Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed’s image took a beating when he left the Public Accounts Committee for a government position. The new Deputy Home Minister intends to close the gap between those angry with him and those who like him by helping Malaysians regardless of race through the ministry.
FOR someone appointed as Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed is not showing if he is having a good time learning the ropes on the job. He used to be carefree and outspoken in the past but since his appointment a month back, he looks stressed and under pressure.
He doesn’t smile as much any more and it is apparent that he is holding something back and is measured when he speaks.
“In my position now, I have to take into consideration the police, civil servants and other factors and find a balance before I say something. From a free spirit, I have to be a ‘grown-up’ now. I can’t be myself any more,” he admits.
Nur Jazlan has taken quite a beating in the eyes of the rakyat when he gave up the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman post to become a deputy minister at the crucial moment when the PAC was just days away from calling in the key people in 1MDB to explain the controversial deals.
“People are angry. If elections are called tomorrow, I’ll lose my (Pulai parliament) seat for sure.”
But he maintains that the PAC has already pushed the 1MDB issue to the limits and that all the new chairman has to do now is “put on the roof” because the foundation is all there.
He says it is a problem when information comes in “drips, bits and pieces”.
Stressing that he is an Umno man through and through, he worries that if questions on 1MDB and the RM2.6bil political funding are not adequately answered, these issues will “permeate and linger” until the next general election and affect the party.
“I don’t know if the PM realises it or not. But he has got to answer everything one shot instead of responding in drips of information.”
Below is the full interview:
Q: You went from one of the most respected Umno politicians in the eyes of the rakyat to one of the most hated. How do you feel about it?
That’s what people feel today. Politics is a thankless job. No matter what I do I will always be wrong especially if I am in government. The opposition is never wrong.
When I was playing the role as a bit of an opposition (within Barisan Nasional), people had a different perception of me.
But now when I am in the executive, they've changed their perception of me.
I think it is unfair for people to look at me that way because for two years they said I was doing a good job as the PAC chairman.
Q: In the past you talked about wanting to change the old kind of thinking in Umno. Have you changed your mind on that?
I will always be Umno. There is no point fighting Umno from the outside. There's proof of the pudding. You have to change Umno from the inside.
Q: In your two years as PAC chairman you did a damn good job and people started sitting up and taking notice of you, why throw that away?
People respond to the opposition's kind of perspective, People’s perception was that I was acting like opposition. I stretched the PAC to the limits with the help of my committee members because we all really believed in what we are doing to a point where other people too believed in what we are doing. PAC has been there for decades. As I’ve always said, PAC will continue anyway without me there.
Q: When you came in as the PAC chairman, you said you wanted to be a ‘PAC evangelist.' And just days before the key figures in 1MDB are being called to appear before PAC, everything gets derailed. Comment?
It only got postponed for a while. What are you talking about? The new chairman might be better than me! And at least I put the foundation of PAC in place. We never had staff before now we have staff in. The website was non-existent and now we have put it up and people can follow the proceedings by reading the report. We have attached the hansard to the proceeding. This was not available before. So now people can actually go online and get themselves updated with what the PAC has been doing through its proceedings.
Q: But this give the impression that Nur Jazlan does things half-way and leaves mid-stream when something better comes along?
The problem with me before was I was offered the PAC job in 2013, after I rejected a deputy minister post. I rejected that deputy post because it wasn’t a challenge for me.
Now when I am offered this post at the Home Ministry, I feel it is actually a ministry that is very important. I report to the (Home) minister (Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi) who is now the DPM. But of course at that time (when I accepted the deputy post) I didn’t know he was going to be the DPM. And as PAC chairman I’ve already laid the foundation so somebody else can come in and take over . It is not a problem. At the Home Ministry I feel I can do a lot more.
Q: So you are actually saying you would dump something half-way when something better comes along?
That politics. That’s why ministers stay in the job for only a few years. Not many ministers stay for 10 or 15 years. When they are called by the PM to change portfolios they can’t say ‘no’. We can’t choose portfolios.
