AirAsia boss in hot water after saying sorry for backing Malaysia’s Ex-PM

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AirAsia Group founder and CEO Tony Fernandes on May 13 publicly apologised for his pre-election support of Malaysia’s former ruling coalition Barisan Nasional and former prime minister Najib Razak, saying “it wasn’t right and I will forever regret it.”

Two days before the May 9 polls – which resulted in a debacle for Barisan Nasional and brought its 60-year ruling era to an end –, Fernandes released a – meanwhile deleted – video praising Najib and the government’s support of his low-cost airline. Later that day, Najib posted photos of him and Fernandes standing in front of an AirAsia plane painted with a campaign slogan for Najib’s coalition, “Make My Country Great.”

Fernandes told Malaysians to “vote wisely” at the election, obviously urging voters to support Najib, whom he lauded for being a “great leader who puts the people first,” indicating that the opposition Pakatan Harapan headed by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad wouldn’t do that. Ironically, – Mahathir was actually the one who helped Fernandes to obtain a license for AirAsia back in 2001.

 “I am sorry for what has gone on. I buckled at the crucial moment in our history,” Fernandes said in the video released on his Facebook channel in the late hours of Sunday.

He said that the endorsement was made in an effort to appease Najib’s government after AirAsia came under “intense pressure”  ahead of the elections for adding extra flights on polling day – which apparently was not in the interest of the then ruling coalition as it feared it would attract more opposition supporters to vote.

Fernandes also said he was he was asked by Barisan Nasional to remove former trade minister Rafidah Aziz, who openly supported Mahathir, as chairman of his long-haul budget unit AirAsia X, which he refused.

He explained that his airline was “part of a highly-regulated industry where nearly everything requires government approval,” but was “foolish” to think that his endorsement would appease the government and protect jobs.

His remarks had three immediate effects:

The share price of AirAsia Group listed at the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange ended the first trading session since the election on May 14 almost five per cent lower;

The Malaysian Aviation Commission said it has begun investigations into Fernandes’ claims of supporting the Barisan Nasional government;

Many netizens criticised Fernandes for what they felt is “opportunistic behaviour” of switching sides so quickly, and supporters of the victorious party Pakatan Harapan even called for an outright boycott of AirAsia.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

AirAsia Group founder and CEO Tony Fernandes on May 13 publicly apologised for his pre-election support of Malaysia’s former ruling coalition Barisan Nasional and former prime minister Najib Razak, saying “it wasn’t right and I will forever regret it.”

Reading Time: 2 minutes

AirAsia Group founder and CEO Tony Fernandes on May 13 publicly apologised for his pre-election support of Malaysia’s former ruling coalition Barisan Nasional and former prime minister Najib Razak, saying “it wasn’t right and I will forever regret it.”

Two days before the May 9 polls – which resulted in a debacle for Barisan Nasional and brought its 60-year ruling era to an end –, Fernandes released a – meanwhile deleted – video praising Najib and the government’s support of his low-cost airline. Later that day, Najib posted photos of him and Fernandes standing in front of an AirAsia plane painted with a campaign slogan for Najib’s coalition, “Make My Country Great.”

Fernandes told Malaysians to “vote wisely” at the election, obviously urging voters to support Najib, whom he lauded for being a “great leader who puts the people first,” indicating that the opposition Pakatan Harapan headed by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad wouldn’t do that. Ironically, – Mahathir was actually the one who helped Fernandes to obtain a license for AirAsia back in 2001.

 “I am sorry for what has gone on. I buckled at the crucial moment in our history,” Fernandes said in the video released on his Facebook channel in the late hours of Sunday.

He said that the endorsement was made in an effort to appease Najib’s government after AirAsia came under “intense pressure”  ahead of the elections for adding extra flights on polling day – which apparently was not in the interest of the then ruling coalition as it feared it would attract more opposition supporters to vote.

Fernandes also said he was he was asked by Barisan Nasional to remove former trade minister Rafidah Aziz, who openly supported Mahathir, as chairman of his long-haul budget unit AirAsia X, which he refused.

He explained that his airline was “part of a highly-regulated industry where nearly everything requires government approval,” but was “foolish” to think that his endorsement would appease the government and protect jobs.

His remarks had three immediate effects:

The share price of AirAsia Group listed at the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange ended the first trading session since the election on May 14 almost five per cent lower;

The Malaysian Aviation Commission said it has begun investigations into Fernandes’ claims of supporting the Barisan Nasional government;

Many netizens criticised Fernandes for what they felt is “opportunistic behaviour” of switching sides so quickly, and supporters of the victorious party Pakatan Harapan even called for an outright boycott of AirAsia.

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