The Passing of America’s Sweetheart of the ’50s: Debbie “Tammy” Reynolds

December 29, 2016

The Passing of America’s Sweetheart of the ’50s: Debbie “Tammy” Reynolds

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Debbie Reynolds, who starred opposite Gene Kelly in the 1952 musical Singin’ in the Rain, has died a day after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher.

The US actress, 84, had been rushed to hospital with a suspected stroke.Her son, Todd Fisher, said the stress of his sister’s death had been too much for her and in her last words, she had said she wanted to be with Carrie.

US actress Bette Midler said Reynolds was “devoted to her craft” and that her death was “too hard to comprehend”.

Actress Debra Messing said Reynolds, her on-screen mother in sitcom Will and Grace, had been an “inspiration”.”A legend of course,” she wrote in a statement. “The epitome of clean-cut American optimism, dancing with Gene Kelly as an equal, a warrior woman who never stopped working.”

Actor Rip Torn, who worked with Reynolds in her Las Vegas stage show, said: “I was blessed to work with this remarkable woman for 45 almost 50 years. That makes for a very rare bond and unique relationship.

“She was generous to a fault, never caring who got the laugh from the audience. I will always love her.” Veteran comic actress Carol Channing agreed: “She was beautiful and generous. It seems like only yesterday she was having lunch here at the house and we were discussing the possibility of working together in a new show.”

For Star Trek actor William Shatner, Reynolds was one of the last of the Hollywood royalty. “It breaks my heart that she is gone,” he wrote. “I’d hoped that my grieving was done for 2016.

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Reynolds had been at her son’s house in Beverly Hills – apparently discussing the arrangements for Carrie Fisher’s funeral – when she was taken ill.

She was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre suffering from breathing difficulties and her death was confirmed a few hours later. It is thought she suffered a stroke.

Carrie Fisher, renowned for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars series, had died aged 60 the day before, after spending three days in a Los Angeles hospital.

She never regained consciousness after suffering a massive heart attack on board a flight from London to Los Angeles on Christmas Eve.

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Carrie and Todd Fisher
Speaking to the Associated Press news agency about his mother, Todd said: “She’s now with Carrie and we’re all heartbroken.”

Celebrity news site TMZ reported that Reynolds cracked while discussing plans for Carrie’s funeral with her son, telling him: “I miss her so much; I want to be with Carrie.”

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Reynolds married singer Eddie Fisher in 1955 and had two children, Carrie and Todd. The couple divorced in 1959 after news emerged of his affair with movie star Elizabeth Taylor.Reynolds married twice more.

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The actress has a sometimes strained relationship with her actress daughter, who wrote about it in her semi-autobiographical novel Postcards from the Edge. The pair stopped speaking to each other for many years but became closer later in life.

In an interview last month with US radio network NPR, Fisher said her mother was “an immensely powerful woman” whom she admired “very much”.

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As people gathered to pay their respects to the actress at Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, one couple, Jose and Daniela Barrera, appeared to speak for many after a year marked by celebrity deaths.

“It’s just, you know, a sad time I guess,” Jose told the Reuters news agency. “With the closing of the year and so many deaths in the year, it’s just sad.”

“It was so sad,” added Daniela. “It was a shocker. I mean, what were the odds of this happening? It was incredible finding out, sad.”

What is your reaction to the passing of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher just one day apart? Have you been affected by any of the issues raised in this article? You can share your experience via

Malaysia Airlines:What Mueller could not do

April 28, 2016

Malaysia Airlines:What Mueller could not do

by Marion Tharsis

Khazanah Nasional Berhad probably expected too much from Christoph Mueller when it hired him to work his charm on MAS. Despite his glorious past, the turnaround expert probably didn’t count on the work culture and ethics and, most of all, the political environment in a government-linked company.

Mueller made all the obvious moves. He trimmed the work force, removed unwanted suppliers and closed unprofitable routes. What he could not do was remove political control. He probably learned soon enough that it would be futile to continue with his work, with so many hands pulling him from all sides to do their bidding.