Q: And yet you did just that. You rejected a deputy minister post earlier in 2013 before accepting this one?
That was because that ministry wasn't challenging enough for me. So PAC was more challenging for me. Because PAC at that time was at very low level in terms of public awareness. And I brought it up in two years.
Q: Some say you lack courage. You were so close to calling the key figures in the 1MDB to appear before the PAC. That would have put you in a very difficult situation so you took the easy way out by accepting the deputy minister post?
For two years I pushed the boundaries of PAC, so what do you mean I lack the courage?
We have already sent the letters to call the 1MDB CEO and Jho Low to appear so that was done. Now it has just been delayed for two months. When they will start again in Oct, PAC will continue with it. Other PAC members (other than Nur Jazlan, three others were also co-opted into the administration) too have had to vacate their seats in PAC. To me it is not an issue because it can start again in Oct. As for the question of courage, I have taken it to the limit okay? Now I am given a better assignment so I take it – that’s politics.
Q: You do realise that in the eyes of everyone, it is evident that it is when you all were closing in on 1MDB issue that the four of you from PAC were co-opted to administration?
Yes I do. All of us were offered better opportunities and we took it. That’s all. It doesn’t mean that we didn’t do our job in the PAC. In fact we did better than the previous PAC.
So on the issue of courage we have already taken it that far and we have pushed the limit.
Q: But it is as if you were going bungee jumping and put on the gear and this happens just as you are at the edge and about to jump?
Why would you use bungeee jumping as an example? I would look at it as completing a building and now you just need to complete the roof. The building is almost ready.
At the point you are building the roof, your parent comes and ask you ‘Can you build that 10- storey building?’ so you go. That’s how I look at it. This one (PAC) the house is almost ready and only the roof is left. For me, I took the bigger challenge of building a bigger building.
Q: Did the four of you discuss this among yourselves when you were offered the post?
No because it was a shock to us also. I only knew about it the day before.
Q: Doesn’t this dent the standing of Umno because it looks like Umno politicians can be bought off by cushy and more powerful jobs?
Do you think deputy minister is a cushy job?
Q: Yes because the Home Ministry is very powerful.
I am only a machai. I follow the minister. The minister says ‘jump I jump’ he says ‘walk I walk’ ‘Sit I sit’.
The other PAC members (Datuk Seri) Reezal Merican ((Naina Merican) is in the Foreign Ministry, (Datuk Mas) Ermieyati (Samsudin) is in Tourism and Datuk Wilfred (Madius Tangau) is at Mosti (as the Science, Technology and Innovation minister).
If you look at the jobs offered to them, those are quite heavy jobs. So to say we were bought out by the deputy minister title and position is not true if you look at the actual essence of the porfolios that we are given.
Q: So you don’t think it puts a dents in Umno’s standing among the rakyat and people would say ‘See Nur Jazlan is just the same as anyone else’?
I would give that analogy to people like (Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim, He was highly respected in Umno. (Then after he was sacked) he went on to Parti Keadilan. Although he didn’t achieve the same kind of level as a deputy Prime Minister, he was still respected as an opposition leader. That was a bigger dent on Umno. People asked why was he sacked? They didn’t believe the allegations against him. That issue dented Umno worse than this one has. It caused us to lose a lot of Malay votes in the 1999 general election.
Q: Looking back after this one month, do you think you made the right choice taking on this deputy minister’s post?
I worry about my new job more than the PAC. Because the PAC was actually quite passive. We sit and we call witnesses who come and give us testimony. We do our report and make our recommendations. That is all we can do. This is what people don’t understand. I do feel guilty that I made people believe that PAC was more than what it actually was. Because if you look at our report we can only recommend action. If there is corruption, we can only say MACC please investigate and we can ask the police to do that. But it is still left to them to investigate and then go to the Attorney-General if there is a case. There are still many steps after the PAC. It’s not just whatever we say ‘That is it’ and they have to take action. We can’t do that.
