‘IT’S A PRAGMATIC DECISION’
MORE leaders are hitting out at Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for claiming that the Geely deal is a sellout of Proton. They say a purely business arrangement to turn the ailing carmaker around is being milked for political mileage.
THE recent outburst by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad against the government for “selling out” a national asset cannot be justified, as the move for Proton Holdings Bhd to partner with a Chinese automaker is purely business, political leaders say.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak said Dr Mahathir was taking a small issue and turning it into a big deal, making it as a personal attack against him.
“It was Dr Mahathir who said the Malays were too feudal and emotional, and are not pragmatic enough like the Chinese.
“And now, when the government makes a pragmatic business decision, Dr Mahathir starts getting all emotional,” he said.
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd, which also owns Volvo, on Wednesday an signed an agreement to acquire a 49.9 per cent stake in Proton Holdings Bhd.
After the acquisition deal was announced, Dr Mahathir, who was former Proton chairman, lamented that the national carmaker had been “sold off ” to foreigners.
On his blog, he said he could not be proud of Proton’s success as it was now something that did not belong to him or Malaysia.
The sale of Proton’s stake, he added, was the beginning of an “inexorable process”.
MIC treasurer-general Datuk Seri S. Vell Paari said the former prime minister used the business deal to gain political mileage.
“(However) in 2014, Dr Mahathir himself, when he was DRBHicom Bhd chairman, approached China’s Geely to assist in reviving Proton.
“This clearly shows that Geely is the right partner for Proton and Dr Mahathir had known this years ago,” he said.
Meanwhile, Umno Youth deputy chief Khairul Azwan Harun said for too long, Proton had suffered without a foreign strategic partner, with experts and economists urging the homegrown company to seek one to stay afloat.
“Now that Proton is on the path towards better competition, an old man’s ego continues to get in the way.
“Dr Mahathir had no problem wanting to sell Proton shares to Volkswagen in 2005. As chairman in 2014, he even travelled to China to meet officials to negotiate a Proton deal with Geely.
“Now, when Proton has finally sealed the deal, Dr Mahathir suddenly changes his mind and cries that his ‘baby’ has been sold to foreigners,” he told the New Straits Times yesterday.
Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong said Proton should not be kept as “Dr Mahathir’s child” for the sake of the country’s interest.
The Gerakan president said the local auto brand must be given room to grow to be a “mature and independent adult”.
“This strategic partnership is nothing different than other partnership that Proton has established before with Mitsubishi and Lotus under Dr Mahathir’s leadership.
“Like all Malaysians, I want Proton to be successful. But for some people, every issue is an opportunity to condemn the government. We should think of what is best for the country, instead.”
Umno Supreme Council member Datuk Seri Dr Irmohizam Ibrahim said Geely’s stake acquisition was a transformation that would make Proton cars more competitive.
Irmohizam said last year, only 65,067 units of Proton cars were sold, adding that its sales could be improved.
“Therefore, Dr Mahathir’s allegations that the government had sold out the country was very far from the truth, especially when Proton is no longer under the government, and despite the sale of shares, DRB-Hicom is still the majority owner .”
The move by Proton Holdings Bhd to partner with a Chinese automaker is purely a business decision.