Dr Mahathir Mohamad today defended his remarks about an aide to former finance minister Lim Guan Eng whom he accused in his latest memoir of interfering in government business and threatening a developer involved in a troubled project, saying the aide had behaved “as if he was the minister” instead of a political secretary.

“He was very arrogant,” the former prime minister said when asked about the issue during a virtual media session.

“He behaved as if he was the minister. As a political secretary, you are supposed to report on the politics of the country, not go around implementing government policies.”

Mahathir also said he had heard from many others that the aide whom he said was the adviser to the finance minister, was “very arrogant”.

“Maybe a lot of things were said about him and his background and all that,” he said. “But lots of people complained to me. If I were to cite them, I would fill a book, pages of cases.”

In his book “Capturing Hope: The Struggle Continues for a New Malaysia”, Mahathir said he had “put a stop” to a DAP leader whom he discovered had been participating in meetings in which he had no authority.

“There were also occasions when this adviser spoke publicly on behalf of the government despite having no standing to do so.

“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 cybertroopers to play up ethnic insecurities,” he wrote in the 304-page volume which will be available in bookstores this month.

His claims drew a response this morning from Damansara MP Tony Pua who identified himself as the person referred to.

Pua said the project in question was Exchange106, a skyscraper which forms part of the Tun Razak Exchange in Kuala Lumpur, developed by Mulia Property Development Sdn Bhd, a company linked to controversial Indonesian tycoon Djoko Tjandra.

But he said he was never involved in any negotiations with the company, adding that Lim had asked him to “monitor the progress and resolution” of issues surrounding the project.

Pua said Djoko, angered by a due diligence requested by the finance ministry, had met with Mahathir in a meeting arranged by “one of Mahathir’s trusted advisers”.

“Mahathir was furious when he was told by Pak Joe that Tony Pua had ‘threatened’ to take over Mulia’s 49% stake for only RM1 after the latter had invested more than RM1.1 billion in the project already.

“It is unfortunate that he (Mahathir) 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,” said Pua, referring to Djoko.

The RM3 billion Exchange106 faced problems after the developer failed to obtain a loan for about half of the cost.

Pua said the company had been offered funding by the Najib administration, in exchange for the government being given “temporary” ownership of 51% of the project.

Mahathir today said it was true that Djoko had “put in money” and then found that he had no access to banking support.

“He had to go to the government to ask for help so he could raise money from the bank, but there was a condition attached that if he failed to complete the project, the government would acquire the project for RM1. This is true,” he said.

“But the government must not threaten investors. They have to be friendly with them, they have to bring investors, money and expertise into the country.”

Because of the aide, Mahathir said, many businesspeople had been “against the government”.

“When we have somebody who is not even a minister, just a political secretary, going around telling people to do this, or threatening them, and the way you speak shows you are very arrogant, then of course people decide.”

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