KUALA LUMPUR – Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing confirmed today the use of military planes to fly 180 village chiefs from the Borneo state to Putrajaya.
He told news portal Malaysiakini that his Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) was merely helping village chiefs who wanted to meet Datuk Seri Najib Razak to thank the prime minister for development aid, adding that the military was also willing to provide the use of its aircraft.
“If you read the history of how the communist insurgents were eliminated in Sarawak in the 1970s, you will understand why the military is so willing to assist us,” he was quoted saying.
According to the news portal, Masing who is also PRS president did not see a problem with using military assets.
“Is this a problem? What is the problem with that?” he reportedly asked.
Pictures purporting to show village chiefs from Sarawak boarding two military Airbus A400M Atlas planes spread on the internet this week, followed by questions online over the use of military planes instead of commercial ones for the grassroots leaders.
Some critics, including Opposition politicians, said the usage of military planes was an abuse of government assets, while others slammed the transport of the village heads this way as “cattle” class.
Masing told Malaysiakini that he could not afford to fly 180 village chiefs to Putrajaya on commercial flights, which was why he resorted to asking the military for help.
“It was because I could not afford using commercial flights. We’re talking about 180 people.
“So I talked to the military people and they said ‘we will assist’. That was what happened.”
According to Masing, military planes were “more affordable”. However, he declined to disclose the amount and brushed it aside, saying, “we don’t talk about the charges”.
He also rejected suggestions that the prime minister had paid for the transport, saying the cost was shared out. The news report was unclear on how many parties had contributed to the transport cost.
– Malay mail