A political fracas breaks out in Malaysia over the sale of 49.9% of national automaker Proton to Chinese automaker Geely.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, 90, has been leading a “Save Malaysia” campaign to oust the current prime minister Najib Razak. Mahathir alleges the Razak government’s support for the decision to sell Proton, a company he founded while in the top job, is an act of vengeance against him.

Earlier Mahathir, who was prime minister for 22 years until his retirement in 2003, wrote in a blog: “I cannot be proud of the success of something that does not belong to me or my country. Maybe other Malaysians will, but not me. I am a sissy. I cry even if Malaysians are dry-eyed. My child is lost. And soon my country.”

But Mustapa Mohamed, international trade and industry minister, says enough is enough.

“Proton will have a foreign strategic partner moving forward, but Malaysia still retains majority control,” Mustapa says in a statement. “Proton is known globally as a Malaysian brand and nothing can take that away from Proton.”

Mustafa says the choice was clear: “We either let Proton to restructure its business with the help of a foreign partner, or we turn a blind eye to the problems that the company is facing.

“At the end of the day, it is the interest of Proton’s vendors, management and staff that must be prioritized above and beyond pride as well as nostalgia. Logic and common sense must prevail against emotions at any turn, if we are to succeed in this rapidly changing global landscape.”

Mustapa says the Proton sale was purely a commercial move in the best interest of Proton, its vendors and employees. It was made after taking into account a number of factors including the benefits to be derived from Geely’s technology, R&D facilities and injection of cash.

“It is very unfortunate that the government’s sincere intention and unwavering commitment of wanting Proton to succeed were labeled by Tun Mahathir as an act of vengeance,” Mustapa says.

“The government will, and always, protect the best interest of the nation, and we do not make decisions based on personal vendettas and the need to settle scores.”

Mustapa says the new reality is that the automotive industry has become global and interconnected. Joint ventures have become a norm as not many automakers are standing on their own feet, citing examples such as Nissan-Renault.

“What is the point of maintaining ‘national pride’ as claimed by Tun Mahathir if it means letting the company to continue bleeding cash and jeopardizing the welfare of its workers?” he asks.

Mustapa says allegations Malaysia is sacrificing national pride are pointless, as evidenced by the Perodua-Daihatsu partnership and many other joint ventures by Malaysian companies.

“We live in a highly-globalized environment and to successfully compete globally, we must pool together our resources and forge ahead,” he says.