Why after 57 years of Umno/BN government, and the “seminal” 22 years of Mahathir premiership, Malaysia is producing minnows instead of towering personalities in all fields of human endeavour so much so that we have to appoint an “orang putih” to save MAS?

The suggestion by former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir that Malaysia should have a white man (orang putih) as Prime Minister is most amusing and even comical, coming from a person who had breathed fire and brimstone in the last general elections, throwing all political scruples to the winds in falsely accusing me of spearheading a Chinese grab of the political power of the Malays by contesting in the Gelang Patah parliamentary constituency, who suddenly produced a “new rabbit from his hat” – an ‘orang putih’ Prime Minister in Malaysia.

Of course, Mahathir was indulging in his classic “tongue-in-cheek” Mahathirism in objecting to the appointment of a German, Christoph Mueller as MAS chief executive officer to manage and save the revamped national airline, MAS from next year.

I agree with Mahathir that it is an indictment of Malaysia’s talents, skills, expertise and intellectual prowess that we could not find a Malaysian to save MAS.

Are Malaysians so bereft of talents, skills, experience and expertise that we have to go outside the country to source for a saviour for MAS?

The question all Malaysians must ponder is why after 57 years of Umno/BN government, and in particular what is regarded as a “seminal” 22-year Mahathir premiership, followed by the Abdullah and Najib premierships, to produce Towering Malaysians, Malaysia seems to be producing minnows instead of towering Malaysians in various fields of human endeavour whom we can export all over the world to help other countries in distress with their talents, skills, experience and expertise?

How can we save the world when we cannot even save ourselves?

Why have we been increasingly reduced to a near “basket case” as to have to appoint an “orang putih” to save our national airline? Is there not a single soul in Malaysia who could be appointed to do the job?

I fully agree with Mahathir’s criticisms for failing to find a Malaysian to save the national airline and instead having to appoint a German to do the job.

Except with one caveat.

Mahathir is the one person who must bear the greatest responsibility for the woes and misfortunes of the national airline, as he had single-handedly trampled a very profitable national carrier, which had made billions in profits during the 1980s, into the ground with his disastrous privatisation decision in 1994 and choice of the fake “Towering Malaysian”, Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli to carry out the privatisation.

The MAS privatisation deal saw Tajudin Ramli taking out a RM1.79 billion loan in 1994 to buy a 32 per cent majority stake in the airline.

Tajudin, who was affected by the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, later sold his stake in MAS to Putrajaya for RM1.79 billion — or RM8 a share, the same amount that he had originally paid – in 2001 when the company’s closing share price at that time was RM3.68.

In the years since, MAS has undergone three business turnarounds at an estimated cost of nearly RM20 billion to the government.

Mahathir had said sarcastically two days ago:

“Malaysians are stupid. They don’t know how to manage aviation. And now those responsible for the losses try to make things right.”

Mahathir must have suffered another attack of his infamous and selective amnesia as not to realise that he was also condemning himself for his role and responsibility for the gargantuan losses and travails suffered by MAS, producing a most extraordinary rendition of “the pot calling the kettle black”.

The appointment of Christoph Mueller as MAS CEO must be put on hold, and a Parliamentary Select Committee on MAS immediately appointed to scout for a qualified Malaysians to be entrusted with the job of saving and turning around MAS.

In this connection, the Malaysian Airline System Berhad (Administration) Bill 2014, which was rammed through the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara at short notice without giving MPs, affected trade unions and workers ample time to study its far-reaching implications, should be referred to the Parliamentary Select Committee on MAS for further study and recommendations.

The presentation of the Malaysian Airline System Berhad (Administration) Bill 2014 to the Yang di Pertuan Agong for Royal Assent should be deferred indefinitely until all matters concerning the rights, future employment security, wellbeing and livelihood of the about 20,0000 employees of MAS and their family are satisfactorily resolved. The position and future of the existing employee trade unions and their rights must also be resolved.

The Malaysian government must respect and ensure that worker and trade union rights are among the top priorities in the exercise to save the national carrier as the employees cannot be blamed for the repeated crisis faced by the airline and which have put MAS in its present financial straits.

The Malaysian government should also guarantee to MAS employees that in the “Save MAS” campaign, their right to regular employment until retirement will not be sacrificed in favour of precarious employment relationships and practices to the detriment of workers and their unions.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah