Perkasa today demanded the exit of Petronas chief executive Tan Sri Shamsul Azhar Abbas for saying the state oil firm belongs to all Malaysians, insisting it was built via Malay effort and was consequently owned by the community.
The Malay rights group’s president Datuk Ibrahim Ali said it was “shrewd” of Shamsul to state that the country’s oil resource belonged to all Malaysians so as to imply “he was forced to give handouts to Bumiputera companies”.
“Shamsul is right to say that Petronas belongs to all Malaysians under Petroleum Development Act but he must remember that it was overwritten by the New Economic Policy (NEP) and emphasised again by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak last year in the Bumiputera Economic Empowerment Agenda,” said Ibrahim.
“Shamsul should resign for his unprofessional conduct. This is very unbecoming,” he said.
In an interview published in last weekend’s issue of the Edge Weekly, Shamsul revealed that Petronas came under political pressure to back inexperienced businesses, adding that “bureaucratic interference make things difficult”.
Today, Ibrahim stressed that Malay rights groups wanted pro-Bumiputera affirmative action to continue as the community continues to lag behind the country’s other ethnic groups.
He also challenged Shamsul to a live debate in which he said the Petronas chief could explicitly name the companies he was allegedly being arm-twisted into backing, rather than making “sweeping statements” about the issue.
Ibrahim added that Najib had set aside a grant of RM20 billion from Petronas under a revised pro-Bumiputera New Economic Model (NEM) in September last year as the government recognised that affirmative action was still pertinent in assisting the Malay community.
Implemented in 1971, the NEP had an ambitious aim to close the socio-economic gap between the largely-urban Chinese and the rural Malays as well as other indigenous Bumiputera, within the span of two decades.
It ended officially in 1990, but the key aspects of its Malay-Bumiputera preferential plan remains in various forms years later.
Ibrahim said today Malays corporate leaders have faced “many problems with Petronas” under Shamsul, claiming that the latter placed bypassed “more suitable Bumiputera” candidates when filling key positions in the firm.
“And now Shamsul says these things… things that the opposition will likely exploit,” he told reporters.
Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM) oil and gas cluster chief Tengku Putra Tengku Ahmad, who is also part of Perkasa, added that Shamsul was “too liberal” in his leadership.
“Petronas was built by Malays and made successful by government-linked companies,” said Tengku Putra.
“Like Francis Yeoh, he (Shamsul) is talking as though Petronas had no help from the government, now that they are well-connected,” he said, referring to a recent storm caused by remarks about “crony capitalism” delivered by Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, group managing director at YTL Corporation and eldest son of founder, billionaire Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay.
Tengku Putra today also dismissed Shamsul’s complaint that Petronas had been forced to aid Bumiputeras through “handouts and spoon-feeding”, saying the state oil firm would not be a Fortune 500 company without the government’s support.