Tony Pua has denied allegations of threatening a property developer, who had faced financial problems in a joint venture project with the government to develop a multi-billion-ringgit complex in Kuala Lumpur, as mentioned in former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s upcoming book.
Describing it as false allegations, the Damansara MP, who was the political secretary to then finance minister Lim Guan Eng, said this was not the first time Dr Mahathir had made the accusation.
Back in November 2018, Lim was summoned to Dr Mahathir’s office to reprimand Pua’s purported action.
“The problem is, I could never have ‘threatened’ the property developer because I have never personally met or spoken to the developer,” he said in a statement on Tuesday (Dec 7).
In his book, the former prime minister had reportedly claimed to put a stop to an adviser to the then finance minister for overreaching his authority on civil servants.
The adviser had purportedly participated in business negotiations involving the government, despite not being empowered to do so and resorted to threats.
“Now, this particular DAP adviser did in fact make this threat despite the fact that billions had already been spent, and he did so without reference to or indeed getting any authorisation from the government.
“It’s not the way a government works, and I put a stop to all instances of it that I was aware of, but it was this kind of behaviour that allowed the Umno cyber troopers to play up ethnic insecurities,” Dr Mahathir reportedly wrote in his book.
According to Pua, the project involved is Exchange 106, which is part of the controversial Tun Razak Exchange, a 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) legacy.
However, Pua pointed out that the current treasurer-general and TRX City officials led all negotiations and discussions with the company.
“I was never present in their discussions,” he added.
“I regret that Dr Mahathir is extremely selective in his memory. It is unfortunate that he prefers to believe the words of an extremely crooked foreign tycoon, previously convicted of cheating hundreds of billions of rupiah from Bank Bali in 2009; and subsequently convicted again for forgery in 2020 and bribery in 2021.
“Dr Mahathir should have been proud that his government has successfully protected the interest of the rakyat in this multi-billion-ringgit scandal and recorded that achievement in his memoirs.
“Instead, he has chosen to be petty and wrote about how he was able to ‘put a stop’ to the lowly political secretary of the minister of finance,” said Pua.
He also said he was perhaps a convenient target for anyone unhappy with the Finance Ministry trying to clean up Najib’s mess.
Dr Mahathir did not mince words when he described Pua as ‘arrogant’ and ‘disliked’.
“When you are not even a minister but just a political secretary – yet going around telling people what to do and threatening them and speaking the way you speak – you are arrogant, and people will dislike you.
“Because of this person, a lot of people were against the (Pakatan Harapan) government as they felt that the government was not sympathetic to their cause,” Dr Mahathir said at the virtual launching of his book titled “Capturing Hope: The Struggle Continues for a New Malaysia” on Tuesday (Dec 7).
Dr Mahathir was asked to comment on Lim’s claim that he had a “faulty’ memory and it was unfair to pin blame on Pua based on excerpts from his book.
Pua, although not named by Dr Mahathir in his book, denied that he had threatened the developer of the Exchange 106 skyscraper at the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) when serving as Lim’s aide and that he was singled out because of his efforts to tackle issues left behind by the previous administration under Datuk Najib Tun Razak.
It was said that Dr Mahathir was furious when informed by owner of TRX’s developer Mulia Property Development Sdn Bhd, Djoko Tjanda that Pua had “threatened” to take over Mulia’s 49% share for only RM1 after Mulia had already invested more than RM1.1 billion in the project.
Dr Mahathir said that he only cited the TRX project as an example of Pua’s behaviour although many other businessmen complained about him.
He said instead of performing his duties as political secretary to Lim, Pua began meddling in the government administration, including policy matters.
“Others also came to tell me that this man – the adviser to the finance minister – was very arrogant.
“If I were to cite them all, it would fill the pages of an entire book,” Dr Mahathir said.
He acknowledged that the appointments of political secretaries for ministers began during his tenure.
“Many ministers complained that due to their ministerial work, they did not have time to run their political on-the-ground tasks.
“This was why the political secretary role was introduced – to observe and gauge a minister’s popularity among the general public.
“Instead, this political secretary ordered that he was to be briefed on policies, called in officers for meetings, and implemented government policies”, he added.