Umno grassroots unhappy over diesel rationalisation, MAHB privatisation

Umno grassroots are unhappy with the government’s decisions to rationalise diesel subsidies and privatise Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB), according to a party leader.

(FMT) – Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said the dissatisfaction was relayed by division leaders at an event held on Monday to explain the two issues.

According to the source, the grassroots were of the view that the diesel rationalisation, which came into force on June 10, should have been delayed.

“Even an Umno leader who has been very vocal in his support for Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim says the diesel rationalisation should not have been carried out just yet,” the source told FMT.

FMT is withholding the name of the leader as the event was held behind closed doors.

The diesel subsidy in Peninsular Malaysia was lifted on June 10. Putrajaya has defended the move on grounds that the decision to replace the broad-based subsidy with a more targeted mechanism will save the government RM4 billion a year.

On the same day, Umno Youth chief Dr Akmal Salleh expressed the wing’s support for the rationalisation, saying that it had been proposed by Barisan Nasional when it was in power.

“It’s clear (from the event on Monday) that the grassroots and the leadership do not share the same sentiments on this issue,” the source said.

The source also said the grassroots were also unhappy with the proposal to privatise MAHB which has come under scrutiny due to the involvement of a firm with alleged ties to Israel.

Last month, investment, trade and industry minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz defended the government’s decision to allow Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) to own shares in MAHB.

New York City-based investment firm BlackRock is in the process of acquiring GIP in a multi-billion dollar deal struck early this year.

Critics of the MAHB privatisation plan, including Umno Youth, oppose GIP’s participation on grounds that BlackRock was “profiteering from genocide” through its stake in several US defence companies that allegedly manufacture weapons used by Israel.

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has since said the party’s position was consistent with that of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who has defended the privatisation exercise.

Zahid’s deputy, Mohamad Hasan, however, claimed many ministers from the party were against the sale of shares to GIP. They expressed hope that the deal would be reviewed despite being at a very advanced stage.

However, the Umno president brushed off his deputy’s comments, saying it was merely Mohamad’s personal view.

According to the source a former federal minister also expressed his opposition to the MAHB privatisation plans at Monday’s event.

The source warned that unhappiness among the grassroots over the two decisions may impact the unity coalition’s chances at the upcoming Sungai Bakap and Nenggiri by-elections.

“Umno will be seen as compromised and incapable of defending the Malays. There is a possibility that these two issues would have an impact on Malay voters at the polls,” the source said.