Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz fields the 10 questions posed by our readers.
1. One of the lasting memories of you is that you were crying for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad not to resign. Describe your relationship with the former premier? Ana Tesh, KL
We had a cordial relationship and I wrote many personal letters to him on anything and everything that I felt I needed to let him know. I regarded him as my father figure and had the highest respect for his leadership. I thoroughly enjoyed being in his Cabinet. He had so many ideas and, of course, the vision on the way to take our nation forward and to progress towards developed nation status. With Tun, I could express my views and disagree. That was why I could not accept that he actually wanted to step down so suddenly. After that public announcement, I spent quite a while in the room at the PWTC persuading him to stay on. That was the most traumatic hour of my life.
2. There are allegations that you gave too many APs to selected groups while you were the International Trade and Industry Minister. Were you fair in doing that? Lara D, Seremban
It's not a question of being “fair or not”. Those were false and malicious allegations! I hold very dearly to my oath of office and I abhor the notion of giving favours to family and friends. I never subscribe to cronyism or patronage in government. We are there to serve the nation and the people, not to serve family and friends or to enrich ourselves. The facts are there for anyone to see and check. I have explained to parliament and to the Umno General Assembly. Everything is on record. I did not decide on my own on allocation of APs or shares. It's by a committee comprising the secretary-general, two deputy secretaries-general, some senior officers and the officers from the relevant units, who actually process every application, and make recommendations.
The processing is according to very clear and strict guidelines and criteria. The guidelines ensure that merit is the basis for decision. I really resent any insinuation of improper decision making. Integrity is one thing I am proud of as my life's principle. But as the Malay proverb goes: One can put a lid on a water jar but one cannot close a human being's mouth. Especially those that open without checking the truth and the facts. Smearing a person's name by false allegation is worse than murder. One cannot spend a lifetime explaining the truth and clearing one's name which has been unfairly and falsely tarnished. For me, I have submitted to God Almighty to judge and protect me from these irritations in life. As long as my conscience is crystal clear and I am in the right, then let the foul mouths open and gape!
3. Do you feel there was some unfinished business at Miti when you left and what was the most challenging task that you faced while being minister? Anthony Wong, JB
Nothing is ever finished because the world of trade and industry is so dynamic, with many new developments happening on an ongoing basis. But I am happy to have shaped what I call the Miti culture of efficient, trustworthy and business friendly service. I hope Miti will still hold on to and practise that culture. There were many challenging tasks. To name a few: getting the Miti staff to really understand their roles in facilitating the private sector, negotiating all those agreements especially in the Uruguay Round and the Doha Round which is still not concluded. These tested my patience.
4. Do you miss politics and could you have done things differently? Sarah Mohd, PJ
I am still in politics as I am a member of the Umno Supreme Council. I feel we did the right things given the circumstances at any one particular time. I have been an Umno Supreme Council member since the time of the late Tun Abdul Razak in 1975 a total of 36 years now. Politics is part of my life because I care about what happens to our nation. I am still a member of parliament since 1978, now almost a total of 33 years.
5. What do you think of the job that Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is doing and his economic plans? Hans Edward, Penang
The PM is doing a good job moving forward our agenda to be a developed nation by 2020. He has initiated changes to ensure we can achieve our targets. What's important is that the people continue to strongly support him and the Barisan Nasional government so that Malaysia can realise Vision 2020. There are so many challenges and the nation and the people must galvanise as Malaysians to ensure the nation can successfully overcome those challenges.
6. Do you think more people should be given opportunities based on merit rather than race? Salamah, KL
It has been 40 years since the New Economic Policy was implemented and many young bumiputras now have the education, skills and capacity to compete with anyone anywhere. Certainly, merit should be the basis if Malaysia wants to have the best, and nurture the best, among the people. Merit will place Malaysia in good stead in regional and global competition.
7. You are known as the Iron Lady. How do you balance your work life? What are your tips for aspiring career women and mothers out there? Shamini Batumalai, KL
Some call me Iron Lady because I do not compromise where Malaysia's interests are concerned. I cannot tolerate those who try to just bulldoze things. I don't tolerate nonsense. But really, I am a soft-hearted person and sentimental too. But professionally, I can be very tough ... no business flashing sweet smiles and turning on feminine charms when dealing with serious and often technical issues. At home, I am just a wife who cleans the toilet and bathroom and who attends to the nitty-gritty of family life. I am simply Rafidah to my husband and mummy to my children and now grandma to my five grandchildren. And my maids always refer to me as “makcik”. No titles or status at home! Therefore, family life is completely separate from my politics and my job, And my family is top priority. For women and mothers, be good mothers first before trying to improve society or even pursuing personal ambition. After all, one needs a happy family to share one's success, and if the family has been neglected or placed second, the family members would always feel the neglect and lack of love and attention. One goes home to the family, not sleep in the office.
8. What do you think of the quality of our members of parliament today compared to those of yesteryears? How do you rate their command of English? And why? David Tih, Malacca
Some MPs are good as they speak with facts and, obviously, have made efforts at research. Some prefer to shout around and just say things without thinking of how it will affect others. I cannot stand that. But that's life.
Parliament deserves decorum and decent behaviour and it's not the place for rowdiness, which often gives the impression of immaturity and uncouth behaviour. Regarding having a good command of English, this goes for EVERYONE, not just MPs. It's a universal language and we must master it if we want to succeed in this increasingly competitive world
9. Getting to fly into Sydney and Jeddah has been an uphill battle for AIRASIA X. What are the roadblocks and do you see them removed anytime soon?
Cheng Yap, PJ
AirAsia X needs the approval of the government to mount flights on those routes. We are not really competing with MAS as we are a long haul low cost airline and want to provide the opportunity to more Malaysians to fly to those destinations at cheaper cost. Those who can't afford to fly at premium airline ticket prices can fly with AirAsia X. More Muslims can fly to Jeddah and do their Umrah as they pay much lower ticket prices. And on the reverse, we can bring in more tourists from the Middle East and Australia to Malaysia , especially those who otherwise cannot afford normal premium airline rates. And KLIA can become a hub for low cost flight from Malaysia to the region and the rest of the world and vice versa .
10. You had a glittering career as the former International Trade and Industry Minister. How did you feel when you were dropped from the Cabinet in 2008? Louis, Kuching
I was 65 when I retired. So it was time to go. I had long prepared my mindset for retirement because political posts are very insecure. I am so very lucky to be able to serve my country, in government, for a total of almost 34 years! It's been a real privilege. I am very happy as I am now. Never any regret.
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Our next interviewee is SOREN RAVN the managing director of CARLSBERG BREWERY MALAYSIA BHD.
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