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Berikut Q n A temuramah politik The Malay Mail dengan Jerantut MP Tan Sri Tengku Azlan Sultan Abu Bakar pada 2 Mac 2012:
MM: Why have our parliamentary proceedings not reached a level of maturity?
TA: People have a wrong concept about what Parliament is all about. Parliament is not a political platform; it is a place for nation building.
In Parliament, although you have government and opposition backbenchers, you are not opposing party to party. You are opposing policies that you think the government is not being fair about. Parliament is a workshop for politicians; it is not a place to belittle each other.
Do you feel the Opposition that is also elected by the rakyat, is not given its due recognition?
Why would Parliament pay the Opposition? Because they are playing a role! And the opposition leader has a function. He is playing a role as if he's a part of government. Of course he's not the prime minister but he's a watchdog.
In Parliament we see that one opposes for the sake of opposing.
That's wrong. But there have been certain policies or laws passed in Parliament that the Opposition supported. Like in those days, the late Tun Abdul Razak would have tea with (Dr) Tan Chee Koon, the Opposition Leader. That kind of atmosphere should be brought back. That shows our maturity. People should understand that Parliament is a place where everyone cracks his or her head on how to pass good laws which are fair to everyone and keep the institution at a very high standard.
There has been a lot of scrutiny on the Constitution with suggestions to address certain provisions that have a bearing on ethnic issues.
The Constitution that was passed during Merdeka is not only for the Malays, it's for everyone. That's why we got our independence when the British agreed to what had been put aside for the Malays, Indians and Chinese. This 1Malaysia is nothing new. We've always been 1Malaysia. If you were in London and I were to ask you, you never say I'm a Malay or an Indian from Malaysia. You just say I'm a Malaysian.
After Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took over, he allowed discussions on sensitive issues and allowed the press to be more liberal in reporting. Is this why we seem to have a lot of debates on race and religion?
It could have been, but because of his personality, some people took advantage of him for being a nice guy. Even our present PM has got some vision but in many areas he’s also weak. But he has worked his way up there and I would say Datuk Seri Najib Razak has got his vision and I believe he is gaining popularity. But not BN. If you ask me, today BN is not popular.
But if Najib is gaining popularity, doesn’t the party also gain popularity as a domino effect?
I think the most important is for the team to understand how he wants the country to go forward. He has to make them understand. And he’s got to make them work towards it like what he and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin are doing. The rest must follow up.
You mentioned PM has his strengths and weaknesses. What are the things he can do better?
He should be looking more towards the rural folk because whether we like it or not, a bulk of our voters and supporters are in rural areas. Not just Sabah and Sarawak, there are a lot of unfortunate people in Kedah and East Coast and PM needs to look more into that area.
When we talk of basic infrastructure, there are still many areas that are not well developed, including my own area. He should be looking into that too.
There’s no doubt that he’s looking to transform our people to accept more challenges, especially the young generation who are more sophisticated. But what about the rural folk? Their mentality and mindset need to be changed also, especially the Malays. The Malays in the kampung are still quite far behind. They believe the government should give them everything which is not right because no government in the world can give you everything.
The NEP and affirmative policies are an election topic for the Opposition in rural areas. They often say: 'What NEP are you talking about? Look at you, are you beneficiaries of the NEP? NEP is meant for Umno and they have to continue having a large number of marginalised Malays to ensure NEP continues into perpetuity'.
Everything in Malaysia today is being politicised. If you talk about Kelantan and Terengganu if there were no politics, they would have continued to get support from the federal government but because it’s been in the Opposition, there is some politics being played there.
When Terengganu was under PAS, the federal government changed the oil royalty into wang ehsan. But that's not right because it was agreed earlier by everybody. This is the kind of thing that isn’t good for us. We tend to politicise everything. It’s no good for the country.
It’s a sign of immaturity and insecurity.
In Jerantut as I’ve said many times. If you want me, I’m around, if you don’t want me, I’m out. Don’t you think it’s very simple politics?
What do you think makes a winnable candidate? If you look at the general description, it is someone who appeals to everyone in the constituency and is clean. But it also could be someone who is tainted nationally but is a darling in the constituency.
Who decides who is a winnable candidate? The rakyat! Not us! So, what the party should do is get some feelers and see if that person is still wanted or not. The party may think a person is a winnable candidate. But the rakyat might not. But to me, if you do your work and take care of your constituency, there’s a very good chance you can win.
I give one good example, people like (Gua Musang MP) Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Everybody knows whatever banner, platform he stands on he can win. So it’s the people. In Jerantut today, I’m going to retire after three terms. I want to give way to a younger person. I want to do some other things.
But from what we gather, you’re a winnable candidate.
It’s not for me to say, it’s the rakyat of Jerantut. But I believe there is a chance that I may still win if I stand but I’ve made up my mind I don’t want to get involved anymore, I want to do some other things. I am trying to get myself involved with the Blind Association; helping less fortunate people. It’s not just through politics you can help the rakyat. There are so many other ways. I still believe that it’s not easy picking winnable candidates, especially at this time.
You said BN is not as popular.
I find that today the BN leadership tends to look at what has been given and you should be grateful. It’s the wrong way. We should be looking at our people and where we have gone wrong. It is for the rakyat to judge whether we’ve taken measures to correct ourselves. I notice we tend to blame everyone else but ourselves.
Also, I think we are very consistent in being inconsistent.
Tun Mahathir, right or wrong, was very firm and he went through with decisions with a firm stand. Here, we keep on changing. When you keep on changing that means you have not done a proper study before making a decision and that makes you look weak.
