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MAS CEO – test case whether Abdullah can “walk the talk” to entrust the most qualified Malaysians, regardless of race or gender, to propel a Malaysian Agenda and not Malay, Chinese, Indian, Iban or Kadazan Agenda to face the challenges of globalisation

Media Statement

by Lim Kit Siang  

Parliament, Monday): The instincts of the  Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi  that Malaysia has locals to take on the responsibility of leading two GLCs (government-linked companies),  the national carrier  Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAS) and national carmaker Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Bhd (Proton), without having to appoint foreigners are right.

In fact, the appointment of the new MAS CEO is a  test case whether Abdullah can  “walk the talk” to entrust  the most qualified Malaysians, regardless of race or gender, to propel a Malaysian Agenda and not Malay, Chinese, Indian, Iban or Kadazan Agenda as the national formula to face the economic challenges of globalization.

Malaysia will be celebrating the 48th National Day in two days time, but in the past two months, a cloud has been cast over the celebrations as  Malaysians are reminded of what divide them instead of what unite them, as illustrated by the following:

  • The UMNO Youth proposal last month for the revival of the New Economic Policy as the New National Agenda for the next 15 years until the end of Vision 2020, which  immediately became national policy and revived the institutionalisation of the division of Malaysians into bumiputeras and non-bumiputeras.

  • The previous Sunday (August 21, 2005), the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Mustapha Mohamed announced in Jeli that in line with the New National Agenda passed during the UMNO general assembly last month to give more opportunities to Malays to actively participate in business, the government is studying new strategies to make large private corporations hire more bumiputras in senior management positions.

  • Scouting for the  appointment of a foreigner as  the new MAS CEO, giving the  message that despite  some half a century of nationhood,  the appointment of  a qualified and suitable non-Malay Malaysian to head a GLC is still not acceptable while the appointment of a  foreigner is less objectionable.

Malaysia is not short of CEO talents and the time has come for a far-sighted nation-building policy where non-Malay Malaysians do not have to find greatness by going overseas.

The person who built the Singapore Airlines (SIA) into “the airline that other airlines talk about” was a Malaysian – Dr. Cheong Choong Kong, who taught mathematics at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur from 1968 to 1974,  when he left as  Associate Professor to join the Singapore Airlines.  In 1998, Dr. Cheong was conferred the title of “Asia’s Businessman of the Year” by Fortune magazine for his “unbroken 27-year record of profitability through turbulent economic times”.

The greatest challenge to Malaysia on the eve of the nation’s 48th National Day celebrations is for the government to create the conditions where local world-class CEOs like  Cheong Chong Kongs can emerge in Malaysia and not only in foreign lands.   The UMNO Youth proposal for the NEP revival is short-sighted for it can only drive the potential Cheong Chong Kongs  from our shores.



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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