Wednesday, July 19, 2006


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Anwar: A plot to bring back Dr M Arfa'eza A Aziz Jul 18, 06 1:36pm [extracts]

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) adviser Anwar Ibrahim said the on-going attack against Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi could be a plot to bring former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad back to the helm.

"I don't preclude the possibility of a plan that this huge challenge is to bring back Mahathir...," said the former deputy prime minister in an exclusive interview with malaysiakini.

"Certainly there is a racist connotation there or the message is that the Chinese (continue to be a threat)... and therefore you need a strong leader to make amends and to chart a clear policy to protect the interests of this country before surrendering to whomever, and in this case, (deputy prime minister) Najib (Razak)."

Q&A: Najib too 'guarded and calculative' Arfa'eza A Aziz Jul 18, 06 2:23pm

In this first of a three-part exclusive interview with malaysiakini, Anwar Ibrahim - who was once No 2 in Umno - said Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak was too "guarded and calculative" to take advantage of the on-going crisis within the ruling party.

Malaysiakini: Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has continued his onslaught against his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Will he ever stop?

Anwar: Knowing him, once he decides (on something) he (will be) very focused, very determined - for either the right (or) wrong reasons. But once he has made up his mind, he will be committed to it. He thinks he can go for the jugular - whatever it means - against Abdullah. I think it is going to be a sustained and concerted effort on his (Mahathir's) part. And he has some supporters not only among the veterans but also at Umno's grassroots level. And they (Mahathir and his supporters) have the resources... they have hundreds and millions of ringgit at their disposal. I think it's going to be rough turbulence ahead.

* Some believe that Mahathir is winning the battle so far. Do you think this is a fair assessment?
I think those who are generally critical of the government would want to accept these sort of analyses or assessments. But I don't share this at all, because those who have been critical of Mahathir know that he has been given more than two decades - even in the last few years of his reign - to make amends. But he has failed.
He destroyed the institution of civil societies, and this is a major crime. And I don't think that by taking up the bridge issue or Proton, he can make amends to his crimes.
I spoke to some of his strong supporters or aides - as you know, I keep my options open by talking to these quarters - and they seemed very optimistic, encouraged by the resounding support given, including by some opposition leaders.
But I think it is not really realistic to expect that Umno members are going to turn up in big numbers against Abdullah. But having said that - and I have made this clear before - he (Mahathir) has the right to speak. I think
it is good that Malaysiakini gave him that interview.

We support the principle of free media. Whether we agree or disagree is something else.
I believe that the issues he had raised have not been well-discussed. He talked about the bridge... I have always said that when you discuss the bridge, you must start from the "points of agreement" (POA).
Never mind the
(issues of ) water, MSA (Malaysia-Singapore Airlines) that was done prior to Mahathir. But the notes in the POA was signed by Daim (Zainuddin) on the instructions of Mahathir. And that went against all government rules and procedures. (It was) not cleared or sanctioned by the AG (attorney-general) (and there was) no record at the Treasury.

I took it up when I became finance minister, and that was when I got into initial trouble with Daim because ... (I) made strong views against (the signing of the POA). But this was not discussed (by Mahathir now)
Also, there is the fact of (Mahathir) using subtle racist innuendos. Not only (he raised the issue of) nationalism but (he) also (spoke) against the Chinese and
Singapore (whom he claimed are) trying to act tough against the Malay leadership and that they (the Chinese leadership in Singapore) should be taught a lesson.

* So you think there is a tinge of racism in how Mahathir dealt with the bridge issue?

Yes, clearly. That is why you have some nationalists reacting very strongly (to the bridge issue). This is Singapore, our neighbour - setting aside that it is a difficult neighbour - but still the subtle racist undertones to my mind is very irresponsible on his (Mahathir's) part. On the project itself, I don't know how anyone in his right mind in this modern times, can even consider of unilaterally proceeding with a project which involves another country, short of going to war.

But here, Abdullah had also failed as he was unable to deliberate (on the issue) at length. (First) he went ahead (to allow the crooked bridge project to proceed) after having orchestrated a massive campaign against
Singapore. And then what did he do? He withdrew (the bridge project). Although it was the right decision, it reflected the incompetency of the government. And they (the government) are not explaining.
Proton is not a new issue. In 1996-97, the Treasury conducted a study on all forms of direct and indirect subsidies (to Proton) and the amount was RM8 billion. It was no longer sustainable even at that period. So we want to discuss about (MV) Agusta? Fine, but you have to explain...
What about the issue of APs (Approved Permits)? Whose decision was it (to issue APs)? Who was benefitting from it? It is not only (Minister of International Trade and Industry) Rafidah (Aziz)'s family and (her) cronies. Mahathir included too. And (this happened) for decades. Was it ever raised by the cabinet? I would challenge them. It was considered OSA (Official Secrets Act)...

