PART FOUR: Ten Years' Retired And Still Working Hard For The Country
How strong do you feel is Najib's hold on the rakyat’s trust in his leadership?
For as long as he is the Prime Minister and President of Umno, I think he will have the support, at least at Umno. But, we are seeing today, some changes in the Barisan Nasional. For example, it’s possible for the component parties not to support the leader.
And if this goes on, if there is - in the Opposition - a good leader, I think people will change (sides), people will cease to support (BN).
Do you see this happening in the near future?
I don't see it happening in the near future because the Opposition has a candidate who is worse than the leader of the government.
You only have to campaign by saying “You want this man or that man?” and the answer is “No, no, no, I want this man'. It's winning by default, not because you are supporting him but because you don't support (the other guy).
So, that is the determining factor, in the last election. But the non-Malays don't mind. They voted for the Opposition. Because they really believe that in GE13 the Opposition will win and they want to be on the winning side.
In our political history, was there a General Election similar to the previous one when the Opposition was ever so confident of taking over?
Before, people show respect for Umno and they remember that it was Umno which had fought for the country’s independence. (They acknowledge that) Umno saved this country from the (establishment of the) Malayan Union. People were still grateful.
The voters (then) were people who knew (how difficult it was for Umno to fight for independence), (because they) had (lived) through this period. They know. Today’s voters, however, do not (acknowledge) the past at all.
Some of the Pas leaders, they don't even know. You see, they are saying, “why should we be grateful forever?” “We don't have to be grateful to them”.
So, the loyalty (to Umno) based on past achievements is now diminishing and will (probably) disappear in the next election.
In the next election the voters will be people who were born long after the independence. They do not feel the struggle for independence; they do not know the (significance) of Umno’s (political) achievements. All they (want to believe) is that Umno is a corrupt party.
But some voters might come back and say “Why should I be grateful forever when ensuring the well-being of the people is a tacit duty of every government?”
(Voters must realise that) not every government performs. There are many countries which became independent, but as you know, (their governments) didn't perform. (In those countries) there is nothing to be grateful about.
So we need to be able to make the comparison between Malaysia and (the performance of governments) in other countries and (only then will they) find that (the government) have done well.
Yes, we have done well. But (voters) are saying, “It's not done by you, it's done by somebody else before (the current government).
(The current government) are grateful to those people before but you are not following, so the attitude is different (with voters today). (They are telling the government) “We are not grateful to you, but we are grateful to those people before.”
How did you see Datuk Seri Najib's handling of the Lahad Datu incursion? Do you think the government tackled it appropriately?
Actually it was as appropriate as can be because we had (little) experience of people invading our country.
(They were) a small group of 200 people wanting to conquer Malaysia. Does it make sense? They must be idiots.
And the Malaysian army - at least 100,000 strong, maybe much bigger than that – (is well equipped with) all the (modern) weapons. What makes they think they can conquer (us without being met with unrelenting and impenetrable force)?
(The invaders of Lahad Datu) have fought in the Philippines for the past 60 years, (and) what have they achieve, other than killing people?
I mean it was very stupid of them to try and do these things, and as usual they believe the people will rise and go against the government.
This was (an attempt similar to the undeclared war waged against Malaysia) during the Konfrantasi (the political and armed opposition to the creation of Malaysia by Indonesia in the 1960s).
It is a very stupid move and in the end, most of them are killed, and they deserve to be killed, because you don't invade other countries with the idea that (you can forcefully take over and) establish your own country there.
In the Budget 2014 suggestions website, there were many people who want the ISA to be reinstated. How do you feel when the law was removed? Do you think it was more of a way for the government to become popular with the people?
During my time there was a move to do away with the ISA. (My government) consulted a lot of people, discussed with the police and all that, and asked, “What would happen if we remove the ISA?” And the advice that I received was that if we remove the ISA then there’ll be a lot of (disturbance in civilised society). (More) people will commit crime.
So, I didn't (remove the ISA). Even (suggestions to) reduce the detention period to one year was also not agreed.
Of course, the Opposition started crying about the issue, saying, “This is not democratic” and all that. And then (what follows is) you start to respond to the Opposition.
