Brothers under one house

  • Letters
  • Sunday, 06 Apr 2008

New Shah Alam MP Khalid Abdul Samad, from PAS, has already started making waves by walking into a church to address Christian concerns. What’s more, Khalid will now get to lock horns in Parliament with his brother, the very vocal Johor Baru MP Datuk Shahrir of Umno.

Khalid: ‘I probably won’t have a chance to say anything. I’d have to take a number and wait.’

WHEN Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad was appointed Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister, his younger brother, Khalid, who is a Pakatan Rakyat MP, called to congratulate him.

“I also told him that he’s been given the worst ministry – that’s the Barang Naik ministry, so he’s got to answer to all the increases in the price of goods, oil, electricity rates, toll rates - that sort of thing.”

Khalid, who has been with PAS since 1983, said he has no qualms speaking his mind against his elder brother in Parliament.

But he does not think Shahrir is worried about him “in particular”.

“He’s worried, I’m sure. There are now 82 parliamentarians from the Opposition who would make his life a lot more difficult. I probably won’t have a chance to say anything. I’d have to take a number and wait!” quipped Khalid.

There is no doubt, though, that Khalid, who has a degree in fuel and energy engineering and worked seven years for Petronas, will have plenty to say to his brother, especially on the contentious issues of petrol prices.

Oily issue

“I cannot accept that Petronas is selling to Malaysia at international prices. That should never have been the basis of any interaction between Petronas and the Malaysian community. The oil is actually the property of the Malaysian people and they have a right to it. All the talk about subsidies is just whitewash,” he said, adding that oil-exporting countries like Brunei, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait never use international prices as the basis of calculating the price of oil to sell to their own people.

International oil prices have skyrocketed to more than US$100 per barrel due to supply problems in oil-rich countries like Iraq, Venezuela and Nigeria and growing demand from giants like China and India that have been gulping up supplies.

But the bottom line, Khalid stressed, is that the cost of production per barrel has not gone up.

Which basically means that while Petronas is producing oil at the same low cost it has always done, by exporting it at the sky-high international prices, it is actually taking in even bigger profits.

For him, it might not have been so bad if the benefits were returned to the people in a different manner “but we don’t see it”.

“Instead, everything is going up and up and up,” he said bluntly.

Different approach

It is obvious that other than speaking his mind – like his elder brother – the 51-year-old Khalid has his own way of doing things.

It is almost unheard of for an Umno MP to walk into a church or temple for a function, but this PAS MP said it is really no big deal.

Last week, Khalid got a standing ovation when he stepped into the Church of Divine Mercy in Shah Alam to meet with Catholics and listen to their concerns. The issues raised are “quite justified”, he said.

“They asked why their church has to be in an industrial area with all the factories, and they wanted a Christian cemetery. Personally, I have no problem with that.”

He said all he has to do now is to get statistics on the number of Christians in Shah Alam and come up with a fair formula to work out the number of churches and cemeteries that would serve their community.

As for entering churches or temples, Khalid said, the Holy Prophet used to walk into churches and even synagogues for discussions.

“I don’t see what’s the problem. They invited me as their MP. And I don’t think there was any doubt about my personal religion!” he cheekily remarked.

“I think Umno wanted to look religious or believe that they were religious by avoiding all these locations. But I don’t think it has anything to do with being religious or otherwise.”

But how did Khalid, who comes from a staunch Johor Umno family (his mother and Tun Razak’s wife are first cousins), end up in PAS?

It all started during his student days in the UK back in 1974.

Influenced by the writings of Islamic leaders like Sayyid Qutb and Hassan al-Banna of the Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin (Muslim Brotherhood) and interactions with other Malaysian, Arab, Algerian, Pakistani, Turkish and Morroccan students in the UK, Khalid found himself attracted to politics.

By 1978, he and his like-minded Malaysian friends had set up Suara al-Islam with the agreement to form an Islamic party when they got back.

He said PAS was not an option then because they were not happy with Datuk Asri Muda’s leadership.

Trials and tribulations

Khalid returned to Malaysia in 1979 and joined Petronas. In 1982, he and his group tried to register Parti Negara Islam Malaysia (Purnama) but the application was rejected.

Following changes in PAS, Khalid decided to join the Islamist party in 1983 (Shahrir was already a minister by then).

Mat Sabu, a fiery orator, took Khalid under his wing and he soon rose in the ranks to become a central committee member.

In 1986, Khalid quit his cushy Petronas job to stand in elections for the Kuala Krai parliament seat and lost to Barisan Nasional by 2,000 votes.

In 1987, the rising star in PAS suffered another setback when he was detained under the ISA during Operasi Lalang along with Mat Sabu, Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng, Karpal Singh, the Chinese educationists group and 100 others.

Khalid, who remained in detention for a year, shared the same camp as Karpal and Guan Eng. His consolation came from the fact that the Holy Prophet and companions had faced trials, while ulamaks and people who stuck to their principles always had to face some kind of persecution at one time or another.

“If it did change me, it was to convince me more that we needed a change in leadership (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad),” he said.

During that time, Shahrir, who was Welfare Minister, was going through some trials of his own in Umno.

It was the famous Team A versus Team B fight and Shahrir had backed Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah instead of Dr Mahathir for the party presidency.

Dr Mahathir won but the losing side dragged the party to court, resulting in Umno being deregistered and later coming back as Umno Baru.

For backing the “wrong” horse, Shahrir was conspicuously dropped from the Cabinet.

To prove he won the Johor Baru parliamentary seat on his own merit, Shahrir vacated the seat, forcing a by-election.

He stood as an independent against Barisan and won.

Khalid said if he had not been under detention at that time, he would have campaigned for Shahrir.

“In the Mahathir time, we had a lot more in common. Shahrir had a lot of things to complain about the government but now ... (laughing) we would be probably more distant.”

He described his relationship with Shahrir who is eight years older as “not as close as some but not as distant as some”.

They call each other “as and when” there is a need and meet at family functions.

“We will probably see much more of each other now in Parliament, which is good.”

Due to their eight-year age gap, Khalid did not get to spend much time with Shahrir as the older brother was already away in boarding school while the younger sibling was still in primary school.

But in their younger days, the two boys were both interested in Spiderman and Marvel comic books.

“He would buy them and I’d read and keep them. And I was into airfix model aircraft and he had some interest in it,” Khalid said.

Shahrir’s concern as an elder brother showed when Khalid returned from the UK.

“I was unemployed for a month or so and he opened a bank account for me and put some money in it for me to get my life started. And he told me to do the same for our younger brother, which I did,” he said.

It is clear too that Khalid has high regard for his brother as a politician.

“He has a relatively clean record and generally has been quite a responsible politician. He has his views and principles that he stands by. I think he merits being a minister. He has the credentials and has proven himself in the past,” he said.

Ideas aplenty

While Shahrir is an old hand in Parliament, this will be Khalid’s first time in the august house.

And the first-timer is already brimming with ideas on what he is going to push for: He wants a cleaner, more transparent, just and honest government that brings benefits of development and growth down to the people. And he wants “politically repressive” laws like the ISA, University and Colleges Act, and the Printing Presses and Publications Act to be rectified.

Khalid admitted that with a brother as minister, it could be “more difficult or easier” depending on how each “plays” it.

“But politics should not be personally antagonistic. It should not be because of a difference of opinion that we can’t be friends or brothers. We can be different and not hate each other.”

Related Stories:On different paths but sharing a common bond

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