AirAsia X CEO finds backing from Najib’s brother for ‘speaking his mind’ on Utusan
The captain of the long-haul budget airline, which will be making its market debut next month, had been the public target of Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia’s venom for much of last month, after he criticised the Malay broadsheet for what he saw as racial instigation in the aftermath of the May 5 polls that split the country apart.
Nazir, the lead banker for AirAsia X’s listing on Malaysia’s main bourse, praised Azran for speaking his mind and doing what he believed was the right thing.
The remarks appeared to be in reference to Azran’s run-in with Utusan Malaysia, although Nazir made no specific mention of the newspaper.
The younger brother to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak added that it was these qualities in the airline’s management team which had seen it register a 70 per cent annual growth in its revenues since it launched its first flight in November 2007.
Azran had come under the right-wing daily’s hammer last month after criticising Utusan on his Twitter account, @azranosmanrani, for what he reportedly saw as a racial instigation in the aftermath of the May 5 polls.
He was also reported to have criticised Malay group Perkasa for its hardline stance as an irrelevant organisation that had caused Malays to be myopic.
In response, the paper had published daily views from Perkasa leaders, the Muslim Consumers Society of Malaysia and pro-Umno activists who slammed Azran, branding him “arrogant” and a Malay who had forgotten his roots.
AirAsia X chairman Tan Sri Rafizah Aziz and director Datuk Seri Kalimullah Hassan had also come under attack from various groups after the duo had defended Azran’s comments.
Self-declared Malay rights champion Perkasa, the Ex-Servicemen Association of Malaysia, Malaysian Reformists Movement and the Malaysian Malay Network were among the groups that lashed out at both Rafidah and Kalimullah and demanded the duo apologise for their remarks against Utusan which they say is the voice of the Malays.
Perkasa’s acting president Datuk Abdul Rahman Bakar had rallied to the paper’s defence and blasted Azran, saying the latter could not have climbed up to his present position without the “Malay power fought for by Utusan Malaysia”.
“Has Azran never thought also that the licence issued by the government to AirAsia is because at first the airline was owned by Malays?” Abdul Rahman was quoted as saying in one such report.
On May 19, Utusan columnist Awang Selamat — the nom-de-plume for the paper’s collective editorial voice — told the Umno-owned paper to stop taking the airline’s ads until its sister company’s chief executive apologises for criticising the broadsheet’s racist piece.
“Awang would like to suggest that the Utusan Group not accept any AirAsia ad as long as there is no apology. Let the company’s advertisement go to another paper, but not Utusan.
“Without AirAsia, Awang Selamat will not have any problem. Furthermore, the value of the advertisement given is very small, lower than advertisements for herbal and hair treatments,” it said.
The columnist also compared Asia’s biggest budget flier to Malaysia Airlines (MAS), and described the national carrier as having better service and a strong nationalist spirit.
“To those who serve we are polite, especially the Malaysian airline whose service is better and thick with nationalism,” it said.