Another person may try his or her hand at making MAS profitable again, but the same pressures will reduce the CEO’s position to that of a puppet to be manipulated.

So our once glorious airline is back to square one. The competition is overwhelming. Other carriers, including our very own AirAsia, are always looking into ways to make their companies more profitable through innovation.

We should not expect too much from the incoming CEO. He or she may be prevented from cleaning up certain kinds of mess. For example, he or she might not get a free hand to select a management team that would be capable of taking MAS on the path of good and solid governance.

An airline cannot run effectively merely on superficial changes. It needs an operating system that is smooth, unhampered, cohesive, innovative, customer focused, and competitive. Only then can it stay afloat in a tight and narrow market and play on a field that keeps re-inventing itself.

An airline that is subject to too much political control will keep failing and continue to be an embarrassment.

Marion Tharsis is a  FMT reader.



The Fascination with a certain Dr Zakir

April 19, 2016

The Fascination with a certain Dr Zakir

by Zaid Ibrahim

Dr Zakir Naik is a well-known preacher who has been preaching to sell-out crowds around the world. He is the Muslim version of Billy Graham and other famous Christian evangelists.

The Police first cancelled his forum in Terengganu but the Home Minister himself later allowed proceedings to go ahead in Melaka, with a change of topic from the original “Similarities between Hinduism and Islam”. Now Perlis wants him too. I was amongst the earliest to congratulate the Police for cancelling the permit.

Malays are generally attracted to anything religious, even if remotely so. They are easily fascinated with religious preachers, which explains why Dr Naik has been coming here so very often. Islamic resurgence  has contributed  to  the rise of many successful preachers  in this country, as you can see  from the success of Ustaz Azhar Idrus, and many others on TV .  Now  they  bring in English speaking preacher from India Zakri naik.  How times change. When I was growing up it was  Elvis and the Beatles  that filled the airwaves and the halls  ; now the preachers.

I wish the Malays are  more fascinated  with more worldly  matters , like what is  a bond Issue , or what is  off shore banking, or  a government guarantee. It would help them understand how 1MDB was conceived  and the process by which the  grand theft took place. Tan Sri Muhiyuddin was telling us how difficult  it was for UMNO members to understand 1MDB. I can understand why, with the kind of educational system we give to the Malays. If the Ministers in the Cabinet are having difficulty coming to terms with the subject, how much understanding can we expect from  ordinary intellectually challenged Malays.

Why are the Malays fascinated with religious preachers? Because preachers need not have any  real knowledge, except what they described as divine knowledge. No  understanding is required  from the listeners  of  what they say ; they only need to stir up the emotions. Understanding  1MDB is more ardours;  one needs to understand a little about economics, about banking, about how government works., and how the Prime Minister operates in this country.

I believe the Police made the right decision. There is nothing useful that can be obtained  from  having an “understanding”  of different religions  if the main purpose is to convert the listener . Zakri Naik is proud to be described as a Muslim preacher who has converted many unbelievers to Islam.  When you start talking of how great your religion is , you would in the same breadth put down some aspects of the other religions; otherwise how do you score points?  We do not need more religious rivalry than we already have.

Out of the woodwork came the liberal writers  and the defenders of freedom of speech decrying the decision of the Police. Some of them were quoting Voltaire about defending a person’s right to say whatever he or she wanted without agreeing with him. I tell them wake up. Do they  really think Zakir Naik is here  as an academic ?  No, he is a preacher, a converter,  and is  more likely  to be a  religious mission to convert as many non believers as possible . The law may allow this, but its effects on peace and harmony are matters which the Police must be concerned  with.

Would the government grant the same freedom to Christian and Hindu evangelists  from India  and elsewhere ? I doubt it. The less preaching we have in the country, the better it is for peace and harmony.

I am also for freedom of speech,  and I see the benefit of debates and intellectual exchange—but on more suitable subjects. There is nothing intellectually stimulating  discussing religion;  it only will generate  controversy. Talking about other people’s religion  will only  end up  with  heated  exchange and none of the participants will come out of it the wiser.

