Hybrid solar system not suitable for rural schools in Sarawak: Witness

18 Feb 2020 / 19:32 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Education Ministry (MOE) secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Madinah Mohamad (pix) told the High Court today that the hybrid solar system is not suitable for use in schools in remote areas in Sarawak.

In fact, the sixth prosecution’s witness said the best method to ensure electricity supply for at least 12 hours to those schools is by using generator sets.

She said the MOE had proposed for the use of solar technology, but it was proposed for implementation at schools that are not located too far in the jungle.

“Some schools are located in a very remote area and surrounded by big trees. So, the hybrid solar system may not be suitable for such schools. That is why the ministry has no plan to implement the solar project,” she said during cross-examination by lawyer Datuk Akberdin Abdul Kader in Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s graft trial involving the solar project.

Rosmah, 68, has claimed trial to a charge of soliciting RM187.5 million and two counts of receiving a bribe of RM6.5 million from Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin, through her former aide, Datuk Rizal Man, in exchange for helping Jepak Holdings obtain a RM1.25 billion project to provide solar energy to 369 rural schools in Sarawak.

She allegedly committed the offences at three places, namely Lygon Cafe at Sunway Putra Mall in Jalan Putra here; her house at Jalan Langgak Duta, Taman Duta here, and at the Seri Perdana Residence, Persiaran Seri Perdana, Precinct 10, Putrajaya between January 2016 and Sept 7, 2017.

Madinah, 63, said schools in Sarawak, in the national context, are short in numbers compared to that in the peninsula, due to fact that most of them are located in rural areas and have no continuous supply of electricity.

To Akberdin’s suggestion that the solar system had been implemented in Sarawak since 2010, the witness agreed but said it was not done in a comprehensive manner.

Akberdin: How many schools have implemented the solar system?

Madinah: I was appointed as MOE secretary-general on June 13, 2013, so I did not have the information or the number of schools which have been installed with the solar system, especially in 2010. From what I know, there were only several schools.

The witness, however, agreed with Akberdin’s suggestion that the ministry should have rejected Jepak Holdings’ proposal to implement the RM1.25 billion hybrid solar project as it contravened the Treasury Circular and also a waste of the people’s money.

Madinah, who retired from the civil service on Sept 2, 2016, said she just “could not reject” the proposal.

She also agreed with Akberdin’s suggestion that she had the authority to set aside the two minutes from former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak who ordered the solar project to be given to Jepak Holdings.

She said although there are guidelines that need to be adhered to in the implementation of direct-negotiation projects, the Minister of Finance, in some cases, has the power to overrule the guidelines.

Najib was then the Minister of Finance.

Akberdin: You complained a lot about Jepak and yet you were the one who strongly supported Jepak’s (hybrid solar) project.

Madinah: Back then, I received the instruction from the minister (former Minister of Education Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid) to carry out Datuk Seri Najib’s order, I brought the proposal to the Ministry of Finance as the decision had been finalised and the approval for the project was entirely up to them and not the Education Ministry.

The trial before Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan continues tomorrow. - Bernama

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