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Syed Hamid to be asked in Parliament next week how much the rare timber gift Mahathir gave to Mugabe for his RM34 million palatial mansion outside Harare cost Malaysian taxpayers
by Lim Kit Siang
Mahathir was taken on a guided tour by Mugabe of his RM34 million palatial mansion outside Harare on Wednesday as part of the former Prime Minister’s three-day official visit to Zimbabwe in connection with the holding of the Southern African International Dialogue (SAID) in Lesotho.
Up to now, however, neither Parliament nor Malaysians have been informed how much Mahathir’s gift to Mugabe had cost the country – a gift of rare Malaysian timber which Mahathir had secretly given to Mugabe without Cabinet knowledge or parliamentary approval.
The Foreign Minister, Syed Hamid Albar should report to Parliament the cost to Malaysian taxpayers of this fatal attraction between the 2Ms – Mahathir in Malaysia and Mugabe in Zimbabwe – when Parliament debates the foreign ministry estimates under the 2006 budget early next week.
May be on his return, Mahathir should give a briefing to parliamentarians about his impressions of Mugabe’s palatial mansion which he had helped to fund with rare Malaysian timber at the expense of the Malaysian taxpayers – a 25-bedroom palace with bathrooms and spas in a “shoot and kill” area, three times the size of the official presidential residence in Harare, which involved the construction of two sizable dams and extensive landscaping work.
It was a three-day 2M “love fest” in Harare. Mahathir lauded Mugabe as “a shining African leader” and described Zimbabwe as “a rich country with great potential for economic development”.
In turn, Mugabe paid tribute to Mahathir as “founder and architect of modern Malaysia” who have “left an indelible mark in history of your country, your region and well beyond”.
The building of the RM34 million mansion in a country when nearly half of Zimbabwe’s population is dependent on international food aid is both obscene and criminal waste of public funds – and Malaysia’s support of such presidential obscenity and criminality is no less deplorable.
As Zimbabwe’s per capita income is now about one-tenth that of Malaysia, this is like building a RM340 million palatial mansion in Malaysia for the Prime Minister!
It is most shocking that the 2M “love fest” had blinded Mahathir to the ruin and disaster which Mugabe had wrought in Zimbabwe, a once-prosperous African state sinking ever deeper into mass hunger, economic ruin and authoritarian rule.
Mugabe had reduced Zimbabwe from its former position as southern Africa’s breadbasket to one of the most disastrous failed African states, 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.
The Zimbabwe that Mahathir visited is in the throes of multiple humanitarian crises and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan had just raised the alarm about the latest crisis - 700,000 people uprooted by Mugabe’s “Operation Drive Out Trash” which destroyed 133,000 households in urban slums, where the slum dwellers were treated simply as “trash”.
Did Mahathir have any time to spare during his 3-day “love fest” with Mugabe in Harare to raise some of these stark humanitarian crises with the Zimbabwe dictator?
During the 13th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Kuala Lumpur in February 2003, I had sent an Open Letter to all heads of state or government spelling out five points to make the second largest organization of nation states after the United Nations – NAM - relevant again in order to regain its authority, credibility and legitimacy on the world stage to exercise the type of influence it enjoyed in its early years and decades.
I had proposed that NAM declare a Decade of Democracy, Human Rights, Rule of Law and Good Governance, and I had named Zimbabwe under Mugabe as one of the rogue states which had given NAM a bad name.
With Malaysia’s term as NAM Chair coming to the end of its three-year tenure, Syed Hamid should report to Parliament next week what progress had been achieved during this period to revitalize NAM, particularly in the areas of fighting corruption, uphold human rights and the rule of law, and expanding good governance in the 116 member states.
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