Dec 22, 2009

Tun Mahathir agrees to probe on whether he ‘burned’ RM100b

A new book on former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has hit the bookshelves. Written by veteran Australian journalist Barry Wain, "Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times (Critical Studies of the Asia-Pacific)" takes a critical look at how Dr Mahathir led Malaysia as prime minister from 1981 to 2003.In the book, Dr Mahathir is alleged to have been blamed for “wasting” or “burning up” RM100 billion in his tenure as the fourth prime minister. He also said that he "reserved the right" to sue author Barry Wain, opposition leader Lim Kit Siang and online news daily Malaysiakini for defamation.

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 22 — A combative Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today he welcomed Lim Kit Siang’s call for the government to set up a royal commission to probe whether he “burned” RM100 billion on grandiose projects and corruption.

The former prime minister added, however, that Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration should also ask the same commission to investigate Tun Abdullah Badawi.

“I will cooperate fully with the commission.

“Depending upon the results of the commission I reserve the right to sue Barry Wain, Lim Kit Siang and malaysiakini.com for libel for a sum to be disclosed later,” he wrote on his popular chedet.cc blog today.

Dr Mahathir was referring to the recent publication of the book, "Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times (Critical Studies of the Asia-Pacific)", written by former Asian Wall Street Journal managing editor Barry Wain.

In the book, Dr Mahathir is alleged to have been blamed for “wasting” or “burning up” RM100 billion in his tenure as the fourth prime minister. Malaysiakini.com published excerpts from the book.

Yesterday, the DAP’s Lim urged the Najib government to investigate the allegations.

“I welcome Lim Kit Siang’s proposal for Najib to set up a royal commission on whether I burned RM100 billion...during my 22-year reign,” said Dr Mahathir.

Such a commission, he said, should not be made up of government nominees, but should instead have as members “impeccable people including foreigners and members of Transparency International.”

He said the probe’s terms of reference should also include how RM270 billion of Petronas money, paid during Abdullah’s five-year term, was spent.

“It should include how much money was lost due to the cancellation of the crooked bridge and the Johore Baru to Padang Besar railway.”

He cited other projects during the Abdullah era which he said should be investigated.

They include the cost over-runs in the construction of the Bakun Hydroelectric project, and also the financing of the second Penang Bridge and the procedure followed when giving out the contract.

“I also agree with Lim Kit Siang that the investigation would reflect Najib’s commitment to ‘combating corruption’.

“In order that the enquiry by the commission is successful, the government must give an undertaking to give full access to the commission to all the documents and accounts of the government over the period 1981-2009. There should be no cover-up of any kind.”

He also suggested that Wain, the writer of the book that has sparked the controversy, should provide “documentary proof of any sum that he alleged I had burned.”

Dr Mahathir also urged the government not to ban the book for distribution in Malaysia. “I am not in need of protection,” he added.

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