If you’re the government and you say your interest is for the people, then when you decide on something, you go ahead. If it is wrong, you’ll face it in the next election. Otherwise you can’t govern a country when you keep changing things.
From what we hear, there is a lot of resistance to the changes the prime minister wants to bring.
If I had a cabinet and my cabinet is pushing me up the wall, I would sack the cabinet because I’m the one who appointed them anyway. If you don’t go with me, then you’re out.
Najib doesn’t have 2/3 majority or the mandate from his own party. Talking about the next election, one school of thought is we’ve given them 58 years already, so what is another five? Why don’t we give Najib his mandate so he can be a strong leader and will be able to make the reforms he wants to?
And if the rakyat delivers the 2/3, we hope he won’t squander the mandate given to him like Pak Lah did. Would that be a good advice for the voters? Because they are angry and unsure right now.
I’m sure the last three years Najib has been PM, the rakyat would have been able to assess where he is going. What you’re saying is about giving Najib a chance. Then again, Najib also must see what he has done for the last three years. Voters also want to see what he has done. If they feel that voters can accept the kind of policies and vision that you have, you should not worry. Tomorrow you can call for general election if you’re confident.
What about those who oppose him and derail his efforts? It depends on you as a man on how you handle them. I think the prime minister’s post is the most powerful in the country.
What are a few monkeys anyway? It’s for you to control. You must know who you put there and who can do what! That’s the beauty of the late Tun Razak, he knew he can handpick people to do which job. Like he picked Tengku Razaleigh to handle Petronas. That is the wisdom of a leader. Tun Mahathir has wisdom. That old man is a brave leader and I have a lot of respect for Tun Mahathir.
Do you agree that a lot of the problems today like racial issues, perceived weak government and judiciary, economic disparity, corruption — all go back to Mahathir’s administration?
I think you can’t blame Mahathir totally. His people back then and the system in Umno invite corruption. And the pay scale today, that invites corruption. I think the government servants, the MPs, the ministers are all underpaid as compared to our neighbours. So you pay peanuts you get monkeys lah.
I think it’s only fair that people who are doing a very important job should be paid well. If we can pay CEOS of GLCs well, why can’t we pay our ministers, MPs and government servants?
Our PM should be paid well — he’s only getting RM40,000 a month. He should be getting RM200,000 to RM300,000 a month. He’s the CEO of a country. That one the rakyat has got to understand. As an MP, my pay is RM5,900. That is ridiculous! People are going out of the country because they get better pay.
How is Pahang gearing up for the polls?
I think Pahang is still okay, politically. But obviously we may lose a few state seats and if we’re not careful maybe one or two parliament seats.
What are the seats BN is focusing on?
I’ll talk about my own constituency. We have an additional 9,000 new voters and 500-over are Chinese, the rest are Malays which will be split with PAS. And the composition of this 9,000, say 40 per cent to 50 per cent are young people then we would be facing quite a tough election in Jerantut and (it) can go either way. Because PAS has a solid vote of 11,000 there, we need help from the Indian community.
The government needs to look a bit more seriously at places like Jerantut where the infrastructure is still much needed and if we were to lose the seat, it’s not because of anything but because we haven’t done enough for the people of Jerantut, especially the deep rural folk who have always been our good supporters.
The impression is that BN knows it has lost its urban voters. So the focus is on rural areas. But from what you’re telling us, even the rural votes are shaky.
I’m worried about Jerantut. That’s why I don’t want to talk about other people’s areas. Even today, even if I were to stand again in Jerantut, I would have to work harder and I would be very worried there’s a good chance that I would lose.
Why the reluctance to provide Jerantut with the said infrastructure?
Maybe they feel that Jerantut isn’t a priority. Maybe they prioritise other parts of Malaysia.
That’s something about BN, around elections they go gung-ho about this project and that project. They manufacture billboards saying: Satu lagi projek Barisan Nasional.
I think you should put this in the Guinness World Book of Records on the amount of billboards in the country and the photographs of leaders put up along roadsides.
It’s become an enterprise.
The problem in Malaysia is that to them money is everything. That is destroying the country. There is no self-respect, integrity or dignity. You have the money, you can more or less do anything. We are really going the wrong way. This is something I always talk to the young, money isn’t everything. In fact too much money can destroy you.
So what should the Umno leadership do to correct the perception that joining the party is akin to a skim cepat kaya?
We should reduce the membership of Umno. I think the maximum number should be about one million or half a million but get quality members. And then Umno should be funded properly from whatever way. Each division should be given a certain amount of funds and at end of the year, get an independent auditor to audit all division accounts.
Umno members now? What about them?
They can be ordinary supporters. At division level, each division should have 1,000 to 2,000 members. Say there are 1,000 members in Jerantut, they decide who the division chief and committee members are.
'Don’t sabotage' seems to be the common plea at every Umno meeting.
It’s how each leader’s division takes care of its members. They do not put party first, but self first. They know if they see that guy is against him, they will find a way to get rid of him. I fought in the last bahagian election, the Adun Pulau Tawau was my rival. After the election, I won by 43 or 44 votes and I called all of them back together. I picked his most trusted guy as my secretary. If every division chief thinks that way, Umno will be okay. Because I don’t make my living from Umno. You know, I rejected the deputy foreign minister’s post.
Are you frustrated with the current Umno, is that why you don’t want to contest?
I am frustrated with the whole country, not just Umno.