Wednesday May 16, 2012
Full version of the Q&A with Tunku Aziz
PETALING JAYA: In an exclusive interview with executive editor Wong Sai Wan, Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim said DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng did not even “have the decency” to reply to an e-mail he had written over a rebuke the Penang Chief Minister had issued over his comments on Bersih.
Here is the full version of the Q&A with Tunku Aziz.
Q: So how was last night?
A: I thought it went very well, you know.
Well, of course my telephone didn't stop ringing for two hours. I had to turn it off because I couldn't cope with the number of calls coming in and the number of SMSes coming in from all over the place.
Do you know how many calls you had?
> I think quite a few dozen (calls) actually. I don't know who they were because they were not people I know, because if they were then I would know. The name would appear on the screen. I believe people from the media, I would say. I took just one, someone I knew from Sin Chew. But even then I said, nothing really to say tonight after what I said on TV.
Were there any calls from the DAP party leaders?
> None. There were none. Messages came from party members. All saying that they respected my decision and they were sorry I'd decided to call it quits.
Did you inform the DAP leaders before the thing was broadcast that you're going to quit?
Well, several days ago, I think soon after Bersih, I had mentioned in my email to the secretary-general that in view of what they said was the sentiment on the ground against me. I said I would resign from the CEC. And after a suitable, decent interval, I would resign from the party if it would restore the harmony within DAP. They did not respond to this, but Kit Siang made two visits to my house basically to say that he hoped very much that it wouldn't come to that.
Was this a friendly visit? Not in official capacity?
> No! You see, Kit Siang and I get on extremely well together, We are friends. So the visit was a friendly visit, it was just between two friends. The last visit was somewhere last week. But they knew there was going to be this broadcast because I asked the Headquarters' Chief of Staff to let all the CEC members know that I was going to be on this programme. I suppose they must have had some inkling.
No one called you saying Tunku, please don't go on air?
> Kit Siang said that he would leave it to my wisdom, but he didn't say not to go on air, but you know He knew that I would use my wisdom. Their main fear was that this might be exploited.
I wanted it to be a dignified exit, and to be fair. Because I am not against the party, I am not against the party at all. I am just against the attitude adopted by the secretary-general. Particularly when he first got in touch with me, it was to accuse me of going against the party position. Which was to support Bersih.
I at no time had withdrawn my support for Bersih. I have always supported Bersih for what Bersih stands for. I've spoken for free and fair elections on several occasions. Not as vice-chairman of DAP but in my other capacities. So to say that Tunku is opposed to Bersih is something that the party and Pakatan Rakyat had been working hard to promote, is a little disingenuous.
And somehow it smacks of a reluctance or inability to see the difference between supporting free and fair election activity, and not supporting these activities if they were illegal. There is that distinction which I think they purposely ignored, because Lim Guan Eng, in his rebuke, was rebuking me for something I hadn't done.
Would you say that your relationship with Guan Eng was not very cordial even before this? You were invited in by the father, but do you think the son was ever really keen on you?
> My relationship with Guan Eng before this was cordial, but a bit ambivalent. Both (Kit Siang and Guan Eng) invited me, and because of my great respect for Kit Siang I did not hesitate in the least because if felt that this would give me an opportunity to be in a party without being a politician, and was an opportunity to continue with my work in promoting integrity, both in the government and corporate sector.
In other words, the opportunity to be engaged in fighting corruption, which was my main mission in life. Because no other party actually had come out openly to say, you know, we will fight corruption but DAP has maintained its position insistently. It was very attractive.
This was your maiden venture into politics?
Are you bitter about it, four years later having to resign from the party?
> I think I was a little naive in thinking that the ideals that I had would be in fact the ideals that DAP actually practised. I don't know about the other political parties but I expect they would be much the same.
As a man who has always been fighting against things that are unethical, would you say DAP as a party was ethical after four years of being inside?
> I wouldn't say so. Well, for example... one of the key party members set up the Rocket Caf in Petaling Jaya, and this was done without Council approval being obtained. And when other members of the party raised this, it was just pushed under the rug and no action was taken. To me, this is not on.
