30 January, 2007

Abdullah rebuffs criticism of extravagance over VIP government plane



Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi denied accusations his administration was extravagant, after it decided to get a new luxury plane to fly dignitaries.

Abdullah said state-owned holding company Penerbangan Malaysia Bhd. used its own money to buy the Airbus A319, which would be leased to the government for VIP travel, the national news agency, Bernama, reported.

"The jet is for the use of the government, not the prime minister" alone, Abdullah was quoted as saying late Monday after returning from the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

Abdullah did not reveal any details of the acquisition, such as when it had been finalized or how much it had cost Penerbangan Malaysia, the parent company of flagship carrier operator, Malaysian Airline System Bhd. The company is also a subsidiary of the government's investment arm.

Abdullah's aides could not immediately be contacted for comment.

The acquisition has become the subject of intense online debate over the past week among Malaysia's independent bloggers and Web sites that have been critical of Abdullah's policies.

Political analyst A. Kadir Jasin said in his blog late Monday that "the cost of leasing and operating (the jet) will still have to be shouldered by the taxpayers."

Abdullah's attempts to clarify the issue were unsatisfactory, said MYKMU NET, a Web site run by supporters of ex-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has accused Abdullah in the past year of mismanaging the economy and compromising national sovereignty.

"Why is there the need for this new purchase?" the Web site said in a statement Tuesday. Penerbangan Malaysia "belongs to the government. Any of its expenses is a government expense," the statement read.

Abdullah's spending policies have so far generally been more conservative than those of Mahathir, who handed power to Abdullah in 2003 after a 22-year rule that witnessed massive infrastructure projects, including the Petronas Twin Towers, once the world's tallest buildings.

Abdullah recently accused his critics of "trying their best to ridicule" him and spreading lies about him on the Internet. But he pledged not to let unfair remarks distract him from working to boost Malaysia's economic progress.




Bernama "Abdullah Denies Buying Executive Jet"
Rocky's Bru : " Blogs spot on about lux jet"
Screen Shots : "Luxury Jet: Blogs and websites were right after all"
MYKMU :"
The Malaysian Government's latest aircraft"


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