Tan Sri Tony Fernandes received a ton of backlash for supporting Barisan National (BN) before Malaysia’s 14th general election (GE14) took place last week.
Yesterday (Sunday, 13th May), the AirAsia Group CEO took to Facebook to publicly apologise for “buckling” at the crucial moment pre-GE14. Moments later, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz came to Tony’s defence by explaining her side of the story.
“I’m not someone who runs away from difficult situations, from times that we need to stand up and be counted. Today is one of them. I’m sorry for what has gone on. I buckled at the crucial moment in our history. And I think it’s right for me to try and explain what happened over the last few weeks,” the Malaysian entrepreneur said in his 7-minute long video.
He added, “When the rakyat came to us asking for more flights at a low fare. I decided that was the right thing to do. I knew it wouldn’t be popular with the government. But I felt as an airline, we have to serve the people and at this time, people really wanted to go back.” As a result, the Malaysian Aviation Commission, Mavcom, asked AirAsia to cancel those flights.
By unveiling an exclusive AirAsia plane in Kota Kinabalu, Tony explained that he did it for the sake of his entire team. “So, foolishly, I thought by doing the video, which I felt was fairly neutral and factual and the plane from Kota Kinabalu would appease the government and protect the jobs of our Allstars and more importantly, the very essence of allowing more than 80 million people to fly every year with low fares,” he said.
“I buckled. It wasn’t right, I will forever regret it,” the AirAsia GCEO reflected, before adding, “I apologise once again for the pain and the hurt I caused. My views, as I said earlier, are very much the same as all of your views.” His statement came 2 days after the newly elected Muar MP Syed Saddiq told the public that Tony had been unfairly criticised.
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Unspoken hero- Tony Fernandes. . . I’d like to share with you something i have been keeping to myself for a while now. I couldn’t share it before because we were imprisoned by the politics of fear. Activist, politicians and businessmen who were not in line with the ruling party’s ideology were threatened and pushed to a corner. . . I must share this now as i can’t stand witnessing a hero get wrongfully accused. . . This is a story that many don’t know. I had to keep it a secret, but in this new era, an era where your right to speak is being uphold, it is time for change. . . This is about Tan Sri Tony Fernandes. . . He was among the first persons that came to the aid of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin when Tan Sri was punished for speaking truth to power. . . He was once again a hero when AirAsia offered discounted flights and added flights during the election period. This infuriated some people in DS Najib’s circle. It became worse when DS Shafie’s (WARISAN) team uploaded a poster thanking this move as it meant that more WARISAN supporters can fly back home to vote. . . It didn’t stop there. He refused to fire Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz after she spoke openly against Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak despite being pressured to do so. . . He remained vigilant. . . Those actions came with a cost and he has to pay for it. . . He was pushed to a corner where he had to openly declare his support for the then ruling government. He had to take a video and his staffs had to change their uniforms. Pictures of the whole event were taken without the right context. . . Please Malaysia, don’t label him as a pengkhianat. . . This story is based on my own personal knowledge. TS 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 what I can promise you is this.. the start of this new era will ensure that your right to openly criticise the government will be guaranteed. You can openly endorse opposition parties without the fear of being persecuted. . . We want a strong opposition. So businessmen, feel free to support any side. We are now living in a new Malaysia.
Yesterday, Rafidah also took to Facebook to confirm that Tony had to make an unpopular decision due the pressures inflicted by Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration. Tony and his co-founder Datuk Seri Kamaruddin Meranun had previously conveyed a message from the “former PM’s operatives”, warning her to cease “attacking the then PM”.
I am chairman of AAX. The insinuation was if I persisted, then there will be ‘consequences’,” Rafidah wrote. She offered to resign in order to reduce the pressure but “they both responded with a big no. ‘We love you’ — those were Tony’s words. I was touched,” she explained.
“We all know the narrative. Tony did not not tell me that he was trying so hard to ‘placate’ the (then) PM and his ‘all powerful’ operatives. He knew I would veto it. His ‘mistake was (in) not telling me (about the plane). He got a private whacking from me already for that. Nothing personal… only for that error in judgement, or as I told him, his ‘stupidity’,” Rafidah added.
Read her full Facebook post here:
In similar news, Siti Nurhaliza and her family were also harassed for publicly supporting Tun Mahathir. Read what happened here.