Friday, January 21, 2022

Nothing to hide over Langkawi land lease, says Mahathir

The former prime minister says there is a difference between a land lease and a gift.

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Dr Mahathir Mohamad says he has nothing to hide about the parcel of land in Langkawi he received when Kedah was under the administration of his son Mukhriz Mahathir, responding to Najib Razak who had brought up the issue in response to his criticism over property worth RM100 million approved by Putrajaya for the convicted former leader.

Mahathir, who was Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister, also said there was a difference between land that is gifted and land that is leased.

“I didn’t get it for free, or even at a discount,” he said in a blog post.

“I acknowledge that I had land for which I was taxed. I didn’t ask for it. I had to pay the taxes, and I didn’t get it for free.”

He said he also bought two pieces of land in Langkawi after retiring from active politics, but that he had received nothing for free as a gift from either the state or federal government.

“Instead, the cost of rental was increased many times until I eventually handed it back to LADA (Langkawi Development Authority.”

In a war of words with Mahathir last month, Najib said that the Kedah government during his tenure as prime minister had offered 34 acres of coastal land in Langkawi for RM3,200 annually to his former mentor.

He said the offer was made in 2014 when the Kedah administration was led by Mukhriz, and claimed that Mahathir’s son had also been given 2,471 acres of timber land.

Najib was responding to Mahathir’s attack over revelations of a request for free property from the government worth RM100 million through the use of the Members of Parliament (Remuneration) Act, under which former prime ministers are given several housing allowance options.

He had also defended himself by saying that the allowances were introduced by Mahathir himself.

Mahathir said he was ready to be investigated if any wrongdoing had been done on his part.

“I was retired for 18 years before becoming prime minister again for 22 months. When I became prime minister for the second time, my pension was stopped, and then restored after I stepped down again.

“All manner of accusations have been made about my ‘wrongdoings’. If they are true, charge me in court. If I am wrong, hand me a sentence.”

He said when he began speaking about the 1MDB scandal, many efforts were made to accuse him of wrongdoing by the administration of the time.

“Even my cook was fired, while my wife was investigated and my children too by the Inland Revenue Board.

“But thankfully all of the taxes were paid according to the law and there was no issue of tax arrears in the billions.”

Adding that he does not need to explain anything at this point, he said if the authorities wanted a clear explanation of his land, he would readily provide one.

“Nothing to hide,” he said.

On Nov 12, MalaysiaNow revealed details of a plan by the government to approve a property gift worth RM100 million for Najib, located in a posh part of Kuala Lumpur.

A week later, Mahathir raised the matter in the Dewan Rakyat, following which Putrajaya said the move to reward Najib had not been finalised.

Following public outrage, Najib announced that he was withdrawing his application for the land in Bukit Petaling.

It was also reported that Najib had gone for the most expensive of three options offered by the Prime Minister’s Department, which is in charge of privileges for former leaders.

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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