Bellew: No interference when I was at the helm of MAS

KUALA LUMPUR: Outgoing Malaysia Airlines Bhd chief executive officer Peter Bellew has denied that there was outside interference when he was at the helm of the national carrier.

"There was no interference from any parties, be it Khazanah Nasional Bhd or government over my resignation.

"In fact, Khazanah was convincing me to stay," Bellew told a press conference on Sunday.

He said the accusations made by former prime miniter Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that the interference had led to his departure "are completely untrue."

Mahathir had claimed in a blog posting that Bellew quit MAS due to inteference from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Bellew has taken up a post at Ryanair.


Bellew's full speech:

Thank you for joining me on a Sunday. I Just wanted to clear up a few issues that have arisen over the last few days. This is a personal response and not on behalf of Malaysia Airlines corporately. I hope to answer some questions i was asked overnight.

I am incredibly grateful to my colleagues in the Malaysia Airlines family who have worked so hard with me over the last 2 1/2 years. Wonderful people. Able to deal with the most difficult situations with strength and faith. Not one person I have asked over these years to give the extra effort has refused.

My family and I are thankful for the welcome and hospitality we have received in our time in Malaysia. This is a wonderful country. It is with sadness that I will leave but with great hope for the future of this very special airline.

I apologise for not being able to fulfill my contract. For education and family reasons my wife and kids went to Balik Kampung in July. I thought I could manage it for a year or two but I need to be with my family. I am sorry.

I resigned this day two weeks ago. It was a very difficult thing to do. Really. At that time I had not signed for a new job. Khazanah and our Chairman did everything possible to get me to stay. They could not understand why I would leave.

I got an offer to return to Ryanair who have some well publicised challenges right now. This is my old family in Ireland. It is Ireland's greatest company. I will move from being CEO to COO. They need me to help. Negaraku. That is your special word. That is how I feel. Negaraku. I have a duty to do it. When I was asked on 27th Sept would I go to Ryanair I said no. But a week later the call came and in life we can really never say never. I am looking forward to being close again to my family and friends 14 hours away in Ireland.

The news broke about Ryanair last Sunday in the UK Sunday Times. Ryanair waited until Tuesday to make a stock exchange announcement.

There have been news reports about Khazanah interference. Let me be clear. Khazanah is a Malaysian investment company linked to the Government. They have been incredibly supportive to me personally and corporately. There has been no interference. I cannot thank them enough for accelerating our transformation. Tan Sri Azman could not have been more supportive. Terima Kasih Khazanah. 

There have been reports that I am leaving due to political interference. That is completely untrue. The Dept of Transport have been more than helpful and Minister Liow has been extremely fair in the treatment of all airlines in Malaysia. The Dept of Tourism and Tourism Malaysia could not have done more for Malaysia Airlines in the past year and do a tremendous job globally. Minister Mustapha from MITI is maybe the most effective Minister I have met in my lifetime. The Prime Minister has not interfered in any way. He has encouraged me at every step.

There are reports that I am leaving because of aircraft orders. That is completely untrue. 100% incorrect. Not a shred of truth in that statement. There was no political interference in MAB decision to buy Boeing or Airbus. MAB needs more widebody planes and less narrow bodies. Simple. The Chairman and I brought the MOU to the Prime Minister in Washington and he witnessed the MOU signing. It all came from MAB.

Malaysia is an amazing country. 60 years of peace. Incredible economic growth. Unique racial and religious harmony. Turn on a tap and there is clean water. Superb education. I have never seen anyone hungry. Abundant natural resources. A vibrant culture. There was some great vision from Government over the last 40 years to build Malaysia. And a leader in 1981 did some great things for his country.

But Tun Mahathir is completely wrong. 100% wrong. No one connected with him has ever been in any contact to check. I have had no interference from anyone on anything. NO interference. I just want to Balik Kampung. Simple I am Balik Kampung. Negaraku. Back to the people I love. Simple.

I have read every book I could find on MAS. Tan Sri Aziz did a particularly good one. I have read Tun Mahathir's biography and his books of letters.

Tun Mahathir highlights in his own book his failures on MAS that led to its downfall. In fact across 200 pages in his own book he completely contradicts himself.

On page 711 he states "The company had been doing well when it was sold to Tajuddin in 1994 and his acquisition of Malaysia Airlines had been seen as a coup."

On page 533 he states "Tajuddin was elated over his purchase. He wanted to swap his Malaysian Helicopter shares for MAS shares. The Government rejected his plan and asked that he pay in cash instead, which forced him to borrow RM1.8 billion. I do remember wondering how Tajuddin would be able to buy the airline."

But Tun Mahathir contradicts himself on page 711 of his own book saying:- "He had attempted to buy his stake in MAS through Celcom shares and he would not have had to spend a sen. In the end, however, he had to borrow a lot of money to buy the shares. Had I known this I would have put a stop to the acquisition."

In his own book on page 533 he states that he knew it was debt that was unsustainable.

Page 796 he highlights his bitterness when Tun Badawi did not appoint him as advisor to MAS. The damage goes back to 1994 and debt.

Malaysia Airlines is special. Not just an airline but one of the earliest symbols of the vibrancy of this amazing country. People who have never flown in their life love it. Most of the country hopes it will thrive and be the Pride of the Nation again. I wish Captain Izham and the Malaysia Airlines family all the best for the future.

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