KOTA KINABALU: It is puzzling that former Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal could have given the nod to a RM300 million loan by the Sabah Development Bank (SDB) to low-cost airline AirAsia.

Reportedly, the loan was approved under the Warisan Plus-led government. Surely its president could not claim innocence or ignorance on the matter as SDB is a government-linked company (GLC) and a loan of such a sizable amount would always require the consent from the state government. In this case, that consent must come from the Chief Minister at the time.

The loan was approved some time in May or June this year, which means it was approved at a time when Sabah was battling the coronavirus. The pandemic had already caused so much damage to the local economy and yes, the crippling of the aviation industry world over.

AirAsia is not spared of this fate. Already, the airline had been doing anything to cut its losses but as we all know, their creditors are hot on their heels. It had been reported the airline is bogged down with a RM65 billion debt.

It was reported that the loan was approved because AirAsia had promised to carry out a project that could create 100,000 jobs in Sabah.

Who are they trying to fool? An airline company that retrenched 24,000 of its own workers promised to create 100,000 jobs over a RM300 million loan? And they want to do this in time of crisis? Do they think Sabahans are gullible enough to actually believe this?

Just over a year ago, Shafie declared that Sabah money should only be used to develop the state before ordering SDB to stop investing in property development projects in the peninsula. He said Sabah needs the money more.

Given this recent development with AirAsia, did Shafie consider loaning Sabah money to a risky debtor as ‘developing the state’?

On the other hand, loaning an absurd amount of money at a time of crisis was not only unwise but almost inexplicable.

Sabah needs RM300 million now more than ever before. Instead of bailing out a multibillion ringgit which is probably close to insolvency, such amount could have been used to help small businesses.

Shafie must now come forward and defend this decision and explain why the Warisan Plus-led government granted such a huge loan to a debt ridden airline when the people of Sabah needed it more. –

Datuk Haji Faisyal Y.H. Diego

Division Chief,
Kota Kinabalu Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (BERSATU) Division