Mat Sabu: Mindef considering barter trade to boost defence assets


KUALA LUMPUR: The Defence Ministry is in talks with various countries, including Pakistan Russia and China, to conduct “barter trades” in order to procure defence assets, said Mohamad Sabu (pic).

The Defence Minister said such measures were necessary given the nation’s current financial constraints.

“The countries mentioned seemed keen on such possibilities, thus we are working actively working towards it (barter trade).

“Pursuing this avenue in procuring assets seemed the most viable as the government had to spend a large amount of the country’s budget repairing past mistakes made by the previous government,” he told a special press conference at the ministry’s headquarters Friday (April 19).

Mohamad, better known as Mat Sabu, said palm oil is being considered to be used in the barter trade.

“If these countries can accept such a trade, then it will help elevate palm oil in terms of standing and pricing,” he said.

He also joked that some of the countries even indicated using palm oil to fuel their planes.

“Maybe they want to “amik hati kita” (win our hearts),” he said in between laughter.

The Parti Amanah Negara president, who is heading to Russia on Saturday (April 20) for a working visit, said he will also bring up the possibility of barter-trade with his counterpart.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had previously said the European Union (EU) risks opening up a trade war with Malaysia over its “grossly unfair” policies aimed at reducing the use of palm oil.

Last month, the European Commission concluded that palm oil cultivation results in excessive deforestation and its use in transport fuel should be phased out by 2030.

Malaysia, the world’s second biggest palm oil producer after Indonesia, relies on the crop for billions of dollars in foreign exchange earnings and hundreds of thousands of jobs.

On the issue of the EU’s unfair policies aimed reducing the use palm oil, Mohamad Sabu said the ministry is particularly disappointed with France given various defence assets have been procured from them, including submarines.

“Their campaign against palm oil is based on it supposedly being dangerous for the environment.

“In my meetings with the French (representatives), I told them their fears are unfounded as palm oil is the best. Just look at our prime minister who is 94 because of palm oil,” he said.

The government is aggressively championing palm oil and hoped that the issue can raised at the Asean level, he added.

Meanwhile on types of assets to be procured, Mohamad Sabu said it will be done based on necessities and not the interests of politicians.

“It means let the experts in the Armed Forces determine the types of assets to be procured,” he said.

Touching on the government’s financial constraint, Mohamad Sabu said huge number of funds are being used to save Malay-based institutions, especially Tabung Haji (TH) and Felda following the mistakes of previous government.

“In the case of TH and Felda, a total of RM24bil is being allocated to save the two institutions.

“In such a situation, we need to be prudent (in our spending). Even cost-saving measures such as the ECRL are not felt as the funds are being used to correct the previous mismanagement,” he said.