‘Masing’s narrative fails to control damage over army plane transport saga’

Baru Bian

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KUCHING: State PKR chief Baru Bian holds the view that the explanation of “payback time and thus the army planes” by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing is just a failed attempt at damage control.

He also dismissed Masing’s claim that the latter could not afford to pay for the community chiefs and Barisan Nasional (BN) supporters to travel by commercial flight.

“The irresistible conclusion in this farce, is that the DCM is playing politics, and is now just attempting to limit the damage by giving his post-event justification. Talk about grasping for straws.

“It is clear to anyone following the recent developments that the DCM has gone into damage control mode after heavy criticism on social media, but unfortunately his ‘sound reasoning’ of payback for fighting the communists many years ago is just plain absurd,” said Baru in a press statement yesterday.

He said if the DCM was really serious about rewarding the village chiefs for their services rendered, flying them in a military jet not made for comfort or with amenities, and requiring a longer travel time than a commercial plane, was not the right way.

“Surely they (the community leaders of Rajang River Basin) deserve to fly business class on a comfortable plane? It is the least the DCM could have done for them, after all the sacrifices they made. Did he make the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ and travel with the village chiefs in the military plane or did he fly in comfort on a commercial plane?

“If the DCM is really serious about rewarding those who fought the communists, why be selective and only reward those from Song, Kapit and Belaga? What about those who live in other areas? I know a few ex-Sarawak Rangers in Long Semadoh, who fought the communists. Why are they not similarly ‘rewarded’?

“If the DCM is really serious about rewarding those who fought the communists, why not fight for their pensions to be raised? That would be fair to all ex-servicemen, and certainly that would be more useful to them. It is no secret that the ex-servicemen have been calling for their pensions to be raised as they cannot make ends meet on what they are receiving now.

“As for him asking me to make up my mind whether I am accusing him of abusing the dignity of the village chiefs by taking them on the military plane or abusing his power by using the military aircraft, the answer is both. These two propositions are not mutually exclusive, and there is no contradiction in them, so I am saying he has done both,” said Baru, who is also Ba Kelalan assemblyman.

Baru said Masing’s admission that he could not afford to fly them commercially and therefore used the military aircraft is a blatant abuse of power by using government assets for political activities.

“Not only was that an abuse of power, it was also a misuse of military assets, as this was not an emergency situation that required the use of the military aircraft.

“The question is, who initiated this visit? If it was James Masing, he should have paid for them to travel in comfort. If it was (Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Najib Razak, he should have paid for them to travel in style and comfort. Najib could have come to see them himself; why the need to bring them in such an undignified manner?

“I reiterate that it was appallingly disrespectful for the DCM or the PM to be so stingy and fly them in a plane not designed for commercial use. Sadly, I expect none of the village chiefs questioned Najib about the accusations levelled against him by DoJ (the Department of Justice of the United States) and other countries around the world about his involvement in the 1MDB corruption scandal.

“With all his billions, he could have easily chartered a plane to fly them to Putrajaya if he had any respect for them.”