Pakatan MP backs AirAsia boss after vitriol over painting jet blue

Then Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (centre) and AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes (fifth from left) with the Barisan Nasional-themed AirAsia jet that flew Mr Najib from Sabah to Kuala Lumpur on Monday. PHOTO: NAJIB RAZAK/FACEBOOK

KUALA LUMPUR • AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes has been viciously attacked online after painting a company jet in the blue colour of Barisan Nasional (BN) and carrying its campaign slogan, but a Johor MP has now come to his defence.

Tan Sri Fernandes was pictured with then Prime Minister Najib Razak during the election campaign, and even changed the uniforms of AirAsia flight attendants from red to blue in the Sabah to Kuala Lumpur flight with Datuk Seri Najib on board.

Pakatan Harapan MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said he can now tell the story behind what happened, calling the AirAsia boss an "unspoken hero".

Mr Syed Saddiq wrote on Facebook and Instagram: "I would like to share with you something I have been keeping to myself for a while now. I could not share it before because we were imprisoned by the politics of fear. Activists, politicians and businessmen who were not in line with the ruling party's ideology were threatened and pushed to a corner."

He added that Mr Fernandes was among the first to help Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin "when Tan Sri was punished for speaking truth to power". Mr Muhyiddin was sacked as deputy prime minister by Datuk Seri Najib for speaking out over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

"He was once again a hero when AirAsia offered discounted flights and added flights during the election period. This infuriated some people in DS (Datuk Seri) Najib's circle," Mr Syed Saddiq, 25, wrote.

Things became worse for Mr Fernandes, the MP said, when he was praised by an opposition leader for helping voters to fly back to Sabah with the cheaper flights.

"He refused to fire Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz (chairman of AirAsia's long-haul subsidiary) after she spoke openly against Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak despite being pressured to do so."

Mr Syed Saddiq said: This story is based on my own personal knowledge. TS (Tan Sri) Tony has helped us from the start, but can't disclose it to the public due to the fear of repression. I leave it to the Malaysian people to judge.

"But... the start of this new era will ensure that your right to openly criticise the government will be guaranteed," the MP said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2018, with the headline Pakatan MP backs AirAsia boss after vitriol over painting jet blue. Subscribe