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KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 — Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng today clarified that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad did not say that Putrajaya will sell the national carrier, Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB).
He said the rumour that the government was selling off the airline was the work of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who was trying to create discontent.
“Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was merely talking about the various options that could be presented in reference to MAS. He did not say he was going to close down MAS,” Lim said, using the acronym for Malaysia Airline System before it was rebranded as MAB.
“We do not want to allow the former prime minister to create or cause unnecessary disruption by issuing statements that we were going to sell MAS,” he said.
Dr Mahathir had told reporters in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday that it has now become an urgent matter for the government to look into MAB’s viability.
“The government has to think about solutions as soon as possible. We will study whether to shut it down, sell it off, or refinance it,” the prime minister said after aviation analysts claimed that the airline’s failure to meet its three-year target to make a profit was unsustainable.
Reacting to Dr Mahathir’s comments, Najib said yesterday he disagreed with the sale of MAB and pointed out that he had a turnaround plan in place to turn the ailing airlines when he was heading Khazanah Nasional Berhad, the sole shareholder of the airline.
The Pekan MP said having MAB was a matter of national pride as almost every country has a national airline.
Khazanah had reportedly invested RM6 billion in the company to turn it around but to no avail.
Speaking to reporters after launching the Sustainable Development Financing Fund here, Lim said Najib was just creating alarm and disruption within MAB and was putting unnecessary pressure and anxiety on the staff at MAB.
“The former prime minister wants to create alarm and that’s unnecessary. Maybe he may mention other things later,” Lim said.
“I feel perhaps he should focus on the pet dogs or other pets he has so he can ensure a smooth daily life without any interruptions,” Lim said in a thinly veiled jab at Najib whose lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah had asked for a postponement of Najib’s corruption trial after he broke his wrist whilst playing with his dog.