‘It’s airports, not supermarkets’, says prominent thinker as Putrajaya launches campaign to discredit critics over BlackRock

Chandra Muzaffar says there should be no compromise with ‘evil’ in Malaysia’s policy just to ‘please one superpower or the other’.

(MalaysiaNow) – One of Malaysia’s most prominent thinkers has weighed in on the controversy over the government’s decision to bring in a company owned by BlackRock as part of a consortium to run the country’s airports, as Putrajaya launches an agressive media campaign to discredit critics who demand Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to call off the plan.

Dr Chandra Muzaffar, a key founder of PKR known for his role in articulating Anwar’s reformasi movement, said he found no justification to sell shares of Malaysia Airports Holdings (MAHB) to Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a company fully owned by BlackRock, the US-based funding giant that is facing accusations of complicity in Israel’s genocide.

“Why should we collaborate with a company owned by an entity that has such close ties to the Israeli and US military establishments?” said Chandra, who heads the the International Movement for a Just World.

“It is a matter of serious concern because it is airports – not restaurants or supermarkets – that are now being managed by GIP owned by BlackRock.”

His comments come as Putrajaya embarks on an agressive media campaign to counter critics of the plan, which will see GIP taking a 30% stake in a consortium to manage MAHB, alongside the government’s investment arm Khazanah Nasional and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), both entities under the jurisdiction of the finance ministry led by Anwar.

The campaign appears to focus on the fact that BlackRock has long been present in Malaysia’s capital market through stakes in various companies, among arguments put up by Anwar in defence of the airport deal.

This prompted former Umno information chief Isham Jalil to offer an explanation to Anwar, who is also the finance minister, on the difference between the shares sale to GIP and shares bought on the open market.

“BlackRock’s stake in the shares and bonds of these companies is minuscule, only about 1% to 3%. They don’t need to apply for permission or negotiate with us to buy shares and bonds in an open market like this, nor can they be prevented from doing so,” said Isham, who was part of the Economic Planning Unit during the Najib Razak administration.

Chandra said the concerns over the deal are justified as BlackRock has major investments in firms closely allied to Israel’s arms industry.

“It has a 7.4% stake in Lockheed Martin, a defence contractor that has played a critical role in arming the Israeli military. This is why Lockheed has been accused of complicity in the barbaric genocide in Gaza which is now in its eighth month,” he said.

He said although the government argues that GIP does not hold the majority of shares the consortium, it will inevitably play a significant role given its expertise in airport management.

“Is it because of this expertise that GIP was brought into the partnership? There are other firms with a comparable level of expertise that could have been considered.”

Chandra reminded the government of sensitive data which would at the command of airport managers.

“To put it bluntly, it is a transaction that has profound security ramifications.”

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