If the proponents of free speech want to keep themselves  intellectually busy, they should hold forums, debates, exchanges and discussions on science, history or philosophy. Have debates on public policy—on benefit of  off  shore tax havens , for example—or the future of public health. Talk about gravity or interstellar travel for all I care, because these subjects do not lead to fistfights or Molotov cocktails being thrown at offices.

They should know that in Malaysia religious forums are permitted only in a controlled environment, and some religions have more leeway than others.

So stop kidding yourselves that your rights to intellectual discourse or freedom of speech are being denied just because a preacher—who has described Osama bin Ladin as a “Soldier of Islam” and has said that Jews are permanent enemies—is denied the space to continue with his ceramah.

Singapore: Getting Around with Technology

November 9, 2015

Singapore: Getting Around with Technology

by Surekha A. Yadav


Not everyone has noticed but Singaporeans are living through a revolution right now. An old and arbitrary tyranny is falling around us for a new, better order driven by technology.

Taxi apps are revolutinising our transport space and that’s a pretty big deal.Taxis and the weakness of the Singapore cab system have long been a personal bugbear.And I am not alone.

Often you had to wait more than an hour to get a cab at many points in the city and getting a taxi in the suburbs was well near impossible every weekday morning — crippling facts of daily life for many Singaporeans.

Yet now just months after I last penned my lament on the state of taxi affairs, the situation has turned on its head. Waiting for a cab to get to work in the morning, I’m honestly spoiled for choice. I could use Grab taxi, Hailo or of course, Uber.

At one glance (and a few swipes) I can see what my options are, know which cabs are in the vicinity, get an idea of how much my journey will cost and manage the whole process while scrolling my Facebook feed. I don’t need to make so much as a phone call, let alone walk out onto the street and stand at the corner soliciting stony-faced taxi uncles.

This brave new world is an amazing demonstration of how technology really can change lives and alter the fabric of daily life. Thousands of vehicle owners and drivers are clearly using the technology to such an extent that the triumvirate of traditional taxi companies Trans-Cab, Comfort and SMRT appear to be struggling to find drivers and maintain fleet levels.

Taxi Service in Singapore

These days, you don’t have to fret about not being able to get a taxi in Singapore… taxi apps to the rescue! So far (traditional cab companies aside) it seems to be a clear win-win with drivers getting better terms such as higher revenues or lower overheads and app users getting a faster and more reliable service.

What’s even more striking is that regulators have stepped in broadly to support the city’s taxi transformation. Government legislation is often the bane of innovation. And as taxi apps moved from being a novelty to becoming a regular means of transportation, legislation became inevitable.

There were cries by taxi companies and drivers affiliated with them to outlaw or severely restrict the scope of app-driven hire services. Their argument being that the low overheads and limited legal restrictions in the online space give these apps an unfair competitive advantage.

Basically, the old operators wanted to freeze the taxi eco system and preserve their market share. However, the Bill passed this week does not lock us into the ancient regime. Rather it broadly empowers what it terms Third-Party Taxi Booking Service Providers while ensuring they stick to basic legal parameters.

Uber cars cannot pick customers off the street like regular cabs, and the apps can’t compel you to provide your final destination in advance — lest drivers begin adopting the behaviour of regular taxi drivers and reject customers for going somewhere out of the way.

With a few safeguards in place, it’s really a positive piece of legislation and it’s clear in this case that the government is moving with technology and not impeding it. What this means is the taxi revolution has succeeded and become the new status quo with legislation, users and providers all lined up behind a new world.

Viva la revolution!

Cambodia: the Path to Something Profound

May 17, 2015

In Cambodia, Along the Path to Something Profound

I tiptoed across the wood planks of a wobbly orange boat heading from the riverside town Kampot to the Gulf of Thailand. I burned my bare feet on the shiny outdoor tiles surrounding a Buddhist stupa at Udong, the old capital of Cambodia. Across the country, at the 11th-century ruins of Phnom Banan, I spelunked through deep, damp caverns steeped in legends of magic and superstition. All the way, I followed a Frenchman named Henri. For 16 years and more than 20 trips, he has led me through the heart of this beautiful but knotty country.

