KUALA LUMPUR: Is the government planning to buy a multi-billion ringgit aircraft carrier? According to an International Business Times (IBT) report on Aug 26, Malaysia has emerged as a potential purchaser of a Mistral-class warship from France. IBT said two Mistral-class aircraft carriers were initially built for sale to Russia with delivery scheduled for 2014 and 2016. However, the French government cancelled the deal due to Russia’s seemingly poor human rights record and France has been looking for buyers for the warships since. IBT claimed that Malaysia has since emerged as a potential buyer for one of the warships with French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian coming to Malaysia to discuss the sale. Responding to the report, PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli today urged the federal government to drop any intention to purchase the aircraft carrier which could cost around RM3 billion. “The information I obtained indicates that the conservative cost of construction of one carrier was estimated at US$600 million (RM2.5 billion) in 2012. “Taking into account the current currency exchange and inflation, the construction cost per carrier is expected to be around US$650 million which translates to RM2.7 billion,” he told a press conference. The figure, he said, does not include the cost to fully equip the carrier, technical assistance for the carrier as well as the purchase of helicopters for the carrier and maintenance cost. “Hence, if everything is included, the estimated cost would be around RM3.5 billion,” Rafizi said. Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, who met Le Drian today, said however that the sale of the aircraft carrier was not discussed at the meeting. “It was not discussed. That answers whatever allegation they want to throw at us,” he told reporters after the meeting. It is therefore inappropriate, he said, for any party to raise allegations over the matter. “Whoever has concerns over it, I think it is premature on their part.” On talk of Malaysia’s intention to purchase Rafale fighter jets from France, Hishammuddin said the government is looking into the matter but it was also “a bit too soon to announce”. “I have been very transparent with the public. It is a question of affordability. I shared with the French defence minister on the economic constraints,” he said. Hishammuddin stressed that the matter of the arms purchase was only a small component of the relationship between Malaysia and France. “Our relationship does not depend on just one component,” he said. He said his meeting with Le Drian touched on concerns regarding the global security landscape and both nations had agreed to strengthen intelligence sharing in efforts to counter the growing threat of the Islamic State. Earlier, Rafizi said as such arms deals involved huge amounts, both Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak and Hishammuddin must provide detailed explanations on two issues at the upcoming session of the Dewan Rakyat before any decision is made. Rafizi said the government should explain: » why it intends to purchase a carrier designed and built for the Russian fleet whose armament strategy is very different from Malaysia; and » the overall cost of the carrier, including the helicopter purchase and the technical assistance contract. Told that the government may classify such information under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), he said at the very least it should disclose the overall price for the carrier so that it can be scrutinised and checked by MPs who may have knowledge of the issue.