Q: But in your heart of hearts wouldn’t you have liked to see the completion?
Of course because it’s my baby. But it’s actually (PJ Utara MP) Tony Pua’s baby. I treat it as an anak tiri ( a step child) . Tony Pua is the one I must say who devoted a lot of time to looking into 1MDB. As the PAC chairman, I looked at what he did and we all really thought it was worth pursuing.
My background too is in accountancy therefore I invested a lot of my personal effort in it to get the investigation going. We took it to the point we were going to call Jho Low. I don’t know how far the previous PAC would have gone. But we have taken it this far.
It’s just postponemet of two months before the next chairman takes over.
Q: Are you confident that under the new chairman, PAC will be able to see it to a satisfactory completion?
Yes. But then the new committee has got to be as co-operative as the last committee. In the last PAC ,we were all thinking as one. When we decided to call the 1MDB CEO and board of directors and Jho Low we all made the decision on consensus.
I hope the new committee can co-operate and work on consensus because we have already laid down the foundation for them to continue.
Q: But looking at what has happened with the Special Branch top officers being transferred, the MACC’s aborted transfer and the co-opted PAC members in the administration, it looks like we can expect a new chairman and the new members who won’t be co-operative. They would want to stall or hinder investigations so that it doesn’t continue?
It depends on the new chairman and the deputy. Because the government too has a problem if it adopts a partisan attitude to PAC. It would make PAC meaningless.
Q: But wasn't PAC meaningless before your time?
It is up to the people to make the committee meaningful. Just like how we did for the last two years.
Q: Some would argue you put self interest above that of the nation and the people?
Listen! If I accepted a job in the Prime Minister’s department looking after nothing, then yes you could say that. But I am a deputy minister in the Home Ministry which has important functions. We handle citizens from birth to death, issues on security, passports, drugs, prisons and Rela. You are talking about the reach of government servants and Rela people which is about three million. In Rela itself, there are about two million.
Q: But when you were not there someone else was already doing that job?
But did the deputy minister of home affair before this shine?
Q: Yes. The late Tan Sri Megat Junid did.
That was 20 years ago! The point is this job is an important function for me to develop my government skills. This is my first time in the executive of the government. I have never been in the executive.
Q: How has the learning process been so far?
It has been very good so far. There are a lot of issues of which the people have negative perceptions against the government because of what the ministry does. Now I can see the limitation and problems in the actual implementation. So that is the part I can help. Just take the Immigration and IC departments, the counter service is very fast now and nobody complains anymore.
Q: But that has already been done sometime ago?
Yes that is my point - that change can be done. But it still needs the person to help drive that change.
Q: So you want to be that person?
I want to help. I’ve got my minister lah (who is in charge). If I say I want to drive the change the minister will say ‘Excuse me’ (Who are you?). I want to help drive the change. But I find that in the ministry itself I don’t have time for myself anymore.
Q: What do you mean?
The Home Ministry is real time. Like the other day for Bersih 4, I was in the background. We were quite happy that the police did not do as they did in the past. So that was a change. That is the change where the minister and person in charge can influence the situation. The police didn’t like it because to them it is a challenge to their authority. For them how can people go running around demonstrating without respecting the law? But they allowed it anyway. That is a change in the police. Now they are taking action against the organiser which is fine.
But with the people, the police have shown they can exercise a great deal of tolerance even though the public was doing something which is illegal but they were doing it for a cause.
Q: In the past you’ve spoken about fighting a lonely battle in Umno to change the old thinking. But once you got appointed as deputy minister, how come you embrace the old thinking of Umno by saying the Bersih 4 is illegal and asking them to hold their rallies in Selangor and Penang instead?
Why do it in KL? Why do it at Dataran Merdeka just before Merdeka? Because it has bigger impact. Why don’t they do it in a small space ? Because 20,000 people can look like 200,000 people.There was a report using a mapping software that said maybe only 70,000 to 100,000 people attended. But Bersih says 300,000 or half million attended. Bersih is also being political. If they want to be political then they should fight in the proper arena which is elections. Why do they have to resort to street demonstration?
