KOTA BARU - The chief minister of Kelantan state Ahmad Yakob is under the spotlight for buying a new Mercedes Benz S-class that cost RM600,000 (S$200,000) in one of Malaysia's poorest states. local media reported on Thursday (Jan 16).
The state led by Datuk Seri Ahmad, who is also deputy spiritual leader of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), recently received a RM400 million "goodwill" cash injection from the federal Pakatan Harapan government. This has led to accusations that some of that money was siphoned for the car purchase.
Social media showed pictures of the shiny black Mercedes model S450 L AMG, with the special number plate of DV 1. He is using the vehicle as his official car.
Malaysiakini news site reported that in contrast, the prime minister's official car is a 2.4-litre Proton Perdana, which retails at RM127,000.
The federal government just recently decided to continue using Proton Perdanas - a rebadged old Honda Accord model - as official cars for prime ministers and other Cabinet members.
Vehicles are sold at a steep discount to elected officials such as MPs and state assemblymen in Malaysia as they are exempted from paying excise duties.
Purchases of luxury vehicles by top officials often attract brickbats, as critics say public money is used. Similar criticisms arose when then Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng in 2014 bought a Mercedes-Benz S300L with the plate PG 1 as his official car.
In Menteri Besar Ahmad's case, his office denied using the RM400 million special allocation given by the federal government to buy a fleet of Mercedes-Benz as official cars for its senior officials as alleged recently.
The Menteri Besar's Office said the state government's decision to buy the German cars was made on Sept 12, 2018, to replace the ageing official fleet with newer cars in stages, Malay Mail online news reported on Thursday.
Kelantan officials pointed out that the late PAS spiritual leader and ex-menteri besar Nik Aziz Nik Mat also used to be driven around in a Mercedes. That car, though, was given to him by the previous sultan of Kelantan.
The east coast state is one of the poorest in Malaysia with its two million population mainly involved in small-time agriculture and fishing.