‘Mana boleh tahan’ with fly-for-free minister

Two private jets were ‘loaned’ to Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat in February and March, but much to its owner’s chagrin, he had failed to pay for the expenses incurred during the four flights.

Ong had used the Learjet and Gulfstream G450 belonging to Wijaya Baru Aviations Sdn Bhd two times each to fly from the Subang Jaya airport to Kuantan and Johor respectively.

The aviation company is owned by Wijaya Baru Global Holdings Sdn Bhd, and today its deputy chief executive officer Faizal Abdullah let his frustrations fly at a press conference in Petaling Jaya.

“If you want to use (the planes) you can use, but you pay,” he stressed. “It’s like borrowing your neighbour’s car. You have to fill petrol, pay for toll and change the motor oil.”

According to Faizal, fuel costs alone would amount to between US$3,000 and US$4,000 per flight hour.

Yesterday, Malaysiakini reported that Ong ‘owed’ US$40,000 for using the planes, but his secretary Simon Lim claimed that the ministry was never billed for it.

Responding to Lim, Faizal said one of the minister’s assistants had approached Wijaya Baru’s staff to request for the use of the jets and there was no official business deal involved.

“How to give bill?

We’re not doing business… if he doesn’t want to pay, up to him.

All the charges, fuel, pilot and crew have been paid by us.

“Why do we have to bill him if he knows he used it?” he added. Four times – ‘mana boleh tahan’.

Faizal also revealed that after the cost was not reimbursed four times in a row, the company declined to let Ong use the plane for a fifth time on April 24. “So after the first four times he ignored or buat tak tau, we couldn’t tell him to pay first. So we just said (on his fifth request) that the plane was not available.

“Maybe he knows the plane was there and became angry, because a few weeks later the PwC report came out,” he said. The PwC report refers to the PriceWaterhouse Coopers audit of Port Klang Free Zone, in which Wijaya Baru, through its subsidiary Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd, is the turnkey developer. Kuala Dimensi has since filed a defamation suit against PwC and the Port Klang Authority over the contents of the report. Asked if the jets were loaned to the MCA president due to the good rapport between the company and the minister, Faizal denied this.”He is a minister. I don’t see him as Ong Tee Keat. I see him as a minister.

He must have some accountability and responsibility… “Dia guna empat kali ini macam, mana boleh tahan (This happened four times, how can we stand it)?” he said. Nevertheless, Faizal said the company will not pursue Ong for the arrears. “He is a minister. We can’t ask him to pay. That is very rude. Mati lah!”He added that there were several other ministers and MCA politicians who ‘borrowed’ the planes but they have paid for the cost of using them. Currently, the company does not perform commercial flights but will do so in the future once permission has been obtained.