Just two days after agreeing to make room for the Prime Minister’s Question Time in the Malaysian Parliament every Wednesday, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad addressed the first question in the Dewan Rakyat sitting this morning (10 Jul), which coincidentally falls on his 94th birthday.
Responding to a question from Pontian Member of Parliament (MP) Ahmad Maslan regarding the government’s next move in determining the future of national carrier Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAS) and its employees, including the possibility of retrenching them, Dr Mahathir said: “We hope that regardless of the course of action that will be taken, we do not have to lay off any of MAS’ employees.”
“However, if they voluntarily choose to work for another company, that is their own decision. We will not lay them off … Our terms to possible buyers or any new partners (are that) we will not reduce the current size of MAS’ staff,” he added.
The Prime Minister also responded to a supplementary question from Bera MP Ismail Yaakob regarding whether the government has decided to sell MAS to other companies, stressing that the government aims to retain the carrier’s national identity.
“What we want to retain is the name of the company. It must be linked to our country, which is Malaysia,” he said, adding that the government is currently still looking into all proposals from various companies and other airline operators.
Dr Mahathir also highlighted that the previous government had launched a recovery plan for MAS through the company’s biggest shareholder Khazanah Nasional Berhad five years ago, which entails a comprehensive five-year restructuring framework.
“After five years of the plan, in general, Malaysian Airlines has created several improvements in terms of operations and customer service. It also can be seen through its flight time, baggage handling and customer satisfaction.
“However, the same cannot be said of its financial performance, which recorded losses due to various external factors including increased competition,” said Dr Mahathir.
Speaking to reporters at the Parliament lobby after the sitting, he had also indicated that while the government intends to preserve some of its shares in MAS, “the government does not want to be bailing out MAS so many times”.
Reiterating his view on the aforementioned proposals from other companies as well as other means of taking MAS out of its financial rut, Dr Mahathir told reporters: “At the moment, if it involves Singapore Airlines, we will consider it … The main thing is to preserve the identity of the airline as a Malaysian identity, and we have to see that any proposal does not result in sacking of staff belonging to MAS.”