PARLIAMENT | Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad spoke at length in the Dewan Rakyat today about efforts to rescue Malaysia Airlines, making it clear that Putrajaya is facing a situation where the loss-making national carrier could cease operations.
Mahathir said all options are on the table, including the possibility of MAS being taken over and having the 'Malaysia' dropped from its name.
He stressed that the government is not in favour of any of these options, but is willing to listen to offers.
"Many efforts have been made to revive MAS... the management has been changed repeatedly, and they have all promised to revive MAS. But all of them failed in overcoming the problems faced by MAS.
"That is why today, we are facing the possibility of the airline ceasing altogether, so that we can save a large amount of money for the recovery," he told the Dewan Rakyat during question time.
"But we are also willing to listen to other views about how to revive MAS.
"We are willing to listen to proposals to take over MAS, be it (a company) buying over MAS and changing its name so that it no longer has anything to do with Malaysia, or to retain the name MAS, but to cooperate with any airline that could contribute to its recovery," he added.
The prime minister was responding to a question from Mustapa Mohamed (Harapan-Jeli) who asked about efforts to revive MAS.
Mahathir also indicated that foreign companies are involved in proposals to revive the airline.
"Japan Airlines (JAL) also faced similar problems, but they could be revived. It is our hope that we too can revive MAS, but it depends on the proposals to revive MAS by foreign companies," he said.
In a follow-up question, opposition leader Ismail Sabri Yaakob (BN-Bera) pressed the prime minister on whether MAS would end up in foreign hands.
"Will the government set a condition that only local entities can take over MAS and not foreign entities?" he asked.
Responding to this, Mahathir said a decision has yet to be made.
"There have been many proposals from companies, even from certain groups.
"For the time being, we have not made a decision on whether we want to sell or cooperate with other companies, or whether we (the government) will be involved in MAS' recovery.
"What we want is to maintain MAS' name, so that it remains linked to Malaysia. We don't want to sell and see that its name ('Malaysia') is lost," he said.
Mahathir later told a press conference in the Parliament lobby that MAS is working with its owner Khazanah Nasional Bhd to formulate a strategy going forward.
"This time, we don't want to give (help) without studying the capacity of the people who may want to take over the airline," he said.