Q: My question is last time you were all for a new thinking in Umno but once you became deputy minister your thinking has changed and you are nothing like the previous you?
We have to balance out the opinions of the police force, the army and the people. Before when I was a backbencher, I can say whatever I want and not worry about other consideration. In a way I was being irresponsible by not considering all the other opinions. So now I have to find action that can take into account all the groups. The proof is in the pudding. When I said there could be anarchists there – well, there could have been. Why are people so confident there would not be? For Bersih 2, they (Bersih 2 supporters) said the police and plainscloth policemen started the whole thing (the chaos). But how sure are they of that? There are anarchist groups out there. During the Reformasi street protests (in 1998) , people were going around acting in an anarchist way and burning tyres and all that. So the police always worry about such things. And I have to echo what the police is saying as well. The fact that later on when the demonstration passed, and nothing (bad) happened that is good. But the police needs to be vigilant against all these threats. I said peaceful assembly only works when it is done at locations that have been gazetted in law. Dataran Merdeka wasn’t.
Since the Act has been passed in 2012, the ministry has had discussions with all the states because the states own the location for public use. But they haven’t gazetted even one location because DBKL, Penang and Selangor (and the other states) didn’t want to give theirs to be used .
(Penang Chief Minister Lim) Guan Eng says go to Penang, so ok I’ll go to Penang and get the Penang state's agreement on the sites that can be designated for public protest . Bersih 4 was not done at a gazetted site as required by the Peaceful Assembly Act so the police is not wrong in calling the assembly illegal!
Despite this, because of political concerns the police facilitated the rally even though they knew it was against the law.
Q: Now that you’ve seen to see that the Bersih 4 rally has gone peacefully isn’t it time for Malaysia as a more mature developing country and thinking society to allow for more peaceful rallies?
Peaceful assembly can only work when you define the designated sites under the law like the Speakers Corner in Singapore.
Q: But who goes there? Surely we shouldn’t be looking at strict Singapore as the example. Let’s look at places like London and Washington DC which allows for peaceful assembly and demonstration?
Over there the police co-operate very well with the NGOs. They allow demonstrations. In London, a few years ago we saw the ugly side of demonstrations.
Q: But that was one incident. In Malaysia too, we have seen an ugly side (Bersih 2 and Bersih 3)?
Because of that one incident. the police will be criticicised over and over again. That is why they wanted to avoid it.
Q: But back then, we did not have the Peaceful Asssembly Act and now with Bersih 4, Malaysians have shown they can have assemble and gather peacefully?
But the Peaceful Assembly Act has a flaw because it doesn’t have the gazetted sites.
Q: But Suhakam says that people should be free to assemble where they choose. They just need to give notice to the police. Comment?
The point is how. Our thinking is having a designated site is a better way than for them to choose anywhere that they want to do it.
Q: Why is it that when the Peaceful Assembly Act has been passed in 2012 - that three years later in 2015 - not a single location has been gazetted to allow for peaceful assembly? Surely this shows the government is not sincere in wanting to allow for peaceful assembly.
The ministry had initiated discussions with all state governments including those ruled by Pakatan Rakyat after the law came into effect in 2012. Response was poor on suggested sites to be gazetted. An additional problem is that the sites cannot be within 50 metres radius of schools, places of worship and other similar public facilities. That’s why Dataran Merdeka was rejected.
(Under Section 4(2) of the Peaceful Assembly Act, street demonstrations are illegal and children are prohibited to participate and the organiser can be fined RM10,000 if they hold it on the street and RM20,000 if people bring their children.)
Q: Now Sungai Besar Umno division chief Datuk Jamal Yunos plans to have a Red Shirts' one million people rally in Bukit Bintang on Oct 10 to show support for the Prime Minister. Surely the ministry has to allow that?
