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Deputy Foreign Minister given 48 hours to explain why he is misleading Parliament and nation by now denying that the Malaysian government had secretly funded Mugabe’s RM 34 million mansion outside Harare when Dr. Mahathir had publicly and internationally admitted that he had made the gift to Mugabe as Prime Minister of Malaysia
by Lim Kit Siang
During Monday’s debate on the 2006 Budgetary estimates on the Foreign Ministry, I had queried about the cost to Malaysian taxpayers of former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s support of Zimbabwe despot with the gift of rare Malaysian timber for Mugabe’s £5 million (RM34 million) mansion outside Harare, made without Cabinet knowledge or Parliamentary approval.
I had also asked whether Malaysia’s open support of Mugabe when Zimbabwe has been suspended from Commonwealth for the despotic, brutal and authoritarian rule was a defiance and challenge to the Commonwealth, rejecting international best practices of good governance and responsible conduct by states in the Commonwealth and the world?
In his reply, Joseph said he did not not have the facts at hand about the cost of Mahathir’s gift to Mugabe on behalf of Malaysia and that he would give me a written answer.
Yesterday evening, Joseph handed me this “written answer” which completely floored me. It was a one-paragraph answer which said:
“Isu mengenai hadiah kayu balak untuk pembinaan kediaman President Robert Mugabe telah dibangkitkan sebelum ini. Dalam hal ini ingin dijelaskan bahawa hadiah kayu balak tersebut bukan daripada Kerajaan Malaysia ataupun YABhg Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. Ia sebenarnya adalah pemberian dari sebuah syarikat swasta Malaysia. Oleh yang demikian kelulusan cabinet seperti yang dibangkitkan oleh YB Ipoh Timur itu tidak timbul.”
It was in June last year that the story first broke and became international news about Mahathir’s secret funding of Mugabe’s RM34 million 25-bedroom palatial mansion, in a country when nearly half of Zimbabwe’s population is dependent on international food aid after Mugabe’s corrupt and despotic rule for 25 years had ruined the economy to become one of the most disastrous failed African States from its former position as southern Africa’s breadbasket, with hyperinflation from 400 to 600 percent, 80 per cent unemployment, per capita income shrunk to half of what it was when he came into power 25 years ago, tens of thousands of people killed or tortured every year and haunted by one of the world’s highest incidence rates of AIDS with more than a quarter of its 12.7 million citizens infected with the deadly virus.
To be fair to Mahathir, he had been very consistent on the issue, immediately admitting inJune last year that the timber was presented to the Zimbabwean president but denied any wrongdoing on his part.
He also asked the government to prosecute him if the funding was deemed an offence.
Only last week, in his three-day official visit to Zimbabwe, Mahathir reiterated his consistent stand, defending the gift to Mugabe. Speaking at a press conference in Harare last Wednesday, Mahathir said it was common practice for world leaders to exchange gifts, and the luxury timber paneling sent to Zimbabwe was intended to promote Malaysia’s forest industries.
He added: “But it is baffling that this was considered an offence. I am prepared to be prosecuted for abuse of power. I don’t consider myself to be immune from the laws of my country. President Mugabe is our erstwhile brother who we will always stand by.”
The question now is why Joseph is now concocting a “cock-and-bull” about the timber gift not coming from Mahathir and Malaysian government but by a private company , denying what Mahathir had not only never denied but admitted publicly and internationally.
If Joseph does not reply or give a satisfactory answer in 48 hours, I will consider the options available, including lodging an official complaint with the Prime Minister or submitting a motion to refer Joseph to the Committee of Privileges for gross breach of parliamentary privilege.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman