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Mahathir defends proposed Telenor-Axiata merger, dismisses concern over Huawei

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

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TOKYO, May 31 2019 : Strategic alliances with international telecommunication giants are necessary for the country to acquire and keep up with technology, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

If this was not done, Malaysia would be left behind as technology moved at a very fast pace, he said.

“We need partners in the field of telecommunications. When we have a joint venture with a foreign company, it does not mean that we surrender our telecommunications business to them.

“We are working with them, acquiring the technology, but we retain control of our own telecom operations in Malaysia,” he told a press conference today to wrap up his three-day working visit to Japan.

The prime minister was responding to a question on the proposed merger of Norway’s Telenor Group and Axiata Group Bhd of Malaysia.

Telenor, the parent company of Malaysia-listed Digi.Com Bhd, and Axiata recently announced that they were in talks to merge their operations in Southeast Asia and South Asia to create a company with 300 million customers in nine countries.

Telenor is expected to own 56.5 per cent of the merged company based on equity value while Axiata would own 43.5 per cent.

Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir reiterates that there is no basis for concern about the use of Huawei’s 5G infrastructure in Malaysia, especially regarding the alleged use of the technology for espionage activities by China.

He said it was necessary to continue using the service of the Chinese telecom giant to bolster Malaysia’s quest for technological advancement.

“Huawei, as we know, is a high-tech company, especially in telecommunications. They do a lot of research and have built sophisticated mobile phones to achieve the 5G stage. Their products are much better than others, especially compared to American mobile phones.

“Maybe people in the United States are afraid of spying by Huawei. But in Malaysia, there is nothing to spy on, certainly not in terms of industrial technologies. So we welcome them, we work with them, and we acquire their technology,” Dr Mahathir said.

He added that the western country’s suspicion was probably because it was hiding something while Malaysia did not have anything to hide.

Yesterday, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia was unperturbed with the allegation of spying levelled against Huawei and would continue to make use of the latter’s technology as much as possible.

Meanwhile, asked if the country was now taking a softer stance towards China as reflected by his decision on Huawei, Dr Mahathir said it was a reasonable stand.

“I think we are reasonable. We want to be friendly with all the countries in the world; we do not want to be at war with people. We know their strengths and we know our weaknesses,” he said.

The prime minister, accompanied by his wife Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, left for Kuala Lumpur at 3.20pm local time, after finishing a three-day working visit to Japan. – Bernama

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