I know. But personally I don’t agree with that.
Q: Why not? If Bersih can have their demonstration why can’t the Red Shirts have theirs?
When you look at overall security situation in the county and we allow this kind of protest to go through, it will generate another protest because the interest of another group that didn’t protest will also want to come out and protest as well. So it will never end.
Today it is a globalised world and everything is covered via the TV and satellite and images go out to the whole world.
One demonstration is fine,. But two? Three? Four? Five? And the speeches are being broadcast to all over the world. It is counter productive to development.
People will say Malaysia is a very unsafe country so these are all considerations.
So to come back to your question, yes I made those comments (against the Bersih 4 rally).
And nothing untoward happened. So after it, I thanked the police and the protestors. By the way, who is going to pay the millions of ringgit in getting the police force ready to manage the rally? Every demonstration costs money you know.
The rally went on peacefully which was a change. If you look at the Home Minister Zahid Hamidi, he looks like a tough guy but look at how the police handled Bersih 4? I think it has a lot to do with him. I can tell you the police were not happy. They wanted to act in a different way but the minister had an influence on them which is to let them (protestors)) have the demonstration peacefully. Now the police are rounding up the organisers which is fine.
Q: What is your take on the Red Shirts having their rally in Bukit Bintang?
Why do they want to have another rally?
Q: It is a show of strength. And they want to counter the Bersih4 rally and show that they too can command same or bigger number?
But aren’t you creating a ‘them’ and ‘we’ situation?
Q:But that is fine because it is politics?
We are the government. We are not supposed to do that. You are saying “Why don’t we just let anybody carry on with demonstrations? But as a government we shouldn’t allow a counter demonstration to happen because then it creates a “them’ against “us” situation.
Q: But if you don’t allow the counter demonstration then you are bias ?
Where do they want to do it?
Q: Can’t you negotiate with them and get them to do it around the same place around Dataran Merdeka?
That’s my point. During Bersih 4, they were persuaded not to hold a rally. But now they want to do it. But the location they want to do it - Bukit Bintang - is not appropriate because it will give a racial connotation. And it is so soon after the LowYat incident where the (Malay) boy stole the phone (and it was misinterpreted as a racial incident where a Chinese business was cheating the Malay). Put yourself in the police shoes. If they allow this kind of demonstration and counter demonstrations to happen, how are they going to maintain public order?
Q: But you should still allow the Red Shirts to have their rally. Comment?
Personally I feel they should do it somewhere else to dispel perceptions that they are doing it for racial reasons.
Q: Would around Dataran be acceptable? Wouldn't it only be fair to let them do it around the same area?
Yes but they have to ask for permission. Bersih 4 didn’t have the permission to do it there.
Q: Although they did not have the permission they were allowed to outside Dataran. So if the Red Shirts do it the same way would it be fine?
So for the Red Shirts should do better than the Yellow Shirts! They should ask for permission and do it around Dataran. But there are restrictions. They cannot do it around religious places . That is why the police suggested the stadium.
Q: But having it in the stadium it wouldn’t achieve the objective whey public assembly is held because you are not preaching to converted. If they do it in the stadium they would be preaching to the converted?
Why don’t they do it in Putrajaya.
Q: Putrajaya mana ada orang? (There are no people in Putrajaya to rally support)
The spirit of the Peaceful Assembly Act is to do it at a designated place. And with social media, you can reach the same number of people.
These demonstrations are done because of political reasons so they should be responsible in carrying out what they are doing.
It is not like a spontaneous people movement like what we saw in Hong Kong. The one in Hong Kong it was young people camping out in the street, There was no leader so it was not organised in that sense. That is a kind of spontaneous demonstration.
But the ones in Malaysia are politically organised. That is the problem. If it is politically organised, then we cannot just allow it to be done without proper control.
Q: As deputy home minister what is your advice to the Red Shirts?
