DAP’s Damansara MP Tony Pua has identified himself as the person referred to by Dr Mahathir Mohamad in an upcoming memoir, and launched a scathing attack on the former leader for siding with a “crooked businessman” whom he said had made a false claim against him.
This comes after a report by MalaysiaNow quoting Mahathir in his soon-to-be-launched book, “Capturing Hope: The Struggle Continues for a New Malaysia”, in which the former prime minister accused an aide to former finance minister Lim Guan Eng of interfering in government business including by making threats to a developer involved in a troubled project in the city centre.
Pua said the project in question was Exchange106, a skyscraper which forms part of the Tun Razak Exchange in Kuala Lumpur, developed by Mulia Property Development Sdn Bhd, a company linked to controversial Indonesian tycoon Djoko Tjandra.
But he said he was never involved in any negotiations with the company, adding that Lim had asked him to “monitor the progress and resolution” of issues surrounding the project.
“The problem is, I could never have ‘threatened’ the property developer because I had never personally met or spoken to the developer!” said Pua, adding that negotiations with the company were carried out by then deputy treasurer-general Asri Hamidon and the finance ministry-owned TRX City Sdn Bhd, the master developer of Tun Razak Exchange.
Pua said Djoko, angered by a due diligence requested by the finance ministry, had met with Mahathir in a meeting arranged by “one of Mahathir’s trusted advisers”.
“Mahathir was furious when he was told by Pak Joe that Tony Pua had ‘threatened’ to take over Mulia’s 49% stake for only RM1 after the latter had invested more than RM1.1 billion in the project already.
“It is unfortunate that he (Mahathir) prefers to believe the words of an extremely crooked foreign tycoon, previously convicted of cheating hundreds of billions of rupiah from Bank Bali in 2009, and subsequently convicted again for forgery in 2020 and bribery in 2021,” said Pua, referring to Djoko.
The RM3 billion Exchange106 faced problems after the developer failed to obtain a loan for about half of the cost.
Pua said the company had been offered funding by the Najib administration, in exchange for the government being given “temporary” ownership of 51% of the project.
Pua said following the allegation against him, Mahathir summoned Lim in November 2018, some six months after the Pakatan Harapan government came into power.
But Pua said Lim had defended his role in the dispute with the property developer, adding that the finance ministry’s action was endorsed after several Cabinet deliberations.
Pua went on to say he was proud of his “little role… to protect the interest of Malaysian taxpayers”, adding that it ensured the project was completed without any loss on the part of the government.
“Mahathir should have been proud that his government had successfully protected the interest of the rakyat in this multi-billion ringgit scandal and recorded that achievement in his memoirs.
“Instead he has chosen to be petty and wrote about how he was able to ‘put a stop’ to the lowly political secretary of the minister of finance.”
In his book, Mahathir, without naming Pua, said he had “put a stop” to a DAP leader whom he discovered had been participating in meetings in which he had no authority.
“There were also occasions when this adviser spoke publicly on behalf of the government despite having no standing to do so,” said Mahathir.
“It’s not the way a government works, and I put a stop to all instances of it that I was aware of, but it was this kind of behaviour that allowed the Umno cybertroopers to play up ethnic insecurities,” he wrote in the 304-page volume which will be available in bookstores this month.