KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad yesterday asked why the Malaysian government needed to spend US$24 million (S$33 million) to arrange a meeting between Prime Minister Najib Razak and United States President Barack Obama.
Tun Dr Mahathir also said it was incorrect to say this big sum was needed to repair damaged Malaysia-US ties caused by him, a news website quoted him as saying.
'Meeting is good, but to say this money is spent because of what happened in the past, I don't think is good,' Dr Mahathir told reporters after an official function.
Cabinet minister Nazri Aziz had told Parliament recently that the Najib administration paid Apco Worldwide, a Washington-based public relations company, US$24 million for its services.
The issue became a political hot potato after the opposition alleged that Apco had strong Israeli links and was paid to arrange a meeting with Mr Obama, among its other services.
Datuk Seri Nazri, the Minister in Charge of Parliamentary Issues, had said the big payment was necessary to 'repair' Malaysia-US ties strained during the 22-year tenure of Dr Mahathir.
'I don't care,' Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insider website, when asked to comment on Mr Nazri's charge.
'Whether the ties are good or bad, the fact is the US has not done anything that would show it was offended by us,' he added. He cited the absence of official US complaints lodged with his administration.
He said investments from American companies had continued to flow into Malaysia during his tenure as premier to 2003.
Dr Mahathir said the Najib administration had the authority to do as it sees fit with federal funds.
'If I were in power, I have my own way of doing things,' he said.
[Yes, if Dr M were still in power, he would do things his way. And so it continues. The lack of transparency during his reign continues to date. It is not surprising.]