They can do it but they should avoid any accusation of them being racial. Because if it is a reaction to Bersih 4, then let it be. But if they start to inject that the Bersih 4 rally was more Chinese and that we need a Malay one to counter that to show that Malays don’t like what the Chinese are doing - that is inviting trouble. Bersih invited the churches. Then what happens if the imams and uztaz start to join a counter protest? In Malaysia, once you inject race and religion that's it. It will lead to a situation which is exclusive.
Q: Are you are saying ‘do it but pick the location’?
My personal view is tak payah pun (no need). That is personal opinion because I feel the Bersih organisers in a way failed in their objective. Their objective was to bring PM Najib down but they failed.
Q: But it is not game over. They want to show how many people wanted him out. They weren’t going to do it today and expect he is out tomorrow?
How many times can they do it before people get fed up? You have seen the biggest demonstration during Anwar’s time (in 1998), then during Hindraf in 2007 and the Bersih (3) rally in 2012 was bigger than this (Bersih 4) .
And they had rallies after the general election. There is a reason they want to do it in KL so that they want people from other places to come up to KL.To me, the Bersih 4 rally in KL was not really a success. After this if (Penang Chief Minister) Lim Guan Eng wants them to do it in Penang, I will be happy (for them to do in Penang rather than KL).
Q: Bersih managed to have a rally for 34 hours which has not been done before in Malaysia and this went on peacefully, so wouldn’t you call that a success?
It went peacefully. Because at the end of the day the police weren’t provoked. And even if were provoked, they were cautious in not reacting.
Q: But it was very different environment during the Bersih 4 compared to the past Bersih street protests because this time around the police held back and were more relaxed?
Yes. The police handled it very differently. I don’t think Malaysians have the appetite to go and demonstrate regularly. I am waiting for the next Bersih protest to see the impact.
I don’t put particular importance on the Red Shirts rally because with the Red Shirts, the one million coming out are government supporters.
I am more concerned about those who do not support the government. Because if their numbers are really big like 500,000 or one million, then the government shoud really be very worried. If one million comes out that is 8 % of the voters.But if it’s just 50,000 or 70,000 come out to me that is normal. That is the normal rate of the opposition.
Q: Are you saying this as an Umno man or deputy minister?
I am talking about this as an Umno man. If the Red Shirts want to show support to the government that is fine but it can lead to a ‘us’ against ‘them’ situation.
Q: But the ‘us’ against ‘them’ situation will always be there because one side is Pakatan and the other is Barisan Nasional?
The country is headed towards a two party system but we shouldn’t encourage the ‘them’ and ‘us’ situation.
We have to always encourage people not to think that way and to think as one and as a nation that is united and so on. Unless the political culture and outlook in Sabah and Sarawak changes dramatically, there is no way Pakatan can win. Things are in Barisan's favour. So it is better if we adopt a the statesman kind of attitude rather than a’ us-versus-them’ attitude.
Q: How was the reception in Johor Umno after you were appointed deputy and especially because Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who is a Johorean was dropped as deputy Prime Minister?
The impact has been minimal because Muhyiddin doesn’t have wide grassroots support.
Q: So you didn’t hear rumblings?
There are rumblings but they are not going to do anything about it because Muhyiddin didn’t exactly stir that kind of outcry and sympathy. But people are unhappy. And since Johor is supposed to be the only safe deposit state for Barisan in Peninsula Malaysia, there is a risk that the Malays might vent their anger in the elections. Perangai Melayu, dia tak tunjuk openly and tunjuk only later . (The Malays are the sort who do not openly show what they feel. This will become apparent only later.) That is the danger.
Q: How have people been treating you? Have they been falling backwards to kiss and ampu you?
Many people are angry with me even within Umno. They saw me as someone who is anti-the current Umno culture. If they have read my writings, they know I am very critical of Umno. But at the same time they know I am an Umno man and that I still carry the legacy of my father (former Information Minister and Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat) and they still know that whatever it is, I will still be an Umno man even though I am critical. I have been accused of being upset that I was not promoted earlier but they also know that I wouldn’t betray the party.
