By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
KUALA LUMPUR, April 13 — The government paid US$24.2 million (RM76.8 million) to APCO Worldwide, the international public relations consultancy linked by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders to Israel, for its services from last July until June this year.
The amount was revealed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, in a written reply to a question in Parliament from PKR MP, Chua Tian Chang.
Chua disclosed this today to reporters, and pointed out that the amount far exceeded the RM28 million mentioned by Nazri previously.
The minister’s written reply provided a breakdown of the fee paid by the government to APCO, starting from July 15, 2009 until June 4, 2010.
“I want the minister to explain the expenses concerning APCO Worldwide. The payment was just for APCO’s services, not even for the 1 Malaysia concept,” Chua told reporters today in Parliament.
“How did Nazri end up with RM28 million, when the total amount was US$24,207,158 which is in US dollars. Change it to Malaysian ringgit and you get RM76,820,653,” said Chua.
When met by the Malaysian Insider, Nazri explained that he was uncertain during the time whether the figure was in the correct currency.
“It was what was told to me. I was not sure whether it was dollars or ringgit. Tengku Sharifuddin (Tengku Ahmad) informed me at the time,” said Nazri.
Nazri also said that when Chua had raised the question in Parliament, he had mentioned that he lacked the information then but would answer in depth at a later point.
“Check the Hansard. I said I did not have details (at the time.) I said I will provide the details and the details were provided,” said the Minister.
When asked about Chua’s query on why a local and possibly cheaper consultancy firm was not hired, Nazri scoffed and stressed that APCO had been hired to repair Malaysia’s ties with the United States.“APCO is being employed for our image in the US, for us to get close to the US. You mean to say a Malaysian company can help us get close to the US?” asked Nazri.
The minister then delivered a stinging rebuff to Pakatan Rakyat’s frequent cries of Israeli agents being involved in APCO’s organisation.
“Lobbying is common in US. You have to lobby (to get things done). The biggest lobbyists in US are Israeli lobbyists,” said Nazri.
He also asserted that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s moves in fostering closer ties with the US and liberalising the economy were good.
“Najib is not thinking of himself, he is thinking of the country. What is wrong with being close to Americans? It only benefits our economy.”
APCO also drew praise from Nazri for its performance, who credited the consultancy for Najib’s meeting with US President Barack Obama as proof of its success.
“APCO did a good job. Obama only set aside time to see Najib and (Chinese President) Hu Jintao. China is China, but Obama agreed to meet Najib.”
“The money we pay is worth it, it is giving good returns to us,” said Nazri.
Blame for “a generation” of bad ties with the US was then heaped on former prime ministers, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed and Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
“US will not care about us if we are not nice to them. We have to repair 22 years of Mahathir and 6 years of Pak Lah. You think we can undo this without spending money?” the minister quizzed.
Nazri then trained his sights on opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s allegations that APCO was also used by dictators throughout the world, saying that, were the claims true, they would simply be another feather in the public relations firm’s cap.
“I am not sure of that information... but dictators who have got the money will use the best. So what if they use APCO? It means that APCO is bloody good,” Nazri said.