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Malaysia's Anwar denounces PM as big spender

November 12, 1998
Web posted at: 1:36 AM EST (0636 GMT)

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Sacked Malaysian finance minister Anwar Ibrahim denounced Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday, saying he had ordered a $50 million jet and approved a new official residence costing more than $50 million.

Anwar said in a statement read by his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, during a break in his corruption and sex trial that the residence would be fitted out almost exclusively with imported items.

Anwar said Mahathir had also designed the interior decor of the "very sophisticated executive jet," which he said was expected to arrive in Malaysia next month.

"The people can see for themselves how the prime minister lives in his glittering palace and flies in his sophisticated executive jet," Anwar said.

It was the latest condemnation of Mahathir by Anwar, who had served as his finance minister and deputy until September 2 when he was sacked.

Mahathir has called Anwar, indicted for corruption and sodomy, morally unfit. The former cabinet minister has said he was the victim of a high-level political plot.

Anwar and the government have been fighting a running battle over the projected costs of the prime minister's new official residence in Putrajaya, a high-technology complex south of Kuala Lumpur where the government is relocating administrative offices.

Anwar has said the residence does not require Finance Ministry approval and will cost more than 200 million ringgit ($50 million).

The government has said the residence would cost 17.5 million ringgit. But the developers of the project, Putrajaya Holdings Sdn Bhd, has said the government is also building facilities costing another 57.5 million and including state rooms, a banquet hall, a press room and meeting and guest rooms.

"This magnificent palace is one of the largest and most sophisticated palaces in the nation," Anwar said.

He said 17.5 million ringgit "would only be enough for the fence and the kitchen."

Anwar said the government had proposed a 40 million ringgit official residence for the deputy prime minister, and that he and his wife had reviewed the plans two years ago.

"We tried to cut its size down, but eventually rejected the proposals altogether as the cost was too high, too ostentatious and appeared to be a waste of public funds," he said.