KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 – Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu has accused former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak of lying by saying he had used government resources to attend the Cameron Highlands by-election nomination day last Saturday.
Responding to Najib’s accusations, the Amanah president said he drove his own car to Cameron Highlands on nomination day last Saturday.
Mohamad, who is more popularly known as Mat Sabu, said this in an interview aired by the Bernama News Channel last night.
The allegations against Mat Sabu first came to light after photos of him walking away from an army helicopter, shortly after arriving at the Slim Camp in Cameron Highlands, went viral since earlier this week.
Najib and his supporters used this photo and another photo from nomination day in accusing Mat Sabu of abusing his powers and using government resources for political purposes, saying that he arrived in Cameron Highlands for the nomination day using the helicopter.
‘Slim Camp army personnel from Sg Petani, Kedah’
The Defence Ministry also issued a statement last night saying the two photographs that had gone viral on social media were from different days.
“The first photograph, with the helicopter in the background, was taken during an official visit by the defence minister to Slim Camp, Cameron Highlands, on Wednesday, January 9, 2019. He returned to Kuala Lumpur on the same day.
“The second one shows him at the Cameron Highlands nomination day on Saturday, January 12, 2019. He left for Cameron Highlands on January 11 by road using his personal vehicle and returned to Kuala Lumpur after the nomination,” the statement read.
Mat Sabu also told Bernama that the people he met at Slim Camp were not Cameron Highlands voters but from Sg Petani, Kedah.
Spin campaign by Najib, BN
With the clarification from the defence ministry, the accusation by Najib therefore is likely part of the spin campaign that BN seem to be putting out ahead of the Cameron Highlands polls.
However, this could have been avoided if Mat Sabu had actually not made a visit to Cameron Highlands in an army helicopter so close to the nomination day.
If he had learnt his lesson from the Port Dickson parliamentary by-election last October, he would know the sensitivities involved, and how it could be used against him and the Pakatan Harapan government.
During the PD by-election campaign period, Mat Sabu was accused of allowing the Pakatan Harapan candidate, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, of joining him in a meeting with uniformed personnel at an army camp, that could be construed as being part of the campaign, with the same opportunity not given to the rival candidates.
This followed Anwar going to the camp with Mat Sabu in the latter’s car.
Anwar denies abusing govt resources in PD campaign
The PKR president was later reported to have denied any wrongdoing, explaining that he got into the car with the Amanah president because they did not have enough time to talk to each other.
“We have to follow the rules and laws, we respect the operation of Bersih, and respect the election commission, so we cannot abuse our power. But, don’t be too much.
“On that day, Mat Sabu came here and I want to talk to him but we did not have enough time because he had to go back soon. Therefore I said that I would ride in his car. When I rode in his car, people said cannot, it’s wrong. He also cannot ride in my car because there is some protocol in the army.
“I just rode in his car from one place to go to another place, they said that this is wrong. This cannot be,” Anwar was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini.
PH must learn from lessons of the past
The problem with the latest incident could be that Mat Sabu did not think what happened in PD was a mistake. Hence, no lesson learnt and the trip to an army camp in Cameron Highlands so near to the start of the campaign period for the polls, is not seen as being wrong as well.
The allegations by Najib and BN supporters also does not sit well with many in Pakatan Harapan, who had accused the former Umno president and his cabinet of using government resources to maximum effect during general elections and by-elections in the past, but now seem to be taking the high ground instead.