KUALA LUMPUR: The government has given its assurance that any possible takeover or strategic cooperation to revive the national carrier will not result in layoffs at Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAS).
In taking the first question in the Dewan Rakyat on his 94th birthday, Dr Mahathir said the government had yet to make any decision on whether to sell, adopt a strategic collaboration with other companies or participate in another recovery plan.
"We hope that in any action that will be taken, we do not have to lay off any of MAS' employees.
"However, if they voluntarily choose to work for another company, that is their own decision. We will not lay them off.
"Our terms to possible buyers or any new partners (are that) we will not reduce the current size of its staff. This will make it a bit hard for us to act to recover MAS," he told Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan (BN-Pontian).
In his question, the Pontian MP wanted to know if government would lay off employees in any bid to sell MAS or collaborate with other companies.
The Prime Minister also guaranteed that the government would preserve the national identity of MAS.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad added that the government was still studying all proposals from various companies and airline operators.
"But what we want to retain is the name of the company. It must be linked to our country, which is Malaysia," he said in reply to a supplementary question from Datuk Seri Ismail Yaakob (BN-Bera), who asked whether the government had made any decision to sell MAS' equities or sell it to other companies.
Dr Mahathir revealed that on Aug 29, 2014, the Barisan Nasional government, through Khazanah Nasional Bhd (Khazanah) as the main shareholder of MAS, launched the MAS recovery plan, which was a comprehensive restructuring for a period of five years to revive the company.
"The recovery plan targetted that MAS, which later is known as Malaysia Airlines Bhd, was to record profit in 2018.
"After five years of the plan, in general, Malaysian Airlines has created several improvements in terms of operations and customer service.
"It also can be seen through its flight time, baggage handling and customer satisfaction.
"However, the same cannot be said of its financial performance, which recorded losses due to various external factors including increased competition," explained Dr Mahathir.
At the parliament lobby, the Prime Minister said that the government was looking at all proposals.
"Some are concrete proposals, but some are merely verbal proposals. But we do not ignore anyone.
"At the moment, if it involves Singapore Airlines, we will consider it. The main thing is to preserve the identity of the airline as a Malaysian identity, and we have to see that any proposal does not result in sacking of staff belonging to MAS," he said.
He added the government had no intention to bail out MAS if the company still did not recover after any possible selling or cooperation with other companies.
"Well, the government does not want to be bailing out MAS so many times, but the government must have a say.
"So, we may not have the majority shares, but we have to preserve some government role as government shareholders," added Dr Mahathir.