Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Law on rewarding ex-leaders not meant to shower luxury, says Dr M

Dr Mahathir Mohamad says former prime ministers are also given pensions, gratuities and allowances which would allow them to build their own homes.

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Dr Mahathir Mohamad today said a law introduced during his first term to reward former prime ministers is meant to show appreciation for their services, not to shower them with luxury, in a response to Najib Razak’s attack on him following the revelation that the government planned to gift the convicted former leader with a RM100 million property.

“Usually the reward is in the form of an existing government house.

“It is not intended to give luxury or wealth to the former prime minister,” Mahathir said in a blog post.

He said former prime ministers were already given pensions, gratuities and allowances, which were enough for them build their own homes.

“That’s what I did,” he said.

His comments follow the outrage created by revelations that Najib had applied for a premium plot of land in Kuala Lumpur bigger than the size of two football fields with the compliments of the federal government, on which a house would also be built costing Putrajaya a total of RM100 million.

MalaysiaNow, which first provided details of the request, said Najib had invoked the Members of Parliament (Remuneration) Act, where former prime ministers are given several housing allowance options.

MalaysiaNow also reported that Najib went for the most expensive option in the form of a piece of property tucked in the exclusive neighbourhood of Bukit Petaling, with a land value of some RM60 million.

The move, reportedly endorsed by Najib’s fellow Umno leader and Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, drew protests from several Cabinet ministers including senior ministers Tengku Zafrul Aziz and Mohamed Azmin Ali, as well as Umno’s Khairy Jamaluddin and PAS’ Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man.

After Mahathir raised the matter in the Dewan Rakyat, Najib shot back saying he had only applied using provisions that Mahathir had introduced.

Following the public outrage, however, Najib backed down, saying he was revoking his application and calling for a review of such entitlements for former leaders.

Mahathir today said other former leaders including himself had not been given the kind of luxuries for which Najib had applied.

“Tunku Abdul Rahman, who became the Malaysian prime minister and succeeded in gaining independence for the country, only got a wooden house.

“Tun Razak’s house was turned into a monument. Even Tun Hussein did not get anything of high value,” said Mahathir, referring to the three prime ministers before him.

Mahathir said he himself had not claimed anything for his 22 years of leading the government other than a pension and RM10,000 monthly housing allowance.

He said he had declined the government’s offer for a free piece of land in Putrajaya, adding that after his retirement in 2003, he decided to buy the land for the same sum offered to civil servants.

“Every year I pay RM6,071 in quit rent, as well as RM1,792 in assessment tax.”

Mahathir said Malaysia had become a laughing stock worldwide over the way it treats a “convict who embezzled billions of ringgit”.

“We can appreciate the contributions of a prime minister but not to the point of turning him into a millionaire. Their actual contributions should also be considered.

“For a prime minister who ruined the country to the point of being sentenced to prison, should we gift up to RM100 million, while the man who gained independence for the nation is given only a wooden house with a tiled roof?” asked Mahathir.

Since his downfall in 2018, Najib has been slapped with multiple charges of corruption, money laundering and abuse of power related to the 1MDB scandal.

Last year, he was sentenced to 12 years’ jail after being convicted of seven charges related to the misappropriation of RM42 million from SRC International.

A decision on his appeal has been fixed on Dec 8.

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