Political naysayers predicted that Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir would not last the race when he was given the reins to lead Perak after DAP lost the state by technicality in 2009. The appointed Mentri Besar, however, has brought prosperity to the Silver State and believes the results of his administration will speak for themselves this time.
WHEN Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir took over as Mentri Besar after the DAP-led coalition government in Perak fell in 2009, sceptics predicted his administration too would not last. However, he steered the Silver State towards political stability with an influx of investments and development. It is now a frontline state that the Barisan Nasional is banking on in the upcoming general election. RAZAK AHMAD reports.
Q: It has been four years (February 2009) since you became Mentri Besar of Perak. How have the voters responded to the state government this time?
A: I did not expect to take up the leadership of the state at a time of crisis. But we have managed to further develop the state and maintain stability despite some political naysayers saying the Barisan Nasional government would last only three months (laughs).
The state had been through a tumultuous period but I believe voters can judge which side can better provide stability and deliver on promises. At the end of the day, they will decide based on what have been achieved. They want results, not rhetoric.
In terms of results, what has the current state administration delivered?
We improved on the delivery of government services. Ownership transfers (pindah milik) used to take about one-and-a-half years. We cut that to a matter of hours, in some cases.
Exco meetings used to be once in a fortnight but it is now held once a week. There used to be a backlog of 15,000 files requiring the attention of the exco but we have almost cut that down completely.
We introduced the Perak Amanjaya development blueprint to spur economic growth and improve quality of life. Local and foreign investments rose from RM890mil in 2009 to RM2.28bil last year.
It hit a staggering RM9.94bil in 2011 due to an investment by international metal and mining giant Vale SA.
A total of 55,000 jobs were filled in the past four years. Pakatan Rakyat claims to have support from a major chunk of the Chinese electorate, including in Perak. How do you view the Chinese voters' sentiment?
It would be an oversimplification to say the Chinese votes are gone for Barisan in Perak.
The Chinese community is diverse and pragmatic. Thus, Chinese sentiments in the Kinta Valley, Manjung, Taiping, Pengkalan Hulu and Tanjung Malim differ. This is based on many factors, including the performance of politicians in these areas.
For example, I can count on the support of the Chinese voters in my constituency of Pangkor because they have known me for a long time and can judge my performance.
Similarly, if you look at the work put in by Barisan, including MCA under Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, in addressing issues faced by the community, I am certain we have an advantage.
How important are the Chinese votes for Perak?
We cannot close the door to any community. Perak is 57% Malay, 28% Chinese and 11.66% Indian in terms of population distribution, the state is a microcosm of Malaysia.
Some people say Perak Government can be formed with a single dominant race. I disagree.
Umno will contest more than 30 of the 59 state seats but the way DAP is playing the game, the fear is that we could get a lopsided representation, with a particular race on one side and another race on the other side.
This will not create a good governing system. We need Malay, Chinese and Indian representatives to reflect our ethnic ratio. So, I hope, voters will help us.
Has there been a swing in Malay votes to Barisan?
Many Malays were caught by surprise when Perak fell to the Opposition but they have witnessed the political instability that continues within Pakatan today.
It is not only in DAP, with the spat between Kula and the cousins but also between PAS and the PKR, now jostling for seats.
(Kula is DAP vice-chairman and Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran while the cousins are Perak DAP chief Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham and party assistant treasurer Nga Kor Ming, who are both also MPs and state assemblymen).
There have been issues concerning Islam that have made the Malays feel uneasy about the Opposition, whose leaders appear to be spending most of their time bad-mouthing Barisan.
Many are now fed up with Pakatan.
Weaknesses, in terms of party disunity contributed to Barisan's 2008 defeats. Have these been rectified?
There were weaknesses on our part in 2008. We have learnt from our shortcomings and tried to overcome them. The realisation is there and, based on this, I believe we will form a good government if given the chance again.
Another challenge is keeping the political personalities at the divisions on the same page so that those not selected as candidates will not sabotage Barisan. How big a concern is this in Perak?
I have repeatedly told our party members that we have put in the hard work and are now in the final lap and leading the race. If we start fighting about candidates, all the work done will be wiped out.
Our members have experienced the consequence if they sabotage Barisan. They have learnt from the 11 months that Perak was under Pakatan rule. This, I believe, will guide their conscience.
We have been engaging with our members for the past several years on this subject and some have agreed to step aside this time around.
How do you view the shifting of Ipoh Timur MP Lim Kit Siang to Johor and taking along with him other DAP incumbents, such as Kulasegaran and Batu Gajah MP Fong Po Kuan?
DAP is overconfident about retaining its seats in Perak and its leaders, especially Kit Siang, now try to expand their turf and hope to make a grand entrance in Johor as conquerors.
But he has to bear in mind that political journeys have a beginning and an end. It could well turn out to be the end of the line for him.
There is also the possibility they are fed up with the spat between the Nga-Ngeh faction and the Kula faction, so better to move out.
There is also talk that Opposition Leader and Permatang Pauh MP Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim may be contesting in Perak. What do you make of it?
I don't know if he is coming but the level of enthusiasm by his supporters, especially those in PAS pleading for him to contest in Perak, raises questions.
I am a small fry while he is a whale, so why should he come here?
They know they are not able to wrest the state from Barisan, so they need a big name to come here and lead the charge.
If he wants to come, I will fight him in my small fry way but he knows we will never surrender.
There is talk you may be moved to a Federal seat and someone else will take over as Mentri Besar if Barisan retains Perak. Is this true?
This is a non-issue. Speculation about my position has been played up by the Opposition through tweets and blogs for a simple reason. They are hoping to crack the cohesion in Barisan.
They are trying to put me on a collision course with Husni (Tambun MP and Finance Minister II Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah), Zahid (Bagan Datoh MP and Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi) and Nazri (Paddang Rengas MP and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz).
I consider these three my brothers and they have publicly stated they are behind me. So, that answers everything.
For more election stories, please visit The Star's GE13 site