PM AAB is in damage control again. After the allegation of the US$8 million luxury yacht, the ‘Cobra Sultan’, he has been flushed out into the open to deny purchase of an executive jet worth oodles of millions.
AAB claimed that the government had only leased the aircraft from Penerbangan Malaysia Bhd (PMB), which was not for his personal use only.
But a malaysiakini reader under the appropriate pseudonym of Left Hand Right Hand wrote:
I refer to the malaysiakini report PM: I did not buy a private jet about the PM ‘clarifying’ that the government did not buy the Airbus jet but was merely leasing it from Penerbangan Malaysia Berhad which owns the aircraft.
I find these assertions bizarre and very confusing.
PMB is 100-percent-owned company of Finance Ministry and if PMB already has bought the aircraft, why is the government then leasing it from them?
The plane is still government owned in the end. And why did PMB buy it in the first place?
Isn’t this all the same, only merely a pushing of paperwork around? It’s akin to saying that ‘No, the car is not mine but I am leasing it from my wife’.
Leaving aside the appropriateness of indulging in luxurious form of transportation during a time when the rakyat (people) have been told to 'tighten their belts', is it wrong for the PM to get an executive jet for his official travels? I don’t think so.
But what has been wrong with this government (and its predecessor) has been the oft secrecy and non-accountability surrounding its action involving the spending of public funds.
If the government has made open its plan to acquire an executive jet for the PM’s official use, it would have been a legitimate exercise, transparently open to parliamentary debate, and subject to public accountability.
On this, we also need to bear in mind the difference between the PM's 'official' and 'personal' travels. Visiting his own electoral constituency from time to time to buttress his own political standing is 'personal' but if he combines that with, say, 'Federal-State discussion' with the CM of Penang, then it's official.
As an example of public governance, the PM of Australia was recently billed for making 'personal' travels on a RAAF exceutive jet.
Unfortunately Malaysia has a different attitude and culture towards holding the PM responsible and accountable for his use of public resources because most of us rever him as a semi-Tuanku instead of considering as nothing more than an elected representative, the nation's political leader no doubt, but still an elected representative answerable to the rakyat.
Any attempt to make him answer for his use of public resouces would be met with a ferocious outcry of biadab (disrespectful or discourteous).
As for the yacht with the serpentine moniker, if indeed it was true (as reported that the Turkish PM informed Anwar Ibrahim so) that the ship was a gift by a businessman to the PM, the PM could have declared it in accordance with parliamentary procedures on ethical conduct for ministers.
This is not an unusual practice. It has frequently been exercised in countries such as the USA or Europe, where expensive gifts to presidents, PMs, and politicians (which would be undiplomatic to decline) are required to be reported to a congressional or parliamentary department for this purpose.
The only thing of course is the reported gifts become the property of the State, and do not belong to the recipients of the gifts. The better option would have been to decline such a gift where international diplomacy was not involved.
In matters of such gifts, a businessman, no matter how rich he is, would not be the diplomatic dilemma as would a foreign Head of State or a foreign minister or official.
originally published at 5:13 am but updated/improved at 08:20 am