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Problems with Malaysia’s GLCs no overnight phenomenon

 | July 15, 2017

Seeds of corruption were sown decades ago and if Najib Razak wants to make a difference, he should stop political interference in MAS, Proton and Felda now.


mas-protonThe problems which are besetting MAS, Proton and other GLCs did not flare up overnight. They have been festering for decades, so it is disingenuous of Najib Razak and members of his cabinet to blame Dr Mahathir Mohamed for them now.

At that time, many of them also served in Mahathir’s cabinet. They were content to hold their tongue then, but are singing a different tune now, only because their present boss is at loggerheads with the former PM.

Last week, Najib did not bother to hide his contempt for his former boss, Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister, when he blamed Mahathir for MAS’ problems.

He accused Mahathir of making “horrendous” decisions, and for inflicting a nightmare on MAS. To thunderous applause, he said that he would restore MAS’ fortunes and make it one of the leading airlines.

Fine words, but are they simply sentiments that ring hollow? Najib made similar remarks when he sold Proton to a Chinese buyer this year.

Najib may be working furiously to dismantle Mahathir’s legacy, the trademark companies which Mahathir started, as well as Vision 2020. At the same time, Mahathir is determined to oust Najib.

Najib is at an advantage as he has the full force of the Cabinet behind him and last week, one by one, members of his Cabinet publicly condemned their former boss.

Zahid Hamidi, the Deputy PM criticised Mahathir for lacking manners and political morality. He said he was aware of Dr Mahathir’s weaknesses and mistakes during his 22-year tenure, but said that they ignored Mahathir’s negative traits “out of respect”.

What is Zahid saying? That those serving their political masters should keep quiet about the mistakes of an incumbent leader, because they must “show respect”?

Does that mean that the rakyat is forced to bear the cost of the irresponsible men in office who shut one eye to injustice, turn their backs on wrongdoings and bury their heads in the sand, out of “respect” and deference?

Khairy Jamaluddin, Youth and Sports Minister, accused Mahathir and jailed former Opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, of dividing the Malays. He also singled out DAP strongman, Lim Kit Siang, for driving a wedge between the Malays and the Chinese.

He advised these three elderly leaders to take a break and leave the running of the nation to younger people, meaning, presumably, people like him.

Older men like Najib and Zahid forget that the real Malaysian tragedy is the failure of the current cabinet and senior Umno politicians to admit to their culpability in the non-performing GLCs.

Problems in companies like MAS, Proton and Felda, have beset Malaysia for many years. For over four decades, we have failed to deal satisfactorily with any corruption scandal, and so laid the foundation for the plight of MAS, Proton and Felda.

It is also correct to state that when we allowed the problems to go unchallenged, the scene was set for major scandals like 1MDB to emerge.

If the men in the cabinet are so smart, they should stop their warped practices, and dismantle processes such as affirmative action policies, which beset our society.

It is pointless for Najib to blame Mahathir for MAS’ woes. Politicians were always allowed to interfere in the running of MAS.

If Najib wants to make a difference, he should stop political interference in MAS, Proton and Felda. However, he won’t because his hand-picked men are transplanted into these companies, which handle billions of ringgit.

The corruption catastrophe hitting Malaysia is not an overnight phenomenon. The seeds were sown during Mahathir’s time, as Zahid acknowledged, but instead of learning from our mistakes, we argue with one another about Mahathir’s rule, and make illogical comparisons to show which regime is more draconian – Najib’s or Mahathir’s.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

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