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By Geryl Ogilvy
KUCHING, June 4: Putrajaya should find ways to solve Malaysia Airlines Bhd’s debt problems and not sell the national carrier.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing said the Pakatan Harapan-led federal government should also not politicise the issue as an excuse to get rid of the ailing national carrier but do what is right for the airline and its employees.
The state Infrastructure Development and Transportation Minister is confident that Malaysia had the brains to steer MAS in the right direction.
“MAS is in serious debt, in billions it seems. But selling our national carrier to outsiders is a definite ‘no’. It is our pride; we must solve this.
“We can do it as long as we are not in denial and putting the blame on others,” he said in a statement today.
Masing was commenting on MAS’ first managing director Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman, who was reported as saying recently that national pride should supersede all other factors in keeping MAS afloat.
Abdul Aziz, who left the airline with a surplus of RM5 billion when he retired nearly three decades ago, reminded that MAS, being a national carrier, had carried the national flag prominently, instantly giving recognition to the country, being a global symbol of pride.
He cited inefficient management and “a lot of blunders” as reasons MAS had gotten into its predicament.
Abdul Aziz believed MAS was wrong to purchase six Airbus A380 for an exorbitant RM5.5 billion package, which do not fly commercially on MAS routes while continuing to operate a fleet of aged Airbus A330 that required costly maintenance.
Other blunders, he said, included relinquishing many of its international routes to other carriers, such as AirAsia; hiring expatriates on large salaries; and retrenching more than 7,000 highly-trained staff, including pilots, cabin crew and engineers, leading to a loss in valuable human capital.
In this regards, Masing reminded Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad not to blame the previous government for the MAS fiasco.
“The rot in MAS started about 20 years ago, said the airlines’ first managing director Tan Sri (Abdul) Aziz. His diagnosis of MAS’ problems is worth listening to. Don’t repeat the mistakes.
“Mahathir was prime minister then, so he can’t deny he was innocent of the ‘crime’, if this can be considered a crime. Admit our erroneous ways and do the right thing for our national carrier. Put politics aside and do what is right for MAS,” he reiterated.
In March this year, Dr Mahathir said MAS could be sold off or shut down if the government decided not to inject more funds into the ailing airline.
Dr Mahathir’s comment came after Khazanah Nasional Bhd, who is also the sole shareholder of MAS, reported a loss of RM6.3 billion last year, the first time since 2005. Khazanah took over MAS in 2014.
Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, meanwhile, urged the government to refer back to the turnaround plan implemented during his administration instead of selling off or closing down MAS.
Najib, who is also former Khazanah chairman, said his administration was confident the turnaround plan would work if given more time.
The airline had been trying to transform its operations and return to profitability by 2019, as it recovers from two disasters in 2014 when flight MH370 mysteriously disappeared and MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine. — DayakDaily