If only we had met — or even lived in the same century. Henri Mouhot, an explorer and naturalist, was born in 1826 in eastern France. He had a passion for learning and travel, beginning with Russia, where he spent time as a young man. But his name is most associated with the Angkor ruins, which he made famous in Europe after first encountering those remnants of the Khmer empire in 1860.

17FOOTSTEPS2-superJumboAs a diarist, Mouhot (pronounced moo-HOE) could be cantankerous (“the present state of Cambodia is deplorable and its future menacing”) and condescending (“this miserable people”), but he also revered nature (“I have never been more happy”) and loved exploring (“in truth, this life is happiness to me”). His diaries from Siam (now Thailand), Cambodia, Laos (where he is buried) and Annam (now central Vietnam), between 1858 and 1861, endure as some of the most prescient, insightful literature on the region.

More than 150 years ago, the French explorer Henri Mouhot was one of the first Europeans to see the ancient Khmer ruins that today form the Angkor Archaeological Park in Cambodia.

Our odyssey together began in 1998, the year I spent in Phnom Penh, the capital, working at a newspaper; I’ve returned to Cambodia nearly every year since. I first read Mouhot for background, and quickly found parallels to the country I was experiencing. The diaries contain a black-and-white drawing based on one of his sketches of a thatch hut on wooden stilts with a longboat on shore. The image could have been sketched today. And that cantankerous comment? Sadly, it could easily apply to more recent phases of the country’s history.

The tourist scene at Angkor Wat is another story. Yet when I most recently approached it — on the back of a motorcycle, amid hundreds of other visitors — I felt the same awe he described from another age: “At first view, one is filled with profound admiration, and cannot but ask what has become of this powerful race, so civilised, so enlightened, the authors of these gigantic works?” The same questions propel me through the country year after year.

Map of CambodiaMy latest trip, last April, took me south, to Kampot (or Komput, as Mouhot spelled it). When Mouhot visited, this was Cambodia’s bustling port town. “Six or seven ships loading at one time,” he wrote. “Chinese and European vessels may be constantly seen going up and down the stream.”

Today, the main port has moved west to Sihanoukville; gone are Kampot’s ships. Gone, too, is the public debauchery Mouhot depicted: “Almost every vice seemed prevalent at Kompot — pride, insolence, cheating, cowardice, servility, excessive idleness.” It now boasts a reputation of beauty and calm and is a favorite among both locals and tourists who like a slower pace of life.

Mouhot arrived 150 years too early to stay at the lovely Mea Culpa, where, in rooms costing just $25, French doors open onto a patio with river views. He didn’t clutch a cup of coffee while watching the daily parade of fishing boats heading to sea, as I did. And he didn’t spend a morning with a boatman named Math Ly.

We set out on his flame-colored longboat at 7:30 a.m. The river was mostly empty, fishermen having already gone to sea. Only a long line of skiffs sat tethered to shore. As we headed south, rows of metal shacks gave way to mangroves in a faint, salty breeze. The river widened, and the horizon opened to distant islands dotting the gulf. Water and sky were both the hazy teal of sand-etched sea glass.

Mouhot spent time in this cacophonous town, where traders sold all manner of goods. “The dealers in fish and vegetables, and the Chinese restaurateurs, dispute the street with pigs, hungry dogs, and children of all ages.” The Kampot market today still feels clamorous and claustrophobic — a maze of low-ceilinged stalls seemingly selling everything: mangoes, rice, cabbage, watermelon, pickles, shrimp, fermented fish, flowering chives, laundry soaps and toothbrushes. But though there are children, dogs are scarce, and any pigs you encounter will be of the fried variety.

The King, in Kampot at the time of Mouhot’s visit, advised him to escape the clamor: “Go to Udong; go about.” Udong (or Oudong, as it is also spelled) was then the capital, about 100 miles north, beyond modern-day Phnom Penh. “An eight-days’ journey travelling with oxen or buffaloes,” Mouhot wrote. “With elephants you can accomplish it in half the time.”

