohamad in court on a proposed solar hybrid project was inconsistent with her previous stand.

Counsel Datuk Akberdin Abdul Kader said Madinah seemed to imply now that the project proposed by Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd involving 369 rural schools in Sarawak, was not suitable, as some of the schools are located in areas covered by deep forests, where the sunlight may be blocked.

Akberdin went on to point out that solar energy was previously used in some schools in Sarawak. In response, Madinah said that may have been the case since 2010, but the implementation was not that wide.

When Akberdin suggested diesel generator sets were only brought back by the then education ministry when Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and subsequently Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin served as education ministers, Madinah agreed but maintained her preference for the diesel sets over the solar project.

“The schools in question are in rural areas and faced inconsistent supply of electricity. Hence, the education ministry needed to find the best way to supply 12 hours of electricity a day, as the schools are in remote areas and are not connected to the national electricity grid.

“Being a former Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation secretary-general, I find benefits in the solar project but it may not be suitable for schools which are covered with forest trees, which are also thick,” Madinah said.

The witness said she did discuss the difficulties in the implementation of the solar project with then education minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid.

She agreed with Akberdin that she had not expressed her opposition to the solar project to Najib, who was then prime minister and finance minister.

“I could not bring this matter up, as Najib had written a second note on June 2, 2016, asking Mahdzir to implement the project, after writing one on Dec 20, 2015 for the ministry to implement the project,” she said.

“I also tried to bring up the matter when Najib asked about the progress of the solar project. I told him that the application for direct negotiations had been submitted to the finance minister and that the education ministry is having problems with regards to budget allocation. Najib then asked the deputy secretary-general of the ministry Datuk Othman Semail to look into the matter.”

However, Akberdin pointed out that this conversation did not reflect her opposition to the solar hybrid project.

The lawyer also quizzed Madinah on her statement opposing Jepak's ability to conduct the project, but subsequently agreeing on Sept 2, 2016 to write a letter to the then finance ministry, urging it to quickly issue the letter of acceptance for the project.

She agreed that she wrote and signed the letter on her last day at the ministry, as she retired after that and was later appointed as the auditor-general.

Madinah further agreed she also issued another letter dated the same day (Sept 2, 2016), seeking an additional allocation of RM461.7 million from then treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Irwan Serigar Abdullah to finance the early portion of the solar project beginning 2017.

In the end, the letter of acceptance was issued to Jepak by then finance ministry on Nov 10, 2016.

While Madinah had shown opposition to the solar project earlier in her letter dated June 16, 2016 to Mahdzir, she stated that solar energy is a good alternative to diesel generator sets and proposed Jepak's proposal be brought to the finance ministry then for consideration.

Rosmah's defence tried to show inconsistency in Madinah's stand and suggested she was changing her testimony to suit present circumstances.

During the examination-in-chief earlier, Madinah tried to portray that the education ministry at that time was forced to hurry in processing Jepak's request, following pressures from Najib, Rosmah, Jepak managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin and Saidi's partner Rayyan Radzwill Abdullah.

Akberdin: This project applied for was in 2015 and 2016... today, in 2020, you come to court and go all out to condemn this project

Madinah: That's incorrect.

Akberdin: What is incorrect? I put to you that your actions in court are in bad faith. You say that your decision is based on the prime minister's minutes on June 7, 2016. It's bad faith, when you are trapped, you find a scapegoat. You push the blame to others.

Madinah: That's incorrect.

The trial continues before Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan tomorrow (Feb 19).

Read also:
Ex-education sec-gen: I should have rejected Jepak’s project proposal