PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Barisan Nasional's (BN) strategic communications chief Abdul Rahman Dahlan said opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad's remarks blaming the government for his plane malfunctioning last week were an underhanded tactic to gain sympathy votes.
Datuk Seri Rahman, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, was referring to the Pakatan Harapan chairman's claim on Friday that the chartered plane he had boarded for a flight from Subang to Langkawi was sabotaged.
"There is no way for Barisan Nasional to prevent him from going to Langkawi," Rahman Dahlan said in a statement on Sunday (April 29).
He said Tun Mahathir could have easily switched to any of the many commercial flights from Kuala Lumpur and arrived in Langkawi with plenty of time to prepare for his nomination on Saturday.
Mr Rahman claimed Dr Mahathir's allegation stems from the latter's fear of losing Langkawi, where he is running as a parliamentary candidate.
Earlier on Saturday (April 28), Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) director general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said that the aircraft was unable to fly due to air leakage from the left-hand nose wheel, which is a minor and routine technical fault.
Private jet charter firm VistaJet on Sunday corroborated the CAAM's findings, saying there is no indication that Dr Mahathir's plane was sabotaged.
"VistaJet confirms the recent statements of the Malaysian authorities that one of the company's aircraft had a technical issue in its normal course of operations before departure which at no point jeopardised safety," VistaJet International said.
It added that another VistaJet aircraft was immediately made available for the former prime minister.
Dr Mahathir said that just before his original flight took off, the pilot announced that the plane was damaged and immediate repairs could not be made.
"I should have arrived in Langkawi before Friday prayers, but the plane was damaged. Luckily, the pilot was able to detect the damage. If not, I would have died in a crash," said Dr Mahathir.
He also said that he had to borrow a friend's private aircraft to make it to Langkawi.
Dr Mahathir, the oldest candidate in the general election at 93, is in a three-cornered contest against Barisan Nasional's Nawawi Ahmad and Parti Islam SeMalaysia's Zubir Ahmad.