Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed’s resignation from the post as Proton chairman on March 31 has certainly triggered a slew of activity and responses. Following his resignation, international trade and industry minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed released a lengthy statement that expressed how the government viewed the automaker and the current state it was in.

Finger pointing has come about as well. Over the weekend, it was reported that urban wellbeing, housing and local government minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan said that Tun Mahathir had to answer for Proton’s “colossal failure” and explain why the automaker was in such dire straits and in need of more financial aid.

Rahman also brought up the subject of the amount of financial assistance that had been given to the national carmaker – it was revealed in Mustapa’s statement that since its establishment in 1983, the government had provided grants, various forms of assistance as well as taxes forgone to Proton to the tune of about RM13.9 billion in total.

In response to Rahman’s remarks, Proton Edar Dealers Association (PEDA) president Armin Baniaz Pahamin has waded in with his views on who really is responsible for the situation. The following are his thoughts on the matter, posted on his blog Stay Tuned:

Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan said in a news report that Tun Mahathir must answer for Proton’s colossal failure; I feel the need to clarify.

1. Proton was the No 1 carmaker when Tun Mahathir was the Prime Minister.

2. Proton went downhill under Tun Abdullah Badawi’s premiership, whom was also the minister of finance, the holding company of Khazanah Nasional which was at that time the biggest shareholder of Proton Holdings Berhad. Datuk Mohammed Azlan Hashim was appointed by Khazanah Nasional as Proton chairman and was tasked to remove Tengku Mahaleel as the MD of Proton.

3. Datuk Mohammed Azlan Hashim succeeded in removing Tengku Mahaleel when his predecessor, also a Khazanah Nasional appointee, Datuk Abu Hasan Kendut, had failed. When Tengku Mahaleel was removed, he left Proton with RM4 billion in cash reserves.

4. Proton lost to Perodua as the number 1 carmaker under Datuk Mohammed Azlan Hashim when Khazanah Nasional was the biggest shareholder and in control of Proton.

5. Khazanah Nasional, via Datuk Mohammed Azlan Hashim had reversed Tengku Mahaleel’s decision to terminate EON as Proton distributor when EON refused to contribute to the R&D funds requested by Proton after the government stopped giving R&D grants for Proton development.

6. This resulted in a sales network with more than 400 dealers representation in Malaysia. This was the most destructive decision that weakened the once strong dealership network and (was) the start of a series of catastrophes.

7. Proton’s downfall started when Khazanah Nasional was the owner of Proton and when the government under Tun Abdullah Badawi had no clear vision and roadmap for the national car.

8. DRB-Hicom was asked to take over Proton for Barisan Nasional to win the previous election when one of the opposition’s strongest manifesto was to shut down Proton! DRB-Hicom then de-listed Proton and capitalised on Proton’s asset.

9. Proton’s real problem began when Khazanah Nasional wanted to gain control of Proton by sacking the performing and profitable Proton MD Tengku Mahaleel. Proton has been repeatedly raped since then.

10. Proton went into financial problem when all its cash reserves and assets were exhausted during those period under Khazanah Nasional. Tun Mahathir recently came back as Proton executive chairman to save whatever that is left in Proton. If there is anyone that should be blamed for Proton’s failure, then it should be Khazanah Nasional, and not Tun Mahathir.