RACISM KILLS THE ECONOMY: NOW AXIATA FORCED TO DEFEND CELCOM’S NEW NON-MALAY CEO

PETALING JAYA – Axiata Group Berhad (Axiata) has defended Celcom’s new chief executive officer Michael Kuehner amid objections over the appointment of a foreigner to head the telecommunications company.

Clarifying its position on the matter, Axiata said it had appointed a four-person leadership team comprising three bumiputra talents to support Kuehner and help spearhead Celcom’s next phase of growth.

The three are Celcom’s executive committee (Exco) chairman Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim, and Celcom’s two deputy CEOs Azwan Khan Osman Khan and Mohamed Adlan Tajudin.

“To ensure the bumiputra and national agenda remains intact and on top of securing a successful business transformation, the Celcom Exco will meet more frequently than the Board.

“This team will be further supported by a new bumiputra Chief Human Capital Officer. We have also promoted at the same time a Malaysian as the new CFO (chief financial officer) to take over from an expatriate CFO,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

Axiata’s response was in reference to remarks by Klang Umno chief Datuk Nasaruddin M. Zin, who said at the division’s meeting recently that the CEO position in Celcom should be given to a Malay or Malaysian.

Datuk Seri Shazalli Ramly, who is the present CEO, is being promoted to corporate executive vice-president and regional CEO for Axiata’s South-East Asia operations effective Sept 1.

Axiata said the new CEO’s appointment was planned as a short-term measure with a view to grooming a bumiputra successor among the company’s pool of talent currently being developed.

It also defended Kuehner’s credentials, saying that he was well-respected for his understanding of Malaysia’s aspirations and sensitivities having worked here for the last 15 years.

“As a true professional, Michael is a long-standing member of the Axiata Group, and is committed to both the commercial and national objectives of Celcom.

“In his CEO role, he will continue to carry the Prime Minister’s approved mandates to empower bumiputra human capital and equality of opportunity as his personal KPI,” the company added.

Nasaruddin had told delegates at the division’s annual general meeting on Aug 27 that they were saddened by Kuehner’s appointment as the country’s telecommunications industry had churned out many local professionals who were capable of doing the job.

Celcom is part of the Axiata Group.

ANN