Phnom PenhPhnom Penh Today

My journey out of Kampot, by air-conditioned bus, took me first to Phnom Penh (or Penom-Peuh, as Mouhot spelled it), less than four hours on a paved highway (no elephants). Today’s capital of 2.2 million people, at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers, was known to Mouhot as “the Great Bazaar.”

Phnom Penh is the seat of modern-day power. Though travelers aren’t accorded the royal audience Mouhot had, tourists can glimpse the high life with a visit to the Royal Palace. In contrast to the city around it, the compound has well-tamed gardens and an open-air gallery painted with Buddhist and Hindu legends depicting tigers, monkeys, sailors, warriors and intricate tales of honor and loss. The king’s quarters are roped off, but visitors can peek inside the Throne Hall and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, with its floor of solid silver tiles.

From Phnom Penh, it’s an hour’s drive to Udong through congestion, then a green belt of rice farms. Mouhot wrote of cottages with fruit gardens and country houses for the aristocracy “who come here in the evening for the sake of breathing a purer air than they can find in the city.” Except Phnom Penh was just a market town, and “the city” was Udong, a spirited place of mandarins, chiefs and noisy courts of justice. “How do you like my city?” a second king asked Mouhot. (Cambodia had a first and second king at the time.)

A tourist takes photos inside the Bayon temple in Angkor Archaeological Park. Credit Jerry Redfern for The New York Times

“Sire, it is splendid, and presents an appearance such as I have never seen elsewhere.”

Little of that remains. The royals left in 1866 when the king chose Phnom Penh as a new capital. Udong suffered through decades of subsequent war, though today the remnants are slowly being rebuilt. Pilgrims now brave a constant heat to climb steps to a series of hilltop temples and shrines.

Children clung to my legs, attempting to sell me bracelets or cool me with hand-held fans. Elderly and disabled beggars lined the steps, each with a plate onto which more fortunate visitors drop 100 riel notes (less than 3 cents).

At a giant golden Buddha with ruby lips and a golden sash, children occupied the entryway, guarding visitors’ shoes for tips. This temple, once in shambles, has a new roof. A child monk sat among burning incense, taking offerings and dispensing blessings. I stood in an open window, soaking in a welcome breeze and gazing upon the paddies below. A few incongruous factories are scattered among the fields, but mostly it’s a green landscape that stretches to the broad waters of the Tonle Sap River.

That river is the artery of Cambodia. It is, as Mouhot wrote, the “grand and beautiful” gateway to the lake of the same name, which swells in the rains and drains each dry season. It connects the lake to the Mekong, switching directions as those waters rise and fall. “The river becomes wider and wider until at last it is four or five miles in breadth; and then you enter the immense sheet of water,” Mouhot wrote.

I rented a wood cruise boat and burbled up the river, hoping for a picturesque sunset. But Phnom Penh’s ever-expanding skyline only dimmed in a thickening haze, atypical of the dazzling reds and pinks that often cascade across the river as the sun falls.

Mouhot found his light at Angkor Wat (Ongcor), “the most beautiful and best preserved of all the remains,” in Siem Reap. It is still the world’s largest religious structure, encompassing 401 acres — so commanding that a traveler forgets “all the fatigues of the journey.”

Visitors climb out of one of the caves beneath Phnom Banan. Credit Jerry Redfern for The New York Times

Late in the day, I sought solitude. Most crowds flock to the top of Phnom Bakheng, an ancient hilltop temple, for a sunset view over Angkor Wat, but I headed instead to Ta Prohm, the overgrown temple famous for the tenacious trees that smother its stone. It was nearly closing time, and almost no one was there. There is no sunset to be viewed in these tree-wrapped grounds, as twilight is heard more than seen. The light fades, and the ruins erupt in a riot of birdsong — mynas, parrots and a hornbill with swooshing wings.

The Angkorian ruins extend far beyond Siem Reap. In the 12th century, under King Suryavarman II, the empire reached its apex, stretching into modern-day Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. A few sites endure, in various states of dilapidation and looting, between Siem Reap and the Thai border.

