Mahathir should give full and satisfactory accounting for his expensive gift to Mugabe to fund the Zimbawe dictator’s RM34 million 25-bedroom bungalow before he stirs up a new controversy over Kedah’s claim to Penang Island and Seberang Prai

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): Former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad today clarified that he is receiving an allowance from Petronas in his capcity as adviser to clarify his statement one day earlier that  he is not getting even one sen from being adviser to Petronas, Proton, Langkawi Development Authority (Lada) and Tioman Development Authority. 

Mahathir had said on Thursday that he only received the pension for serving as Prime Minister for more than 22 years and that he was not getting a single sen from being adviser to these four bodies and he only has an office provided by Petronas. 

In his clarification yesterday, Mahathir said it has been brought to his attention that he receives a taxable monthly allowance from Petronas but “the amount was not in the hundreds of thousands of ringgit he was alleged to have received”. 

I do not know who had raised the issue or made the allegation that Mahathir had received hundreds of thousands of ringgit as adviser to Petronas, Proton, Lada and Tioman Development Auithority, but since he had himself brought up this issue publicly, he should give full details about his various allowances and perks as adviser to the four bodies – what is the monthly taxable allowance he is getting from Petronas, what are the non-taxable allowances, what type of perks he gets in his capacity as adviser, whether meeting allowances or other “adviser” allowances and perks, such as travel facilities inside and outside the country. 

On Thursday, Mahathir also kicked up a public controversy when he expressed dissatisfaction with the current  RM10,000 honorarium payment by Penang  to Kedah for the island and Seberang Prai, saying that Kedah should charge Penang for supplying raw water free of charge. Mahathir made the statement “With that kind of money we can’t even buy a house and if they do not want to revise, then we can request that Penang Island and Seberang Prai be returned to Kedah” - although the media  described his remarks as having been made “jokingly”. 

Mahathir’s taking up the cudgels on behalf of Kedah against Penang has come as a surprise for at least two reasons: 

Firstly, as Penang Chief Minister,  Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon has pointed out, the water drawn by Penang from Sungai Muda is taken only from its side of the boundary with Kedah unlike Singapore or Malacca which obtained water from Johor through a specially built piping system.  As Penang is not transferring water from a river entirely within the boundaries of Kedah, it would not be fair for Kedah to charge for raw water used for irrigation and domestic purposes by Penangites.   

This is backed up by international precedents with regard to common rivers, such as the Nile, which starts from Ethiopia and Uganda, flows through Sudan and Egypt, while the Mekong which originates in China flows through five countries, with Cambodia and Vietnam downstream.  In such international examples, the countries upstream of the river do not  charge those downstream for raw water. 

Secondly, why didn’t Mahathir raise and address  the issue of the adequacy of the RM10,000 honorarium which Penang pays to Kedah in his 22 years as Prime Minister of Malaysia?  Why is he now suggesting that Kedah has a case to lay claim to the Penang Island and Province Wellessley and reduce Tsu Koon to  at most a  super Municipal Council President in a Kedah which re-incorporates the Penang Island and Seberang Prai? 

Mahathir should give a  full and satisfactory accounting for his expensive gift to the corrupt Zimbabwe President Robert  Mugabe to fund the latter’s RM34 million 25-bedroom bungalow  in his last months as Prime Minister before stirring  up a new controversy over Kedah’s claim to Penang Island and Seberang Prai. 

Mahathir had admitted that when he was Prime Minister, he had  given  a gift “from a head of government to a foreign head of state, which is the usual practice among world leaders”, for Mugabe’s 25-bedroom bungalow.  He said the gift was in the form of timber, valued at RM100,000, for wood paneling of the bungalow. 

This  is a far cry from Mugabe’s claim that his RM34 million mansion was funded partly by the Chinese and Malaysian governments.  If Mahathir or the Malaysian Government had only given a gift of RM100,000 worth of timber, which does not come to even  0.3 per cent of the RM34 million 25-bedroom bungalow, it is unlikely that Mugabe would have even mentioned or remembered  Malaysia  or Mahathir as part donor of the bungalow. 

Many other questions have been raised by Mahathir’s gift to Mugabe, such as: 

  • Whether it had the  approval or knowledge of the Cabinet, as no Minister seems to be aware of it when the story first broke internationally;
  • why the gift was given to a corrupt dictator. Mahathir’s earlier claim that  he could not have foreseen that foreign leaders who received gifts from Malaysia would later be considered dictators, corrupt or evil persons does not hold water as Mugabe was already internationally notorious for his corrupt and dictatorial rule when Mahathir made the gift to the Zimbabwe President.
  • What are the guidelines and policies governing gifts “from a head of government to a foreign head of state”, and whether it is conscious government policy that Malaysia should refrain from being internationally identified as “dancing with corrupt dictators”.

I have submitted a question to be answered by the Prime Minister in the first day of the next Parliamentary meeting on July 5, asking for the true situation about the gift for Mugabe’s 25-bedroom bungalow, a list of all the expensive gifts to foreign leaders in the past ten years and the guidelines governing such gifts to foreign leaders.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman