KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is not selling off its national carmaker Proton to China, says Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Najib’s comments came as he met with employees of automotive giant DRB-Hicom (which holds a 49.9 per cent stake in Proton) in Pekan on Friday (Apr 27).
The move by DRB-Hicom in choosing Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (Geely) as a strategic partner is apt in ensuring Proton, the national car manufacturer, continues to be competitive locally and at international level, said Najib.
He said there was no intervention from the government in the matter, whereby the decision was made by the management of DRB-Hicom and Proton based on Geely’s merit in dominating most of the world’s leading automotive company shares.
“We did not sell our sovereignty or our rights. We are merely taking them as a strategic partner so the future of Proton is more assured,” said Najib.
“Geely is highly advanced and has a huge research and development fund of billions a year, apart from having large markets for its vehicles. In fact, the company is also the owner of the Volvo brand which has all the while been dominated by Sweden.
“Besides that, 10 per cent of the shares in Mercedes Benz is also owned by the Geely Group. Imagine the benefits when we become a strategic partner to a company that is strong and solid like that. It is not only based with China alone, but also multi-national cooperation."
Najib has been under the spotlight over massive Chinese investments sealed under his administration.
His home state of Pahang saw at least three major Chinese projects including the multi-billion dollar Malaysia-China Industrial Park, a deep sea port in Kuantan and the East Coast Rail Link (ERCL) which links Malaysia’s eastern coast to the west.
PLAYING WITH SENTIMENTS
Najib blamed the opposition for stirring sentiments and playing up the people’s emotions by promising to review all contracts with China.
“The truth is, we never compromise on the country’s sovereignty. It is Proton’s right to take Geely as a strategic partner to ensure the future of Proton is full of hope,” he said.
“If we play with emotional sentiments alone, but fail and suffer loses in business, then it is a mentality that brings no benefit to the country.”
As such, Najib regarded the action by the opposition in threatening to terminate the contract with China would only be a loss to the country, if China reacted by ordering Geely to cease becoming a strategic partner to Proton.
He said the action by the opposition would certainly place DRB-Hicom and Proton workers at a risk of losing their jobs.
On the other hand, Najib said a different approach was made by the Barisan Nasional government, which had direction and always gave priority to people’s interests, before making any decision.
At the event, Najib, who is the incumbent Pekan Member of Parliament, announced a multi-million dollar project to develop affordable housing for those living in Pekan, with special allocation and discounts given to DRB-Hicom staff.
He also announced a one-off incentive of RM500 (US$128) for all 60,000 DRB-Hicom staff to be paid by Monday.
Pekan has been the home turf for Najib. He has been the Member of Parliament in this largely rural seat with sizeable plantation holders since 1976 after the death of his father Abdul Razak, Malaysia’s second prime minister.
Najib won with a majority of more than 35,000 in the last elections in 2013.
(Additional reporting by Melissa Goh)