* So you think that Mahathir is a hypocrite.

Hypocrisy is crudely put, but I would certainly say gross inconsistency.

* You mentioned that Mahathir had committed major crimes. Do you think that he should go to jail for what he did?
I always believe that crooks, the corrupt, the dictators and those who squandered money and destroyed the country... they must pay. At least, the public is aware that you don't go out safe with hundreds and billions of ringgit at your disposal.

* What about Daim Zainuddin?

The way things are unraveling... it is good. I had taken it up in 1998 with evidence, documents and letters but there was no investigation under (the instruction of) Mahathir. We are not talking one or two million, we are talking about hundreds of millions. A billion from that particular (Umno-linked tycoon) Anuar Othman - of course, I had said RM600 million then because I had to be conservative in the amount as they would accuse me of exaggeration.

Another billion through (then New Straits Times Group owner) Realmild - which was my general perception - but then I gave evidence that 70 percent was held in the personal holding of Mahathir. Of course if asked, they would say that it belonged to Umno. That was how I came up with the RM8 billion figure. So most of it involved Mahathir and of course, Daim.

* Are you saying that Umno owns RM8 billion?

Well, Mahathir held it with Daim and they claimed (to be holding it) for Umno. But I don't believe that. Even if it was Umno's, I have asked them to explain how (the money was raised). I was the deputy president but no notes were given, no records were given. No one tabled anything to the political bureau... I'm not complaining because I am out of it, but they have to explain. Some amount may be deemed to be reasonable. Some company may donate here and there but...

* So not all has been accounted for?

None. What I said about the letters by (Umno-linked tycoons) Tajuddin (Ramli), Wan Azmi (Wan Hamzah) in the earlier (court) applications, and in the case of (Umno-linked companies) Hati Budi and Realmild... none was accounted for.

* Umno has a treasurer who keeps track of the party coffers and yet you're suggesting that there is a lot of money unaccounted for?

Well, that was the system under Mahathir. One can imagine all the states - they have their own system.

* So each state Umno has a separate account?

Yes, but a smaller account under the party's name. Like in
Penang when I took over, there was no money but when I surrendered it, there was money...about RM1 million. Interestingly enough, every time there is a change of mentri besar or when there is a change of ketua perhubungan (state liaison chief), there will be no money left in the account... so that is the system. But I must say here as far as Permatang Pauh and Umno Pulau Pinang, they were very transparent and can be checked as every single donation for the elections was recorded.

* Many feel that Mahathir's open criticism against Abdullah also holds the message for Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Najib Razak to challenge the current leadership.

Obviously Najib has taken the position to support Abdullah although (it was done) not with very strong or convincing statements. But then Najib has always been known to be guarded and calculative. He is never known to have strong views. We would probably have to consult (Najib's wife) Rosmah on her views too (laughs). but I don't foresee this sort of challenge.

This is my personal view... Najib has always been seen to follow this feudal
tradition... he's not the new liberal Malay except for the facade... I think he will continue to be supportive. But notwithstanding that, Mahathir has gone to the ranks and now going to Kelantan.

I think people are just curious... after all, many grew up with Mahathir and he is the only prime minister they had ever known... he has
strong influence and people would want to know his views. I read the letters in malaysiakini and you can see that some people are strongly influenced by what he said. They feel that he has the experience as he has been there and that he knows what you don't know.

* Is it fair to blame Abdullah?

I don't think it is fair. I am not trying to provide or make excuses for Abdullah, who has failed to explain the situation. As the prime minister, you (Abdullah) cannot say that my style is not combative. He doesn't even have to be combative... all you have to do is explain the facts.

People want to know what went wrong, what was the problem - not only with the bridge and the APs.
Mahathir said we used to have a lot of money, we had Agusta, and that Proton had RM1.8 billion in cash... you don't need an accountant to tell you that the company may have, for example, RM1 billion but the liabilities is RM8 billion... that shows that the company is in trouble. I don't understand why the government has so much difficulty in explaining this. As I said, I don't want to enter the fray... I prefer to continue with the reform agenda.

