Friday, August 11, 2006


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In this second of a three-part interview, Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah talks about his political future as well as that of Anwar Ibrahim.

Razaleigh: I don’t write off any politician. The only politicians that have retired from politics are dead ones [laughs]. Since he (Anwar) was removed from the party, (you may think he has) no more future. I don’t think so. It depends on what happened in the society, if the situation demands his participation, he will rise again. You can’t say a politician has no more future.

Of course, Anwar has no place in the political arena today. I am told that PAS is a bit disenchanted with him and he has no place in mainstream politics. He came to see me, and I advised him if you want to get back to mainstream politics, or want to be prime minister, you should go back to Umno. How? He has to work it out. I am not to advise him. If he wants to plays opposition politics, then he should become PAS president and change PAS.

PAS shouldn’t be what it is today. PAS cannot excite the new generation. Unless PAS changes its face and ways, it won’t capture the imagination of young people. And the non-Muslims won’t respond to it if it goes on this kind of conservative attitude. So I said: ‘You go into PAS and become president and change PAS.’ Like this man (Prime Minister Tayyip Edrogan) in Turkey, (his party) was an old Islamic party led by people in jubah (robes) and he changed it into a progressive Islamic party. Everybody voted for it.

* What about PKR?

PKR has no future. But then again, I am not writing off PKR. But compare it with the party I once led, Semangat 46 - it was a national party and we were fighting against people in power. Here, PKR is only a Kuala Lumpur party, and it's not a Malay party, it's a mismatch, along with the socialist crowd - the Parti Rakyat Malaysia that has been rejected by the people. (The party has) no base. Their bases were pockets from Johor, Terengganu, Penang. I don't see how (it can be a major force). I told Anwar this.

* What was his response?

He kept quiet. He agreed with me. I said, "Your wife (Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail) only won because it was your (previous) seat in Permatang Pauh". But now I doubt whether he will win if he was to stand again in Permatang Pauh - unless he stands on either PAS or Umno ticket.

* Should he go back to Umno?

Yes, because elections is coming. There is no point being a politician without participating in the election. I am not writing him off, he is quite a maverick.

* In his recent interview with malaysiakini, he said he might stand in a multi-racial seat.

Because he doesn't think he can get support from the Malays. And I don't think he is going to get support from the non-Malays also. It's very hard to get a seat. Predominantly Chinese seats in the urban areas are either (contested by) MCA, Gerakan or DAP. DAP is not going to give up the seat for him, why should they?

* What about yourself?

Me? I am here [laughs]. It's up to the party leadership, if they think I should stand, and then I stand (in the next general election).

* And the party presidency?

That depends on Umno members, isn't it?

* Do you still have intention to be party president

No, I have no plans whatsoever. Even the last time, I didn't want to oppose (Umno president) Abdullah (Ahmad Badawi) except for the fact that I disagreed with the supreme council's decision that the No 1 and 2 posts should not be contested. I don't think that is right because it was not written anywhere in the (party's) constitution.

So I just wanted to make a point to make Umno members realise democracy is not dead as even the No 1 can be challenged. I didn't really campaign. (I contested) just to show my protest.

* What about the quota system in Umno?

I think it should go. You must be confident in yourself if you want to be a leader. You don't need all these things. You talk about removing the tongkat, but you yourself are protected by that quota. You don't need that.

* During your last interview with malaysiakini (January 2004), you said it was too early to judge Abdullah's performance as prime minister as he had been in power for only 50 days then. What is your assessment now?

I won't say what I have in mind yet. But people say there is lack of direction (of Abdullah's premiership) especially on the economic front. That 's why things are not moving. There are a lot of things happening. For instance, the Article 11 and the counter reaction from the Islamic groups. I went to one meeting recently, they were not violent nor extreme in their views except for saying we must protect the constitution pertaining to Islam and we were not going to allow anybody to jeopardise our position.

If this is not handled properly it will cause some problems, big problems to our country. The prime minister has came out with a statement (to stop discussing the issue). Whether the people will take heed of his advice, I don't know, but the undercurrent is quite strong. Maybe it's good in some sense to have an open debate in matters like this, but for those who lack understanding of the real problem, it can be very murky.

* If this is to go on, will it affect Barisan Nasional in the coming elections?

All these things matter, it does affect the thinking of the people. What I am trying to say here is these things didn't happen before, it is not because it has been kept underwrap, but people understand certain matters shouldn't be brought up for open discussion because a lot of people don't understand, don't comprehend the problem at hand and it can get out of hands. Who is to stop this or provide the solution? Very difficult.

The crime rate is also on the rise. It is all because of (the lack of) economic activities, unemployment, even among graduates. We have full employment until 2002, now we have what? More than 20,000 unemployed graduates, but I am told the figure is more than 60,000, not including those who came back from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia and Taiwan. We are not creating enough employment opportunities.

* Anwar has called for the New Economic Policy to be abolished. Is it time to do away with it?

I think NEP is a good thing, but probably it must be reshaped into a new policy, a new strategy in ways never done before. The problem with the NEP - it was abused by the people who are not supposed to get all those things. That tainted the NEP. In spite of all the weaknesses, (the NEP) has worked.

After all, in spite of what we have done with the NEP, the Malays only own about three percent (of equity) , that's all, a lot of them have lost. Where are (tycoons) Tajudin Ramli), Halim Saad? They may be driving a big car but they have big fat borrowings. Compared with (Lim) Goh Tong, Robert (Kuok), or Ananda (Krishnan), you can't pick any Malay (from among the tycoons).

Unless, you give a fair opportunity for everybody, open up education like during (former prime minister) Mahathir (Mohamad)'s time. If the Chinese complain, they can (still) go to private colleges. Malays are not complaining as they can't go to some of these places because they can't afford them, they are (also) going to some colleges which give them slightly inferior training, they come out not as well qualified as the Chinese. In workplaces, you can see a kind of discrimination (against the Malays) again.

We are lucky we don't have problems today. But the ugly thing that is happening in the religious front - that I am afraid of, because when you come to religious quarrels or fights, nobody can pacify them because it is (based on) faith.

Tomorrow (Last part): Expect economic woes soon

for a better context: Check his RECENT INTERVIEW with ASIA TIMES On Line
and also his Interview with Malaysiakini
1st Part
2nd Part
Final Part


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