Q: Why are they angry with you?
Some felt I was not deserving because I was not a loyal party member in their eyes.
Q: I thought they were angry that you gave up PAC because you were doing a good job there?
There were some who are like that. The opinion was split.
What I worry about today is that people are so split that it is going to take a lot of effort to get them back together.
In my case there are some who are angry that I pushed the PAC then they say I cabut (bolted) and some are angry because they didn’t like what I was doing in PAC and don't like that I am rewarded with a government post. There are also those who embrace it saying it is good that I am now a deputy minister because I can help them out and they have someone they can appeal to in the ministry which deals with all kinds of issues from IC, foreign workers, drug offences and prison etc.
Q: If elections were held tomorrow how would you do in your constituency?
My majority in the last election was very slim. So I have do work to get the Malays back together to support me.
Q: So if elections were held now, would you lose?
Probably. Because people are still angry with me today. But hopefully election are going to be held later and by then I would have done a lot of work to close the gap which I believe I can. People who are angry with me in the PAC. The PAC will start again in Oct and there will be a new team and people can’t blame me anymore.
Q: But they will still blame you for not being there?
But I am no longer there so they can’t blame me. They can blame the new person. I can help the Chinese, Malays and Indians through the ministry so I can help bring back support in a few years.But if election are held today memang kalah lah.
Q: In the past you said you were just another brick in the wall but you weren’t because you stood out as PAC chairman but now as deputy minister you are indeed in a danger of becoming another brick in the wall. Comment?
The difference is that in the past I was in charge of my own destiny because I had no boss. I was the chairman. Now I have a boss. I am at the goodness of the minister to delegate more responsibility to me.
By the way my press coverage in the last month is not bad since I became deputy minister. I have got good coverage.
Q: You are the deputy Home Minister so of course you would get good coverage?
The minister hasn’t called me up either and said ‘Stop saying something stupid’.
Q: That is because you haven’t said anything controversial yet?
When I thanked the Bersih supporters (after the rally) the police didn’t like it. When I said I have no issue with demonstration as long as it is peaceful, the police didn’t like it.
Q: But you did also say that the demonstration was illegal and it shouldn’t go on ?
Yes but that is based on facts okay? If the Bersih organisers chose another place and if they talked to the police and got permission from the police, it wouldn’t have been an issue.
But it’s just that they wanted to be in Dataran Merdeka. This caused the friction but still the police accommodated them. These are the facts . Because the police wanted to make sure that public order is maintained and that nothing happened to those who participated in the rally. Now they are going after the organisers - I fully support them.
Q: Are you saying things to please your boss?
Not to please but to follow the vision he has for the ministry. So far he hasn’t told me otherwise.
Q: So you are going to be a ‘Yes man’?
Listen - I just told you. When I said I have no issue with demonstrations which are peaceful, do you think many people in the ministry liked it? The demonstration did turn out to be peaceful. And now that they are going after the organisers, I fully support them.
In this position I have to consider many interests and find a middle ground where I can move things forward.
Q: Now that you are in the “enviable position” as a deputy minister, are you going to be contesting in the Umno elections ?
I lost when contesting for a seat in the supreme council.
Q: But that time you didn’t have the deputy post that would give you leverage?
I know a lot of people in Umno don’t like me because of my style. So contesting in party elections is something which I know that I might not be successful in.
Every politician is scared of party elections because that is where they can kill their political career.
If they want to go for a higher post then they have to move up. And the more they move up, the more they have to compromise. And the more they compromise. you become less of the person you started off as. And I don’t want to compromise on that.
The proof of this was in the last Umno election. When I went around, Umno members said they wanted people who are vocal and can speak up. I contested for a seat in the supreme council but I lost. So in a way Umno still needs to work on that. Whatever the grassroots feel is not getting translated at the party elections.
Q: Have you changed your mind about what you said about Umno that they are tired, not energetic to pull in young leaders and that they are content with rural areas and afraid to go after the urban seats?
