‘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.

New Straits Times - - Front Page - HANA NAZ HARUN AND ZAFIRA AN­WAR KUALA LUMPUR news@nst.com.my

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 .”

Pic by L. MANIMARAN

The move by Pro­ton Hold­ings Bhd to part­ner with a Chi­nese au­tomaker is purely a busi­ness de­ci­sion.

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