We have to give credit where and when it is due. In this particular case, the Opposition for questioning the wife of the Prime Minister Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor for using the Malaysian government jet for her and her entourage’s recent trip to Doha.
Riong Kali dot com’s story:
Rosmah’s Qatar trip on government jet questioned by Pakatan lawmakers
BY EILEEN NG
NOVEMBER 18, 2013
Opposition lawmakers grilled Putrajaya on Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s use of the official government jet for a visit to Qatar last week to attend an international forum.
Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak) started the ball rolling when he interjected Anthony Loke (DAP-Seremban) during the debate on Budget 2014 at the committee stage, noting that Rosmah had used the jet.
“How can the prime minister’s wife use the government aircraft? We want to know the cost involved and how come she is eligible for this,” Azmin asked.
In reply, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said the Cabinet had approved for Rosmah to use the jet for this particular trip.
His reply did not satisfy the opposition ranks and Parliament turned chaotic with several MPs questioning the rationale of the Cabinet decision.
“Isn’t the Cabinet headed by the prime minister? This is a conflict of interest, how can the prime minister give permission to his wife to use the jet?
“Is there a new law where the wife of the prime minister can represent the country to discuss bilateral matters?” asked Azmin (pic) and pointed to a visit by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton where Rosmah met her as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was sick.
Hanipa Maidin (PAS-Sepang) asked whether Najib had recused himself when Cabinet made the decision while Mahfuz Omar (PAS-Pokok Sena) feigned astonishment over the latest development, which he claimed has never happened anywhere in world.
However, Shahidan stuck by his reply, insisting that the Cabinet decided Rosmah can use the jet since she is representing the country on official business.
“Her visit was approved by the Cabinet. You can bring it to any court in this world or next, no problem,” he said.
He also disputed the Pakatan MP’s contention for Najib to emulate his Singapore counterpart to use commercial flights for official visits, saying that it is for security reasons as well as to boost the country’s image.
He said it was “illogical” for Najib to take a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight for official visits as the national carrier does not fly to all countries.
“MAS is also bound by its schedule. And if we charter a flight from MAS, we have to pay more,” he said.
He reiterated the jets were not only used by the prime minister but also the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong, deputy prime minister and with permission, other ministers too.
Rosmah recently delivered a keynote address at the 4th Qatar International Business Women Forum in Doha.
Organised by the Qatari Businesswomen Association and the Interactive Business Network, the two-day forum was attended by the Qatar Minister of Energy and Industry Dr Mohammed Saleh Al Sada.
The Malaysian delegation included Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, who is special advisor to the prime minister on women entrepreneurs and professionals; Datin Seri Siti Rubiah Datuk Abdul Samad, wife of the Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman; Datin Seri Khamarzan Ahmad Meah, wife of International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed; and Datin Seri Che Kamariah Zakaria, wife of Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh. – November 18, 2013.
Perdana Putra says it is alright for Rosmah to use the Malaysian government ACJ319 VVIP jet.
No harm in Rosmah representing Malaysia abroad, says Putrajaya
BY SYED JAYMAL ZAHIIDNOVEMBER 18, 2013
Biz Updates From PR Newswire
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives with his wife Datin Seri Paduka Rosmah Mansor for a gala dinner for leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on October 7, 2013. — AFP
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 — Putrajaya defended today its decision to send Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor for a high-level business meeting overseas recently, a move critics said was inappropriate as the prime minister’s wife holds no government post.
Explaining, Minister in the Prime Minister Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim told the Dewan Rakyat that the Cabinet had agreed to Rosmah representing Malaysia at the 4th Qatar International Business Women Forum in Doha, Qatar, a week ago in a trip financed by taxpayers money.
He said there was nothing wrong with paying for Rosmah’s trip to Doha — where she had travelled using a state-owned private jet — as it was for “official business”.
Federal opposition lawmakers infuriated by the decision are free to challenge it in court, he added.
“Rosmah can use the plane on official business as she represents the country. This is the decision made by the Cabinet.
“You can bring it to court, in this world or the next, no problem,” the minister said in a reply to Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak) and Datuk Mahfuz Omar (PAS-Pokok Sena) during the Budget 2014 committee stage debate.
