PETALING JAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad has claimed that Irishman Peter Bellew resigned as Malaysia Airlines Bhd’s group managing director and chief executive officer because of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s alleged interference in the management of the company.
In his blog post today, the former prime minister accused Najib of meddling in the affairs of the national carrier, and acting without referring to the company’s directors or the management.
“There is no need to lie,” the 92-year old PPBM chairman said.
“The aircraft Najib wants to buy are not what Malaysia Airlines need for flights to specific destinations.
“I am sure Najib didn’t even ask Malaysia Airlines. Najib doesn’t care about the CEO’s plans or Malaysia Airlines’ options,” he alleged.
“Malaysia Airlines can flounder as long as Najib can take pictures with Trump,” he added.
In an immediate reaction, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan refuted that Bellew had quit because of dissatisfaction with Najib.
“Peter has already issued a statement and I am more inclined to believe him,” he told FMT.
Bellew had said in a statement on Oct 18 that his resignation was not motivated by interference by Khazanah Nasional Bhd, the owner of Malaysian Airlines.
He also said he was returning to Ireland to rejoin his former employer Ryanair because of the love for his country after the company had approached him about it two weeks before.
On Sept 12, Najib had reportedly told US president Donald Trump during their meeting at the White House that Malaysia Airlines would buy 25 Boeing 737 jets and eight 787 Dreamliners, with another 25 737s slated for purchase in the near future.
He said the deal would be worth more than US$10 billion (RM41.9 billion) within five years.
Mahathir claimed there was nothing Bellew could do except to agree to what Najib had promised.
“What could he do (except) to say he was suddenly struck by feelings of patriotism that demanded he return to Ireland,” he added
The Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman also alleged that Najib had directed the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC) to arrest leaders of Parti Warisan Sabah, including its president Shafie Apdal who was arrested in Kota Kinabalu yesterday.
According to him, the prime minister’s objective was to cripple the opposition party and scare away its supporters.
“MACC officers have been pressured to follow Najib’s orders. If they refuse, certain actions would be taken against them. They might be demoted, transferred to lower ranking positions, stripped off their pension and various other things,” he claimed.
He alleged that senior police officers, those in the public prosecutor’s office and company directors in Khazanah have been cowed to support Najib’s actions.
Meanwhile, Rahman refuted this allegation, saying government opponents during Mahathir’s own rule over the country from 1981 to 2003 had been treated much worse than critics are today.
He said there was severe political intimidation under Mahathir, with the wielding of the Internal Security Act (ISA) which was only repealed in July 2012 after Najib came to power.
“In those days there was no trial. He (Mahathir) would just throw them (in jail). During his time a person would be slapped with the ISA first without any hearing,” he said.
“There was no chance to defend oneself. There was no way we could know if a person was in the wrong or not. There was also no proof offered,” he told FMT.
In contrast, the MACC today would bring every case where there was an allegation of graft to court, with the details of any conviction being open to the public.
Rahman also denied that the Najib administration was trying to scare civil servants into covering his alleged wrongdoing.