KUALA LUMPUR, March 12 — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak disagrees with any move to sell Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB), insisting that he already had a turnaround plan in place when he was heading Khazanah Nasional Berhad, the sole shareholder of the airline.
Speaking to reporters today, the Pekan MP, who was also finance minister, urged the current administration to refer to the revival plan implemented during the Barisan Nasional (BN) era to save the loss-making entity.
“No. Absolutely not. It’s a wrong move because Malaysia Airlines is our pride and joy. Malaysia Airlines must continue as our national airline. There must be our turnaround plan. When I was chairman of Khazanah, our turnaround plan was working.
“It needed a bit more time, therefore there is no reason why Malaysia Airlines should be sold off or even closed down. That will be a wrong move and definitely the rakyat will not support that move,” said Najib, using the airline’s acronym when it was still known as Malaysia Airline System.
Najib said that despite there being few local airline companies, none can compare to MAB.
“That doesn’t matter. It is still our national aircraft. Our pride and joy. You cannot replace our national pride with something else. Almost every country has a national airline.
“We had a turnaround plan. Go back to that plan. We were confident that we could do a turnaround,” Najib said.
He added that during his time, Khazanah had offered a “very humane” Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS), downscaled the number of staff and in the midst of cancelling routes which were deemed unprofitable.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Putrajaya must urgently consider the continued viability of national carrier MAB.
He said the government was seeking solutions as soon as possible.
“We will study whether to shut it down, sell it off, or refinance it,” Dr Mahathir told reporters at the Dewan Rakyat today.
Aviation analysts have said the carrier’s failure to meet its three-year target for profitability made it unsustainable.
The airline was privatised in 2014 as part of a revival bid but continued its trend of heavy losses.
The national carrier suffered a massive blow to its image after Flight MH370 disappeared five years ago with 239 people on board.
In July the same year, it lost another plane, MH17, which was shot down over Ukraine.