The two opposition lawmakers also queried Shahidan if there was a law that allows the prime minister’s wife to represent Malaysia in foreign diplomatic affairs but the minister did not reply.
Azmin also pointed out that when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Malaysia in 2010, Rosmah had replaced Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for the meeting as the latter was sick.
This was also deemed an unprecedented move as while Clinton’s visit was officially made in her position as a government leader, Rosmah was neither in government nor an elected representative in Parliament.
Shahidan, however, evaded the question again and merely said the decision of the Cabinet was final.
On October 3, it was disclosed in Parliament that Putrajaya spends RM28.8 million in annual rental and RM5.5 million to maintain the VVIP government jet ACJ319, the private aircraft used to ferry prime ministers much like the Air Force One in the US.
On top of that, as much as RM44 million of taxpayers money have been used to fund the prime minister’s overseas travel since 2008.
The revelation came amid Putrajaya’s call for the Malaysian public to “change its lifestyle” and adapt to the government’s spending cuts as it aims to trim down its ballooning debt.
Opposition MPs have branded the call hypocritical since government leaders were still living lavishly as seen from their hefty allowances and huge monthly paychecks.
As per disclosed in Parliament, Federal Government spend almost RM35 million per annum to pay and maintain the ACJ319. That is a lot of money, to pay for an aircraft. Considering if Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak makes 8 overseas trips and 100 domestic trips in a year or there about, then that is about 32 trips (one overseas trip is equivalent four domestic trips) abroad per annum.
That is roughly RM1.1 million per overseas trips, minus the fuel charges.
This means that the return trip to Doha would have cost the Malaysian government, in the neighbourhood of one and a quarter million Ringgit in aircraft charges, landing charges, fuel and crew.
In comparison, had the Malaysian government chartered a Malaysia Airlines B777-200 and flew Rosmah and her whole entourage to any destination to West Asia to the maximum of Cairo, the cost would be slightly less than RM1 million (everything included; meals, crew charges and fuel). The mini Jumbo could also carry journalists and other extra well wishers to the amount of probably 200 people in great comfort since the B777-200 is a 290 seater wide body airliner. That is over nine times passenger capacity as compared to the 9M-NAA ACJ319 jet.
In another comparison, an 18 seater ACJ318 VVIP jet (similar to the the Malaysian government jet) could be chartered at USD 12-15,000 per flying hour. If the cost include fuel, parking charges and other usual charges, it would be much lesser than RM1.25 million for the trip costed using the ACJ319.
Regardless whether Cabinet approved for Rosmah to use the Malaysian government jet because she is attending the event in Doha representing Malaysia, we still don’t see why she cannot fly commercial to get there. Getting her and her whole entourage to Doha and return on commercial would have cost the Malaysian government a lot less money.
After all, there are direct flights from KUL to DOH. Qatar Airways, for instance is part of One World where Malaysia Airlines is part of the international airlines alliance group.
It is lame for Dato’ Seri Shahidan Kassim to give an answer like that. Just because she is representing the country, therefore the Cabient decided that she could use the Malaysian government jet. Ultimately it would boils down to entitlement and what the circular stated on the use of Malaysian government assets such as the ACJ319 VVIP jet.
Can the same facilities be extended for the Malaysian team, whenever they go to compete in the next SEA or Asian Games? How about other global sports personalities, like Dato’ Nicole David or Dato’ Lee Chong Wei?
Another interesting fact, Rosmah and her entourage could earn Enrich miles if they had flown on Qatar Airways to Doha because of the One World alliance.
All of these ‘excesses’ must end. It is the right and responsible thing to do. Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak is the Prime Minister because he is the leader of the party which got the mandate by the majority of seats in the Dewan Rakyat.
Rosmah is the wife of the Prime Minister by default. The voters did not elect her into office. Nor did the voters gave the mandate to BN because of her.
Therefore, she and the Malaysian government must be considerate in how public resources are utilised. She is entitled to be extended some facilities. However, the facilities that is being extended to her should not be more than a Deputy Minister or worse still, a Political Secretary where these appointments are at the pleasure of the Prime Minister.
Let us all be clear of all these parameters. It is not nice when the Opposition highlights indefensible sour points like this, about the indiscriminate spending of the Malaysian government. Especially centred at PMO. This will just compound the many minus perception against her and inadvertently, Prime Minister Najib as well.