Union: Tell us whether the Subang Airport deal is on or off

Both WCT and the govt have been silent on the proposal, which technically is still on the table

by S BIRRUNTHA / pic by TMR FILE

THE Malaysia Airports Workers Union (Mawu) wants the government to clarify whether the deal to privatise management at the Subang Airport to a private company is off the table.

Mawu chairman Hussin Shahar said there has been no clarification since the controversial deal, that was supposed to get Cabinet approval in June, was apparently put on hold.

The proposed bid by WCT Holdings Bhd to privatise operations at the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport (LTSAAS) and develop the surrounding land was opposed by stakeholders including Mawu because it would derail the national aviation hub initiative.

Against mounting opposition, the government released a statement last month that it had no plans to sell any part of the airport to private interests.

Hussin said both WCT and the government have been silent on the proposal, which technically is still on the table.

He said the vague statements by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) and the Ministry of Transport (MoT) concerning the bid were not convincing or clear.

“They did not make it clear whether the proposal from WCT has been rejected or accepted,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

“What makes me uneasy is the word used by both ministries, where they mentioned ‘for now’.

This clearly means that they have something behind it, or they will do something after this.

“If they are sincere and do not have any plans to sell the airport, then why did they not say no to WCT’s proposal?”

Hussin said the union is in the dark on any negotiations being done and why WCT was interested in taking over LTSAAS.

However, he pointed out that the Subang Airport complex sits on valuable land suitable for commercial development.

“I am not sure what has transpired so far and what has made WCT want to take over suddenly, but we can guess it is the lucrative land nearby the city.

“We can see this from their first proposal, which is to build an airport city with more focus on commercial development and shopping malls.”

He said any privatisation of Subang Airport will be a setback to the national airport strategic plan. Hussin claimed that national security will be compromised if the airport falls into private hands.

He stressed that Mawu will oppose any takeover of the national asset.

On Jun 25, the government said there has been no decision to sell Subang Airport despite media reports that such a proposal was being considered.

In separate statements, MoF and MoT stated that the government had no plans to sell any part of the airport to the private sector.

However, MoT noted that the government did not bar any parties from submitting proposals to redevelop existing projects or developing new assets.

LTSAAS is one of 39 airports operated by Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB), in line with the operating agreement entered into in 2009 between the government and MAHB.

“MAHB is not the owner of any of the airport properties. So far, MAHB is still the responsible party to develop assets surrounding the Subang Airport,” it added.

MoF also noted that part of the Subang Airport land had been subleased by MAHB to Subang SkyPark Sdn Bhd for 30 years from 2007-2037. This includes operations of Terminal 3, the car park and the hangarage.

Previously, WCT had reportedly submitted a proposal to the Transport, Finance and Energy and Natural Resources Ministries in March this year to enter into a new 50-year concession with the government to operate the entire Subang Airport area until 2092 and redevelop the airport at a cost of RM3.7 billion over 10 years.

Following that, various parties including airport workers unions, industry experts and lawmakers have expressed that they are against such a proposal.

In response, the government said national airport operator MAHB’s lease on the airport runs until 2076.

“MAHB is responsible to develop LTSAAS as an international aerospace hub as per the Cabinet decision of March 2, 2005,” according to a government statement. “No decision has been made to alter this condition.”

It said any decisions regarding significant national assets will be done “with great care”. MoF said airport properties are considered strategic assets to the government and highlighted that MAHB still has a lease of 60 years until 2067 on the land where Subang Airport is currently located.