* Let's assume that you're Najib, what would you do?

That is the worst assumption one can make (laughs). Based on my experience as Mahathir's deputy, during the time when he (Mahathir) had some problems... what I did was give clear support on issues. I would also go back to the cabinet and hold special meetings to discuss the contentious issues. We would then talk to the party operators and party activists to explain things and get things cleared up. That was what we did.

We didn't
just say: 'Saya menyokong' (I support the leadership) and leave it at that. I don't think it works that way. He (Najib) has expressed his loyalty (to Abdullah) which means that he is not prepared to make any deal with Mahathir. But on the quiet, messages were sent and negotiations took place - based on the information that I have - but I don't think he is prepared to go beyond that. From my experience, I would pledge loyalty and then I would go back to the party activists and operators on the strategy to take to defend the policy or to support the leader.

That has not happened and that is why there is so much commotion and turmoil on the ground.
There is a speculation that Mahathir and his people are actually trying to weaken Abdullah so that he would not perform well in the next general election. This would eventually hasten his departure, allowing Najib to take over. Certainly that is the plan now. The challenge would be quite effective and the message to the Umno grassroots is that they should expect the opposition to perform better. Well, I am quite happy with that assertion. But is the plan to get Najib immediately as the prime minister? I don't preclude the possibility that this huge challenge is to bring back Dr Mahathir...

* Are you saying there may be a plan to bring back Mahathir as prime minister?
Yes, as prime minister. Remember, the whole basis of his (Mahathir's) criticism is not one or two policies but that the leadership has lost its focus. (Mahathir is contending that) the Malays cannot feel secure under the present leadership. He is contending that (under the current leadership) our (the Malays') interests are not protected and that interests have been sold to a foreign country, and in particular to

Certainly there is a racist connotation there or the message is that the Chinese (continue to be a threat)... and therefore you need a strong leader to make amends and to chart a clear policy to protect the interests of this country before surrendering it to whomever, and in this case, Najib.

* If Najib eventually succeeds as prime minister, how would his administration be different from that of Abdullah's?

He has some level of sophistication and the facade of a modern establishment. But in terms of substantive departure of policies, I don't see that would happen. The general concern is the economic policy that caters for welfare of the majority in terms of distributive justice, economic policies that could garner the participation of all communities, and supportive of the plight of the poor - both urban and rural - among whom the majority are Malays.

Of course, this is a bone of contention here.
But the shift of focus of an economic policy from racial equation and NEP (National Economic Policy) to my mind is critical for this country and critical for the Malays. I don't believe that he (Najib) is prepared to change this particularly when he sees that this is his father's (the late prime minister Abdul Razak) agenda and his duty is to implement them.

As for his take on other policies, for example, the issue of corruption. to the credit of Abdullah, he has been very strong in his rhetoric to fight corruption but not his deeds... but Najib is even lacking in that focus.

* Do you think that Najib's leadership would take us back to the bad old days of Mahathir?

Najib is more of a consensus person. I don't think objectively he would be as crude and tyrannical as Mahathir. But he subscribes fully to all the draconian laws, control of the universities and the media. He has nothing to show despite being among the first leaders who had been exposed to western education, especially on issues of human rights

* What is your advise to Abdullah in facing the turbulence ahead?
That would be unsolicited advice (laughs).

First, Mahathir must be given the right to speak although he had never understood that right because to him the rights of others must never be recognised. But I would also say that you (Abdullah) must respond and give detailed explanations on the issues, be it the bridge, APs, Proton, corruption and the issue of funding government resources
Secondly, Abdullah had spoke clearly on his position on the separation of powers. I think he has to honour that because people have supported him on that position that he had taken, and he must do it.
He has to control the alleged excesses committed by members of his family and knowing him well from my younger days he has a strong and sincere feeling for the people and I don't believe that he has lost it. But people don't make judgment on your attitude or noble intentions but on your deeds. And the (Abdullah's) deeds, to my mind, are disappointing. I don't imagine him making major reforms but I did not imagine that he would be this bad.

* Is Abdullah incapable of doing what he had pledged? People are wondering especially after recent allegations of his son and son-in-law in their alleged government-related businesses.

His family is already in a very comfortable position, so he should put a stop to it. Even if they are capable, brilliant and have legitimate rights but these are sacrifices that leaders must make. Leaders must be clear on this.

Tomorrow: Bank Negara's multi-billion forex speculation

Read the 2nd Part INTERVIEW


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