When you respond to the Opposition, it doesn't mean the Opposition will support you. The Opposition want this as an issue to bring down the government.
If they lose that issue, they'll find some other issue. Because all they are interested is to bring down the government. If you think that by acceding to the Opposition's views, therefore they will support you - you are wrong. Their supporters will not support you; they want to bring you down.
So, when you do away with the ISA, the net result was something I anticipated, that there will be more crimes, although the level of crimes is far more than what I had anticipated. I didn't expect so many cases of killing, rape and all that. All kinds of things are happening now, which never happened before.
As you know, the internet media, particularly those in the blog sphere, have a kind of love-hate relationship with you. But even they would agree that all Malaysians sorely miss your leadership as Prime Minister. That said, everyone wonders whether there'll be another politician of your calibre, perhaps being groomed today. Can you see Mukhriz as your “successor”?
Anybody can do what I did. I didn't do anything very special. (As PM), you’re given the authority to develop the country and there are ways to develop the country.
You have your civil servants who have the experience to administer the country. All you need is maybe some idea, and the idea can come from anybody.
But I must admit that I plagiarised a lot of ideas, you know. A lot of ideas come from people. Talking with people about Japan and all that, got me thinking about the Look East Policy (a foreign policy under Mahathir’s administration to promote bilateral relations between Malaysia and Japan in 1982).
It comes from people. If you are a leader you must listen to the people. Lots of people have got lots of ideas. You cannot monopolise all the ideas in the country. The ideas come from people. (As a leader), we have to listen to them. Read, listen, and watch what's happening in other countries. Anybody can do that.
Do you think maybe Malaysia needs another doctor-statesman as a PM?
Not necessarily to be a doctor. Anybody can do. Of course, I have some advantage as a doctor because a doctor approaches diseases in a systematic way, so I apply that method, but anybody can learn - nothing remarkable.
Do you see your son becoming PM? Do you want him to be PM?
He's like anybody else. If he qualifies, why not? But if people want other people and they think that these people can deliver, go ahead. But it is quite obvious that if you choose the wrong leader, then you have to pay the price.
During your time, you didn’t have to grapple with irresponsible and disruptive news reporting from the internet media and blog sites? Would you say that you had an easier time with the media during your time than Najib has to deal with today?
But one forgets that in this country, despite the fact that we have some kind of censorship, the Opposition and many others can write anything they like. Lots of things were said against me. I didn't stop them.
Harakah, Roket, all that other media, sometimes they says nasty things about me and I allowed foreign media to say anything they like about me.
Of course, if they say something, I have the right to reply. That is my right. As much as they have the freedom of speech, I (too) have the freedom of speech.
But I didn't ban them. The only time when something was done was during the Ops Lalang in 1987 (The operation saw the arrest of 106 persons under the Internal Security Actand the revoking of the publishing licenses of two dailies, The Star and Sin Chew Jit Poh and two weeklies, The Sunday Star and Watan).
But that (ban was absolutely necessary because) the country cannot afford to have racial clashes. We had already told people, “If you stir up racist beliefs, we'll act against you”.
So we did that. And then once they learned it’s not wise to do that, then (we said) ok, they can go ahead (and publish). So I had a difficult time, too. The foreign press were mad against me, but now the foreign press are quite nice to the present government.
I never had any good word said about me by the foreign press and the foreign press is very influential. So to say I had an easy time is not true.
So Tun, when are you really going to (step out of the country’s politics) and retire?
I used to advise people, that when they retire, when they are pensioned off, please do something, be active, because then they can keep life going.
So I cannot really retire, I come to my office every day. I meet people, I talk to people, I have ideas, I plagiarise other people's ideas, and that is my life. I don't understand about people who would want to retire and then go to sleep.
Some people are asking, “Will you ever cease offering your opinions about the country?”
A lot of things interest me. It’s not just about this country. A lot of things which go wrong on internationally, I comment. For example, the action against Iraq, and all that.
I keep an interest on what's going on around me. If I start losing interest of what’s going on around me, I'll probably be a dead man next year.