Phnom Banan (Banone), a mountaintop temple, is about 13 miles from the city Battambang, a pleasant jaunt through the countryside. It’s a near-vertical climb up laterite steps to the ruins above undulating hills. In Mouhot’s day, the temple still had eight towers connected by galleries of “fine workmanship, and great taste and skill in construction.” Now, only portions of towers remain.

What I wanted most to see was down the steps, at the mountain’s base. A sandy path led to a “magic cave,” as tourists call it today, a deep cavern of stalactites in the limestone rock. “The water dropping from these is considered sacred” by pilgrims who say it can impart “knowledge of the past, present, and future,” Mouhot wrote.

The cave is cool and dark, the soothing yin to the scorching yang outside. Inside is a maze of psychedelic rock formations. One looks like an elephant. A guide named Phuoc Ran took me to an inner room where a Buddha statue sat amid candles. Nearby, water squeezed through ceiling cracks and plopped over smooth, rounded rocks, caught by buckets and cups.

Statue of King SihanoukThe Statue of King Norodom Sihanouk in Phnom Penh

Take the water, he said, and “you will know the past, present and future.” I instead listened to Phuoc Ran, who was born in Saigon but fled to the Thai border during wartime. He told me he knows about New Mexico, where I live, because the American soldiers he met during the war watched movies full of Southwestern cowboys.

Mouhot, Phuoc Ran, me — we keep treading ground here because we keep finding stories to tell. That’s how we learn about past, present and future.

Mouhot understood the capacity for travel to enhance insight; he devoted his life to these gifts. Before he died — brutally, from malaria — in Laos at 35, he wrote to his sister-in-law about his passions. “Seeing so much that is beautiful, grand, and new,” he wrote. “From these I draw my contentment.”

Tun Dr. Mahathir: Don’t insult us, Malaysians

December 7, 2014

COMMENT: The UMNO political godfather just can’t keep his mouth shut. He must be in the news at every opportunity. This time he chooses to call Malaysians stupid because, according to him, we cannot run Malaysia Airlines (MAS) except to run it to the ground thereby requiring fresh injunctions of public money to resuscitate it.

Dr.MahathirThe only Smart Malaysian?

Tun Dr. Mahathir is objecting to Khazanah’s decision to appoint a foreigner to spearhead the recovery of our national carrier.The former Prime Minister must have forgotten that before his appointment of Tan Sri Tajuddin Ramli as MAS Chairman, Malaysians like Tan Sri Saw Huat Lye and Tan Sri Aziz Abdul Rahman (ably assisted by Dato Kamaruddin Ahmad as Managing Director) with Tun Raja Mohar Badiozaman and Tan Sri Zain Azraai as Chairpersons and outstanding and competent Malaysians as Directors, ran the national carrier well. Tun Dr. Mahathir should know why MAS was not making money during his administration.

So, it is not true that Malaysians cannot run MAS. That remark is not only an insult to us but also to the thousands of Malaysians, past and present, who served MAS  with dedication and whose services are still required to make its operations viable and profitable.

The truth should be told and that is there is too much political interference in MAS (and other GLCs as well). MAS should be allowed to operate as a truly commercial undertaking. No more politics, please. We expect good governance and hard-nosed decisionmaking from the new team in MAS New Co.

Azman MokhtarTan Sri Azman Mokhtar, the Managing Director, Khazanah Nasional Berhad, assisted by his competent professional staff, should be given a clear mandate to make MAS’ restructuring a success. He knows that his career and reputation are at risk if MAS is again a failure. Malaysia can no longer afford to put good money after bad ventures time and again.

I respect his decision with the backing of the Prime Minister and the Khazanah Board to appoint Mr. Christoph R. Mueller of Aer Lingus as the Chief Executive Officer-designate of MAS New Co. This is a strategic move to change the national airline’s corporate culture. Maybe, an orang putih from Germany can do that! 

Christoph R. MuellerChristoph R. Mueller and Aer Lingus

Mr. Mueller knows what he is up against in MAS, given its laid back culture and high operating costs due to leakages and badly negotiated contracts. Furthermore, he has to contend with the Employee and Pilot Unions whose support and cooperation will be needed.

