KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — Petronas advisor Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture) signalled his objection today to the national oil company’s CEO Tan Sri Hassan Marican being replaced with a senior politician.
The Malaysian Insider had reported last week that Hassan’s term at the helm of Petronas is likely to be extended for another year after his contract expires next month, but speculation persists about a politician taking over his job.
An announcement on the extension — expected soon from the government — will put an end to the uncertainty surrounding Hassan’s future.
Dr Mahathir said today that a politician appointed as chairman would not be in the interest of Petronas.
“Well, I do not know. From what I see is that some of the top politicians have been making a mess of our economy. If you want them to make a mess of Petronas then I think they should become the top executive or chairman of Petronas,” he told reporters at Petronas’s headquarters in KLCC here.
Speculation has been rife that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak plans to replace the current chairman with a senior politician with the former home minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar mentioned as one of the candidates.
Petronas is under the jurisdiction of the government and only the PM can determine such a senior appointment in the company.
Hassan also refused to comment on his future in the national oil company. “I think the best to comment is the government,” he said.
Petronas had recently announced that its net profit before tax for April — September 2009 was RM31.2 billion compared to RM63.3 billion in the same period last year. While at the same time, revenues dropped 37.5 per cent to RM 98.2 billion from RM157.2 billion.
The government has been criticised for its high dependency and over reliance on Petronas’ revenue. Many fear that Petronas funds will be abused with a politician appointed as the company’s chairman.
There has been swirling speculation that Hassan would be replaced as Petronas chief executive after his contract ends in February. This was because of his clashes with the Datuk Seri Najib Razak administration in the past year over an appointment to the board of directors and his own independent streak.
The clash with the administration happened last year when Omar Mustapha, a senior aide of Najib, was denied a board seat at the oil firm despite explicit instructions by the prime minister.
Under the Petroleum Development Act, the oil firm is answerable only to the PM, which meant that the board may have been insubordinate in its actions.
Eventually, a second request by Najib led to the board “deferring” the decision. Najib then put his foot down and Omar has since joined the board.
The Omar saga led to much speculation surrounding Hassan’s future. But The Malaysian Insider understands that the continued economic uncertainty and Hassan’s experience has made replacing him now an unattractive prospect.
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