All eyes were on Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan when the prominent corporate figure was made Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar. Many wondered if this former Mercedes-Benz boss could apply the success techniques in the corporate world to the running of a state. SIMON KHOO caught up with him one year later after his appointment.
MANY may have thought it would be a totally new experience for Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan when he took the plunge into public life by accepting the job of mentri besar a year ago.
But for this former Cycle & Carriage Bintang managing director, his political life began at the age of 18 when he joined Umno.
Mohamad, who is now Rembau division chief, became more active in politics and went on to be Rantau branch Youth chief before being elected Rasah division chief.
The pace of life may have changed now from the weekly golf games, fishing, reading or spending time with the family.
Mohamad said he has no regrets leaving the corporate sector and is taking his new responsibility in stride.
“I don’t think being MB (Mentri Besar) is glamorous. Personally, the position carries a very heavy responsibility as I have to work doubly hard,” he said in a recent interview on his first year as mentri besar.
“As Year Two approaches, I have to switch to second gear after ensuring both the front and back alignment are balanced,” said Mohamad, who is frequently referred to as the former Mercedes-Benz boss.
Mohamad, who spent his first year learning about the system and culture of working in the public sector, said: “I came from a totally different world. That’s why sometimes I have to be careful where I step to avoid 'mines.' By now, I know Negri Sembilan like the back of my hand. They cannot temberang (fool me).”
He said he had to adjust his style of hitting out at people publicly because they were resistant to it.
But one habit he continues with is setting out on his motorcycle periodically to check on the state of Negri Sembilan.
“Yes. I do check on certain things. It helps to keep people on their toes. In my administration, performance is all that matters, not seniority or where the person is from.”
He caught many by surprise when he exposed illegal sand-dredgers, reprimanded rude counter staff and even uncover a trader who could obtain a licence via a third party.
Mohamad said he was pleased that his approach was changing the attitude of civil servants.
“I can see a vast difference now. They are speaking up during meetings, giving their opinions and exchanging ideas. These are positive signs.”
He cited the Seremban Municipal Council as an example of improvements under his watch.
“There are fewer public complaints now and I can see workers sweeping the road and collecting rubbish.”
However, his first year had not been a bed of roses.
He was accused of “cronyism” for appointing his brother, Datuk Azman Hasan, as state Umno secretary.
To this, Mohamad said: “I cannot afford to appoint a person who has a personal agenda, lest it weakens and destroys the party.
“All my time is dedicated to developing the state. I need a good sparring partner, one whom I can trust and is not ambitious. Who else if not my own brother?
“People can talk all they want. He gets nothing from me.
“We argue a lot but at the end of the day, he does as I instruct him to.
“Don’t underestimate my capabilities. I have managed a company with a turnover of RM3bil.”
As a full-time politician now, Mohamad finds he has less time for his family and was reminded of the fact when his youngest daughter Aiza, 11, wrote in a note he found: “I wish to have my family back.”
Relating the incident, he said he had to break a promise to take his daughter out because he had to attend an official function.
Mohamad, who has four other children Amri, 21, Amira, 19, Azrin 17, and Alia, 13, knew that Aiza missed the days when she could have more of his attention.
“I try my best to take them out for dinner at least once a week,” he said.
“It’s not as often as before but I think they understand my situation,” he said, adding that his wife Raja Salbiah Tengku Nujumuddin has been supportive and understanding.
He said that if he had not accepted the mentri besar post, he would have remained a businessman and would have more time for his family.
“I’ll carry on for as long as I am needed. Come the day when my services are no longer required, I’ll pack my bags and go. That’s not a problem as I do not harbour hopes of becoming prime minister.”
For now, what he wants to do is develop the state to a point where it is as progressive as its neighbours.
“The state is so much more backward when compared with its neighbours, I don’t want Negri Sembilan to be short-changed. I can’t accept that.”