Terasa macam lama dah padahal baru je 4 tahun setengah yang lalu. Tapi menarik untuk kita baca cara penilaian Tun akan sesuatu situasi sebelum dan selepas berlaku.
Contohnya SEBELUM Najib jadi PM, Tun kata Najib ni jenis yang terlalu berhati2 dan ini akan dilihat sebagai satu kelemahan. Kini, selepas 4 tahun Najib jadi PM dan hampr2 bungkus masa Pilihanraya lepas, apakah anda setuju dengan penilaian Tun itu ?
Dato’ Seri Najib has been putting himself as a reformer of our country, yet, in your opinion, how far can he deliver that change?
Well, it depends on what kind of change. Change in itself is not always good. However, every new leader wants to leave behind his own unique mark – his legacy. Just like Dato’ Seri Abdullah (now Tun Abdullah) – he wanted to change things. Unfortunately, the changes he made were not very good. Now, people are unhappy with him and want a new leader. This is unprecedented.
People chose Najib because they wanted change, and he has to carry them out. Now, to what extent can he achieve change? This is something that we cannot predict accurately, but what we see is that Najib is rather weak. He tends to listen to his boss, even though he knows that what he (the boss) is doing is wrong.
For example, three days before, he said that “We will go ahead with the bridge to Singapore”. A few days after that, Abdullah said “We will not build the bridge at all”, then Najib repeats “We will not build the bridge at all”.
That undermines his credibility.
Does that mean that you think Dato’ Seri Najib is weak? Do you think that this is a sign of weakness or just him being politically calculative?
Well, he is cautious. When you are cautious, you show signs of weakness. A person who stands for what he believes would not appear to be cautious. A leader must show determination, and intolerance for something that is wrong.
One of the legacies that you have left behind is your political will, and this is the distinction of your era.
In a democratic system, you have to be popular. You have to respond to the people, when you find that the people back you, you can’t let them down. You must go ahead.
You can say that the government leaders are, to a certain extent isolated from those at the grassroots. The problem now is that there is a disconnection of the grassroots in BN, and specifically in Umno. What the they want and what the masses want are completely different, which is hard for the leadership to decide, and they are in a dilemma. How can Dato Seri Najib deal with this problem?
He has to listen to the people. If you want to listen to the people, you have to enable the people to reach you. If you block them, you don’t know what they’re saying. When elections come, the people will voice their feelings through their votes, because, frustratingly, they cannot speak. The leaders do not know what they are thinking and thus become unconfident.
This is what happened in 2008. The party was very obedient to the leaders – everything was about them. Nobody criticised him (Tun Abdullah), partly because they expected to get something for themselves. So he controls the party completely. Nobody in the party can say anything against him.
But he cannot control the electorate. The electorate was very unhappy with the performance of the government. How do they express their happiness? They voted for the opposition.
We think that one of the problems why it is so hard to change this attitude is that the leadership of the government, made up of a strong Umno presence, practises ‘compromise leadership’, where competition is not encouraged. Does this not aggravate the problem of the Malays?
Now, one of the problems with a democratic system is that you are always trying to get maximum support. Therefore the tendency for Umno leaders is to pander to the weakest group of people – those who want the easy way out. There are certain weaknesses inherent in the democratic system because the system depends on popularity. When you want to become popular, you pander to the lowest common factor.
We know very well that the majority of the electorate will not be very intelligent. If you want to appeal only to the intelligent, you get the support of the minority. So they go for the farmers, the labourers – that is why they have the labour party. The labourer will ask for higher pay and so on. Of course these are very attractive for the people, but what happens to the economy of the country?
During my time, every time I gave a talk, I scolded the Malays. I told them ‘You cannot do this!’. I have been telling them what they should not and cannot do. But, you must do it in a way that does not antagonize them. It is a matter of how you handle crowds. If you say unpopular things and scold people, you will lose. But there are ways of talking to people that don’t rub them the wrong way, making them feel supported.
The last question is a very general question to tie up this interview. To our generation, you are the prime minister that we grew up with, and we are very fond of you as you have always been there for us. You’re like our ‘Tok’ and we are your ‘cucu’. What is your ‘pesanan’ to our generation? We have to accept the fact that you’re not going to be there forever for us. Also, do you think that we’re moving very dangerously towards an over emphasis on race? One day, there will be a point where things breakdown, and we will have to pay the heavy price.
We need to have people that are very well educated, especially in the realm of science and technology. We have to move on to high tech business to gain income. That is your personal success, but it is also a contribution to the development of the country. When you do something for yourself, you have to always think of your contribution to the country too. If everybody is poor, the country will be poor. Conversely, if everybody is rich, the country will be rich.
Secondly, you cannot deny the fact of race. Instead, you must find ways of managing it. The founding father of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, decided that although one can fight alone, and win the whole cake, the cake will shrink because the country cannot grow.
So it is better for us to cooperate, and allocate slices of the cake. Grow the cake so that your slice becomes larger than the original cake you started off with. That is a way of illustrating the idea of cooperation.
Of course, there is no race that will feel fully satisfied. If there is any one race that feels satisfied, you can be sure that you are doing the wrong thing. The Malays, Chinese and Indians – they will feel dissatisfied with this and that. But these small dissatisfactions shouldn’t be blown up and be made a public issue. Once this happens, there are people who get very emotional and don’t reason things out. If they start to get angry about things, even food will not taste nice.
That is why we curb discussions on race. If we have to discuss it, then we will do it behind closed doors and find a solution. For example, at one stage, the Chinese dragon dance was not allowed. During my time, we discussed this issue and said, ‘Why not?’. This is a multiracial country, and why not use the different cultures to benefit us. We advertise ourselves as ‘Malaysia, Truly Asia’. You don’t have to go to India, or Indonesia, or China – you only have to come to Malaysia to see everything. That changed things from negative to positive, and it worked very well.
Now the lion dance has become part of our culture, and at functions, there are performances of many types of dances. We also celebrate together during Hari Raya or Chinese New Year.
Now this is a better way to deal with race relations. Of course there will be dissatisfaction, but by and large, people want to see a stable Malaysia in which they can do business, they can prosper, and can live a good life. No country in the world provides education in three languages. Yet we allow it. But they object even to coming together. When we proposed the Vision School, we proposed that the these schools be put on one campus. You can learn in your language, but during assemblies or sports, for example, you come together. Then we reduce the differences, and we get to know each other.
I myself have a lot of Chinese and Indian friends, and have not had any difficulty at all mixing with them. This is because we visit each other. When we visit the Chinese, for example, they wouldn’t serve pork to us. Even in Chinese restaurants, they hardly serve pork.
When we are considerate and sensitive about others, then there will be a degree of harmony. When you go out of a country, we don’t say that I’m a Chinese or Indian or Malay. We say ‘I’m a Malaysian’.
I was having dinner the other day, and a Chinese lady was smiling at me, and I knew she must be Malaysian. When she got up to go, she passed by me and said ‘I am proud to be Malaysian’. I did not ask her to say that. But she told me she was proud, and she’s a Chinese and I am a Malay.
When we are out of the country we are one, we are Malaysians. But when you go back, you start to talk about the differences.
Yes, it is very odd for us to mention that we are Malay or Chinese when we are abroad because surprisingly enough, it is the outsiders that view us all as Malaysians.
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