Najib’s unfortunate inheritance


Salleh Said Keruak

Malaysian Airlines has been losing billions over the last three years and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said that it might be too late to save the national flag carrier in its current form.

In an interview with the The Wall Street Journal published yesterday, the Prime Minister said that bankruptcy might be among several options as a way to restructure the national airlines after years of losses and bitter conflicts with its labour unions.

This appears to be a huge problem that is about to erupt even before the missing plane, flight MH370, can be solved and which some say may never be solved or, even if it is, may take years before it can. MAS is not just an airline company. It is our national pride. So can we allow MAS to just be killed off?

Then we have the recent political crisis in Terengganu, which the Prime Minister just about solved. On top of that we have the ‘Allah word’ and ‘Hudud law’ controversy, which is festering and which no one knows what is going to be the end game. And I do not even want to discuss the Anwar Ibrahim ‘Sodomy 2’ controversy, called ‘Sodomy 2’ because there was also a ‘Sodomy 1’.

Najib is being slammed and is being blamed for his ‘weak’ leadership in handling all these matters. What many appear to have conveniently forgotten is that Najib inherited all these controversies and problems. Najib did not start these controversies and problems. They are all a legacy of someone else and were left to Najib to solve.

MAS’s problems first started when the airline company was ‘sold’ to Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli. According to papers filed in court, when the government bought back the company from Tajudin, MAS had already lost billions.

And why, in the first place, was MAS sold to Tajudin? Well, also according to papers filed in court, MAS was sold to show a profit so that this profit could cover an earlier huge loss on FOREX trading. Hence they had to show a profit by selling MAS and to cover this loss.

This happened long before Najib became Prime Minister and MAS has never been able to recover from this ever since. The badly planned expansion of the airline company to unprofitable routes, not to make money but to give an impression that MAS was aggressive, did not help matters either. This move was merely a public relations exercise with no guarantee of success.

The various controversies regarding Islam was also something inherited from the previous administration. PAS was challenged by the then Prime Minister to not be hypocritical and to do what they promised: implement Hudud. So, due to this challenge from the Prime Minister, PAS did exactly that: table a Hudud bill in both the Kelantan and Terengganu State Assemblies.

In short, Hudud was used as a political one-upmanship. This further made matters worse when the Sharia and civil law courts were given equal status, which created a lot of confusion and ambiguity in the legal system until we no longer know which court has precedence over which. And this was done by the earlier administration as well, long before Najib’s time.

The recent Terengganu crisis is another inherited problem. Back in 2008, before Najib’s time, the popular Idris Jusoh (who gave Umno a two-thirds majority in the Terengganu State Assembly in 2004) was ousted in favour of Ahmad Said, who did not have the support of Umno Terengganu and almost lost the state.

The reason this happened was because the Palace was not happy. And the Palace was not happy because Terengganu’s Oil Royalty had been withdrawn in 2000 and was replaced with Goodwill Money or Wang Ehsan. This Wang Ehsan was then placed directly under the Prime Minister’s Department and it was promised that when Umno takes back Terengganu the Oil Royalty would be reinstated.