PETALING JAYA, Aug 23: Former prime minister Najib Razak has urged the government and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to probe the proposed privatisation of the Penang International Airport (PIA).
In a Facebook post in which he attached letters between a private company and a former Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) top official, Najib claimed that the top executive’s sudden departure may have been linked to the project.
He said the PIA expansion project was approved by his administration in 2017 and the plan was to expand its capacity from 6.5 million passengers a year to 12 million.
MAHB was instructed to begin work on the expansion in 2018, but Najib said that after the 14th general election, the project was put on hold as the government claimed it had no money to fund the estimated cost of over RM1.2 billion.
A private financing initiative (PFI) was then mooted to reduce the government’s burden.
But, Najib said the claim about the lack of funds was without basis as it was MAHB which would foot the bill and it had the financial ability to do so as it made profits of over RM1 billion a year, and had cash reserves in excess of RM2 billion.
“It is not the government who pays (for the expansion). MAHB pays,” he said.
He attached a letter, purportedly from a private developer with a strong presence in Penang, proposing a PFI for the expansion project.
Najib said MAHB, however, resisted plans for privatisation and insisted on wanting to fund the airport expansion on its own to a capacity of 12 million at a cost of RM800 million rather than RM1.2 billion for a 16 million capacity.
He said MAHB’s former group CEO Raja Azmi Raja Nazuddin even announced on Dec 25 last year that the PIA expansion would begin soon.
But 12 days later, Raja Azmi resigned after less than a year into his appointment.
“I think it is best if the Perikatan Nasional government and MACC investigate,” he said.