I ask Tun Dr. Mahathir to leave Malaysia’s future in the hands of a new generation of Malaysians who are better educated than men and women of his and my generation, and who can get the job done if they are given the chance to get on with their jobs without political meddling. We should not be cynical and  must stop thinking that we are indispensable. It is best to stay on the sidelines and proffer advice when only asked.

I wish Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar and his team all the best in their attempt to rebuild our national carrier. It is a great challenge for him, probably his biggest one in his illustrious career.–Din Merican

MAS Restructuring: Malaysians are stupid, says “smart” Tun Dr. Mahathir (December 6, 2014)

Malaysians are too “stupid” to manage aviation, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad remarked today following news that a German is set to captain a revamped Malaysia Airlines Systems Berhad (MAS) from next year.

Malaysia's GeniusHe is a Malaysian Genius–Product of Mahathir’s Education Policy

Yesterday, state wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad announced Christoph R. Mueller as the Chief Executive Officer-Designate of MAS New Co in a bid to turn around the crippled national carrier’s misfortunes much as he did with Ireland’s national carrier Aer Lingus.

“Malaysians are stupid. They don’t know how to manage aviation,” the former Prime Minister was quoted saying by news portal Malaysiakini, after gracing a Proton design event in the city.

“And now those responsible for the losses try to make things right,” he reportedly added in what appears to be a dig at Khazanah, which holds close to 70 per cent shares in MAS.

The flag carrier marked its seventh quarterly loss in a row recently when it posted a net loss of RM575.6 million for the three months ending September 30, widening from a RM373.2 million deficit in the same period last year.

It dove deeper into the red following the mysterious loss of flight MH370 on March 8 and the July 18 shooting down over Ukraine of flight MH17.

MAS had raked in billions in profits during the 1980s but began to suffer losses a decade later, after then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir privatised the airline. The MAS privatisation deal saw Tan Sri Tajuddin Ramli taking out a RM1.79 billion loan in 1994 to buy a 32 per cent majority stake in the airline.

Tajuddin, who was affected by the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, later sold his stake in MAS to Putrajaya for RM1.79 billion — or RM8 a share — the same amount that he paid in 2001; the company’s closing share price at that time was RM3.68.

In the years since, MAS has undergone three business turnarounds at an estimated cost of nearly RM20 billion to the government. In a statement yesterday, Khazanah said Mueller will officially be appointed as CEO-designate of MAS New Co effective January 1 as they negotiate to bring him on board by March 1 next year.

Mueller has been CEO of Aer Lingus since 2009 and his contract ends on May 1. According to his biodata provided by Khazanah, the German is credited with turning around the Irish airline’s waning fortunes amid a declining Irish market and tepid European market conditions, and developing Dublin as among the leading hubs for North Atlantic long-haul traffic.

Mueller was also a key contributor in German carrier Lufthansa’s corporate turnaround in the 1990s, when he served as Senior Vice-President for network management and corporate planning, and orchestrated the move by a group of investors in the ill-fated SABENA Group, one of its subsidiaries, Delta Air Transport — which has since been renamed Brussels Airlines and operates as Belgium’s national carrier.

Other new appointments include Datuk Seri Mohammed Shazalli Ramli as a non-executive Director on the MAS Board, Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad Abdul Majid as Chairman of the Corporate Reskilling Centre (CRC), Shahryn Azmi as Chief Executive of the CRC and Datuk Boonler Somchit as a non-executive Director and advisor to the CRC.

Khazanah said the appointments were part of the key initiatives under its 12-point MAS Recovery Plan, and that they were agreed to by the Khazanah Board of Directors at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak Thursday.

Khazanah’s 12-point turnaround plan for the national carrier, titled “Rebuilding A National Icon — The MAS Recovery Plan”, also includes transferring all MAS assets to a new entity tentatively known as “MAS Baru” or “new MAS”. The total takeover is to cost Khazanah some RM6 billion.