The party today we can’t get people together. We are actually resorting to the 'them' and 'us' situation because we don’t appeal to the wider young public.
We are retreating into our shell because we are comforted by the environment. And we still practice patronage politics. And we can still rely on Sabah and Sarawak.
Q: The Transparency International chief said Malaysia is facing a corruption crisis right now and asked for an explanation about the RM2.6bil in the PM's personal account and said there were effort to stop the 1MDB investigation by transferring MACC officers, changing the AG and the Cabinet reshuffle. What do you think about his comment?
This is the problem with the whole thing. I don’t know if PM realises it or not. But he has got to answer evrything one shot instead of responding in drips of information.
That was one of the main problems for us at the PAC. Because once we go on one path then something new crops up which takes us in a different direction. Now the 2.6 bil takes us in a different direction. The SRC (International Sdn Bhd a 1MDB) takes us in a different direction.
Until all these issues can be pinned down and answered one shot – whether it is satisfactory to the public or not – at least if there are some explanations provided that are credible enough, then this perception won’t be there.
That is why this foreigner comes to Malaysia and makes a statement like that. Which is totally uncalled for.
Q: Why is it “totally uncalled for” because the answers to the questions have not been coming? Isn't this costing Umno problems and burdening the party?
When the answers are in drips and pieces, this issues still attracts people’s attention.
For example this issue of Perwaja or the issue of Renong or MAS these were all just isolated to that particular issue and there were no new developments concerning new companies and new situations. But in this current case, it is done in drips, pieces andbits.
And the answers can change because of the circumstances and the new information that comes later.
Q: What are you saying? Perwaja and Renong are about the mismanagement of companies. But 1MDB and the RM2.6 bil is different because it has to do with enriching one’s self, impropriety and wrongdoing. Isn't this a more serious thing?
That is what I am saying. Probably until today, the answers have not been satisfactory because it comes in drips and pieces. Dahlah it is an issue about impropriety and all that.
And any answer that you made earlier can change because of new revealation and new circumstances .
For example the money for public donation. It is money that goes into the personal account, then it becomes a donation, then it comes from Saudi Arabia and then who from Saudi Arabia? It just leads to more question.
So that is why if we don’t resolve this issue by the next general election, people like me are going to be the first ones to suffer in the next general election.
The majority in my seat is very small and I represent an urban area so I can actually lose my seat. Not because of my own performance but because this issue is hanging over and will permeate.
At first it is confined to the urban people, then it will go down to the rural people especially in Peninsula and then Sabah and Sarawak. We don’t know.
And there is the impact of the silent voters. They may show it openly in demonstrations or they may only show it in the general election which is sad at a time when the opposition is leaderless.
It is sad at a time when the opposition is fractured. It is sad at a time when the Malays don’t know who they are going to support. PAS said they don’t like Najib but now they are supporting him. So the Malays are a bit confused.
And they are going to be the main bloc of votes that determine where the country is at. The Chinese focus on urban areas and Sabah and Sarawak operate on their own.
Umno has 88 seats and PAS has 21 and this comes up to around 100. So that is 100 seats out of 222 parliamentary seats . And that bloc of seats is going to determine who is going to be the government of the day. If the Malays are split like this and they vote nak lepas geram (in anger) then you might find a different scenario.
Q: So how can Umno or BN win back voter confidence?
Now we are in good stead because PAS has been neutralised. And Umno can focus on its own seats and makes sure that it doesn’t lose any more seats.
Q: But it is a problem when there are no answers. You support the police hauling up and questioning Bersih. But they were transparent and disclosed the RM2.5 mil they received in public donation. People are going to ask 'Why are you going after Bersih over RM2.5 mil when they have been transparent and they declared it and What about the RM2.6bil political donation in PM’s account which was not trasnparent'?
To cut it short. That is the problem today. That is the problem that will permeate and linger until the next general election.
Did you find this article insightful?