PETALING JAYA: Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad says he did not instruct anyone to lobby for a meeting with then US president George W Bush, or pay lobbyists millions to arrange for such a meeting.
The opposition Pakatan Harapan chairman, and former Umno president, says he is unaware of the truth of the statement by the son of former minister Megat Junid Megat Ayub that money was paid to secure access to Bush.
In his latest blog post, Mahathir says Megat Fairouz Junaidi had claimed that information about the payment was revealed to him by his father.
“I’m not sure whether this statement is true or not. Maybe the Wisma Putra official who arranged my visit to the US will know. All I know is that there were no instructions from me to lobby for a meeting.”
He then adds, sarcastically: “It’s okay, maybe Fairouz is earning a living.”
Mahathir says when he became prime minister in 1981, the American ambassador, believing he would want to meet the US president, “just as many newly elected leaders would”, came to see him to apologise, saying no meeting could take place then as Bush was too busy.
“I informed Wisma Putra that evening that I did not wish to see the US president and, therefore, there was no need to get a slot for me.”
He says he instructed Wisma Putra, upon becoming prime minister, that his main priority was to visit Asean countries, followed by member states of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC – now known as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) and then the Commonwealth countries.
“The US was never in my schedule, which was why I only went to the US in 1984, three year’s after I became the PM. Even then, it was only because I was in North America.”
The New Straits Times had quoted Megat Fairouz Junaidi as claiming that his father had paid several lobbyists, upon receiving instructions from Mahathir in April 2001 to arrange for the meeting.
The meeting, he claimed, was to boost Mahathir’s tarnished image in the US, especially after the then US vice-president Al Gore rebuked the Malaysian government for allegedly suppressing freedom and praised those who had rallied against Mahathir’s administration following the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim as deputy prime minister.
Gore had said this during a dinner in conjunction with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit at the Putra World Trade Centre in November 1998.
The NST quoted Megat Fairouz as saying: “As far as I am concerned, my late father was instructed to set up a meeting between Tun Dr Mahathir and the US president since 2001.
“Following the instruction, my late father met several quarters and paid a sum of money to lobbyists in a bid to secure the meeting which eventually took place on May 2002.”
Megat Fairouz said his father did not tell him exactly how much was paid, but he believed it was in the millions.
According to the NST, Megat Fairouz said this when commenting on the statement by Prime Minister Najib Razak that Mahathir’s meeting with the former US president in 2002 had been arranged by a lobbyist.
Najib had said that Mahathir had paid millions of ringgit to a Hong Kong-based lobbyist to set up the meeting with Bush.
He was quoted as saying that the lobbyist was paid with the award of a lucrative project, which he and Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, were aware of.
Najib said despite spending millions of ringgit, Mahathir was not accorded the warm reception that he himself had received when he called on President Donald Trump on Sept 12.
Mahathir also touched on this in his blogpost, saying he was given a warm welcome when he visited the US.