Wednesday, July 15, 2009

AirAsia Never Considered Race a Factor

15 July 2009

I refer to the story headlined "Affirmative action is viewed as barrier to growth in Malaysia; AirAsia's plans for a new hub run into opposition from ethnic Malays" (News in Depth, July 9).

I strongly resent the implication in the headline and the story that AirAsia's issues with Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd. regarding a new low-cost carrier terminal are caused by the "tenet" of "affirmative action" and "opposition from ethnic Malays." Not once during the interview did I mention the issue of race or "affirmative action." And never in my numerous public statements on this dispute have I indicated that racial discrimination was a factor.

AirAsia's issues with MAHB center on the dispute between the two entities regarding airport charges and fees. AirAsia feels we have been overcharged. We also feel, rightly or wrongly, that our concerns may not be given a fair hearing because of the lack of a level playing field, as both MAHB and Malaysian Airlines System are government-linked companies owned by Khazanah Nasional.

The issue of a level playing field was addressed by Prime Minister Najib Tun Abdul Razak on June 30, when he declared that government-linked companies would have to compete fairly with the private sector and would no longer enjoy any special consideration from the administration. I publicly hailed the announcement. I believe the prime minister's commitment to a level playing field will remove any doubt or perception that the concerns of the private sector, of which AirAsia is a vibrant member, will be treated as secondary to the interests of government-linked companies.

The New Economic Policy was born out of necessity and served a crucial social and national goal. Prime Minister Najib, despite just over three months in office, has already moved to adapt the NEP for the current era.

Tony Fernandes
Group CEO
AirAsia Berhad
Kuala Lumpur

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