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Former Finance Minister, Tun Daim gave his rare interviw to mainstream media. He does not talk much. He prefers to remain as a “backroom boy” in Malaysian politics. He walks the talk but not otherwise. People use to dub him as a reluctant politician and there are some who see him as an ever-willing partner in business. As a close friend of former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, his opinion on politics, especially is still being sought and relevant. Yesterday, he shared his view with Mingguan Malaysia, . Excerpt of the full interview by the translated by NST, as apeared on 5 March 2012:
Interview with Malaysia’s former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin NST 4 March 2012
By Mazlinda Mahmood and Akil Yunus
Q: This year, the main focus is the 13th General Election, do you think BN will be able to maintain its majority or otherwise?
A: It is up to the Prime Minister to decide on the most suitable time to call for the election. He can still announce the dissolution of the Dewan Rakyat in 2013 or allow Parliament to take its course and announce the election 60 days after Parliament is dissolved.
Q: Do you think BN could regain control of states under the Opposition or lose more states to them?
A: From what I can see, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) is the most skilled in politics compared to other Pakatan allies. They have more voice in injecting “fitnah” (slander) ideas. The word fitnah has power in the context of the local political arena. This is because PKR is a party that was conceived from the concept of fitnah and conspiracy. As long as there are people who accept fitnah and conspiracy, PKR will continue to exist.
Q: On Anwar’s acquittal in his sodomy case and his political plans?
A: This proves that the conspiracy theory and allegation that the judicial system is not independent was not true. Now it is up to the rakyat to judge his track record.
Q: Do you think Anwar has gone overboard in sowing hatred among the people and vilifying the Malaysian government overseas?
A: One of the reasons why Anwar loves to be interviewed overseas is to show Malaysian voters that he is a world personality and therefore, the news must be taken seriously. He realises that he has to come up with strong statements and controversial arguments and appear bold and convincing so that more foreign reporters want to be the first to quote him in the hope to recreate a model of a liberal Muslim leader.
Q: What is the most important change UMNO-BN has to make to ensure its survival among the rakyat, a majority of whom were born after Merdeka?
A: The most important change is terms of work ethic. The PM once said: change or collapse. Umno has to be more transparent as well as combat corruption and wastage to the fullest. Those who are born post-merdeka are different from previous voters. They are more educated, informed and IT savvy. In the 60s, their parents influenced them, but today they are influencing their parents through knowledge of current issues and debates supported by convincing facts and figures. If BN fails to appreciate this group, they will not get votes.
Q: How do you see the new generation within UMNO, are they as spirited as their predecessors?
A: Actually, they no longer want to see a government that is corrupt and racially divided. They want to see issues being resolved the Malaysian way and not the racial way. The economy is very important to them. They want to see the country heading in the right direction under the leadership of someone they trust. They do not believe in empty promises and expect the government to fulfil their promises. Do not lose their support if you want their votes.
Q: As former finance minister, how do you perceive the allegation that Malaysia will be bankrupt by 2020 because its debt is bound to reach RM1.6 trillion from the RM450 billion currently?
A: The country’s debt is still at a manageable level compared to countries facing trouble such as Japan and those in Europe. Some analysts are worried that our debt is increasing at a speedy rate, from 53.1 per cent in 2010 to 54.8 per cent this year. It is only an increase of 1.3 per cent which is not much, but the hike rate is higher compared to last year. This is necessary as a response to the global financial crisis which began in 2008. The crisis threatened Malaysia’s economy causing it to continually decline. The government then acted swiftly by injecting a large fiscal stimulus under several programs and the result was that the country’s economy improved at a better rate of between seven per cent in 2010 and five to six per cent last year.
Q: How do you view Malaysia’s economy now following the status of neighbouring countries like Indonesia and Vietnam who are better positioned? What is actually required to generate the country’s economy towards a better direction?
A: A country which is at an ‘acceleration stage’ can usually achieve a high growth rate. Malaysia achieved this between 1986 and 1997. Now we see it in Vietnam and Indonesia which are currently in development stage. However, we are better off now as our economy is a knowledge-based economy, with expertise in ICT, education and health services among others.
Q: Technological advancements have alterred the country’s socio-political landscape whereby society is more free and critical, but this newfound freedom has also caused discord, especially among Malays. In your opinion, how can we ensure the Malays remain united to maintain their survival?
A: In truth, the Malays have always been divided. The only time they were united was when they opposed the Malayan Union and when UMNO was born. After that, we’ve seen the formation of too many factions – Parti Rakyat, Semangat 46 and now Keadilan – which champions its own cause. The Malay divide is a complex issue but for them to unite, it must not see the interference of ‘exclusive’ policies. I believe Malays need to pay attention to these matters:
–Do not waste precious opportunities and allow the younger generation to be lost to drug addiction.
–Dwell in comfortable homes and serve as assets to human resource and mobility.
–Write and converse in various languages and be knowledgeable in order to become great leaders.
–Learn to appreciate success and remain humble so as to not project greediness.
–Combat elitism with courage and dignity. No one has the right to proclaim themselves as greater than others.
–Genuine cooperation with non-Malays in business and negotiations.
–Work hard and be unafraid of failure. Learn from it.
–Strengthen and preserve the Malay language.
–Aspire to become leaders, contributors, and the best version of a Malay.
Q: How do you view the ‘plastic cooperation’ between PAS and DAP currently, and what will happen if they win the coming election?
A: The reality is that there are enough personalities in each party to ensure the coalition continues to work. Their biggest motivation is Putrajaya, and they intend to get there first before deliberating on their differences.
Q: How do you foresee the future of UMNO and its cooperation with component parties?
A: BN component parties are working as a team. They all have to support Najib’s leadership and work hard to get votes.
The majority of the people want BN to continue to rule but they want things to change. They want stability but they also want check and balance. The Prime Minister knows this and he is committed to change but it must be done gradually. He does not want the country to become unstable because he realises the consequences but the people are impatient. They want immediate result. This is the era of instant communication. The voters can’t wait and BN have to take action. They have to change the way they work and listen to the people concerns.