Because Pakatan Rakyat is the government of Selangor and DAP controls in terms of its numbers the local councils within Selangor, PJ, and what have you.
Although people say “oh, it is a small matter”, to me, it is an important fundamental issue because you have broken your own by-laws. And if you are cavalier in your attitude to the law that you have made then, to me, it shows very sad state of affairs and bad judgment.
Did you raise the issue?
> I raised the issue, but you could see that it was not something they were comfortable with. And if you see recently Dr Cheah's reports in The Star (Damansara Utama assemblyman Dr Cheah Wing Yin), this is the same kind of issue.
There are good people within DAP who want to see that we do things in an ethical manner, but there are others who you know will just go ahead in breaking their own rules. If you do this, sooner or later people are going to ask, can these people really be trusted with a bigger job?
What other things worry you in the Selangor administration?
> I think that while on the whole they have managed the state well we have to give them credit for that one or two of their exco members probably need to be put under closer scrutiny. I think what Dr Cheah has highlighted is probably the tip of the problems.
And your pronouncement on Penang? Is it much better than Selangor?
> I think Penang is well-run. I'll say it's well-run, but there are things which need to be improved upon. You see, the thing that has worried a lot of people is the fact that several years into the administration of Penang, there is a great tendency to keep blaming the past administration. It is almost like a case of a bad workman blaming his tools.
You are very well-known as a man of integrity, so I have to ask this question. Bersih was not the only problem you had with party leadership, was it? Were there other things?
> No. I mean, you know, the open sort of disagreement subsequently was Bersih. But there are obviously, in any sort of organisation or party, things that you are not entirely happy with but they're not terribly significant to upset you to the extent that you would even think of withdrawing yourself.
But for me, ethical issues are important. Integrity issues are important. That's perhaps why I am naive, because I believe that integrity you either have it or you don't. You can't say, you know, yes, this is 70 percent ...
There is no glass half-full for integrity.
> You either have it or you don't have it. For example, when the council decides to take action against illegal hawkers, one of our key figures would intervene to say don't touch these people; don't take any action because they are party supporters. To me, this is an act that is tantamount to interfering, serious interference in the operating system and the administration of local government.
Many of our people forget that local government is where the public first experiences dealing with the government. Many of them will never have to deal with Putrajaya or any of the ministries, but for the average person like you or me living in particular district or area, it's all local government.
Would Tunku Aziz a Malay have been received in the same manner if he were Malaysian-Chinese? Your invitation, the position in which you leave Was any of it a racial move?
> I don't think so. Except, I'm dealing with someone who does not seem to be able to see the whole picture and assist it in giving his slant to what is essentially a very straightforward matter.
I support Bersih but I do not support breaking the law. As simple as that. But you check that rebuke of me and there's no mention that I was not against Bersih but merely against sitting at Dataran Merdeka because the court had ordered the participants not to breach it and the owner of the land.
They argued, it's not city council. But to me, whoever is in charge of that place, they have responsibility. If they say “sorry, not here” (then that's that). It's things like that which really upset me.
So what next?
> Well, I have given very careful consideration to the what'. The action I have taken was not something that was done in the heat of moment, I consulted my immediate family and close friends, and all have said the same thing.
The party is obviously not ready to accommodate someone like me. I'm known for my plain speaking and I cannot just suppress my comments or feelings when things are done in a way that, to me, aren't ethical.
So, the future. You know when I joined the party, I had no ambition to be anything but a member, and try to see if I could bring to bear on the party as a whole some of the values grounded in integrity and ethics, good governance, the fight against corruption, et cetera.
I never asked to be made vice chairman, then when they said they were going to make me that, I said fine. I never begged to be appointed as senator because I have never been a supplicant. I have never asked the government for any help or assistance, although you know as a Bumi I could have done that.
But I thought that because I was and still continue to be against the new economic policy. Particularly when I saw that they were departing from the original purpose. So to me, I never asked, I would never ask,
I would consider that as below my dignity. But when my term was ending, the Dewan mentioned that my term would be up and they sent a letter to that effect to the Penang government.
At that point, I sent Guan Eng a little note from my iPhone that this was coming up and if you are thinking of extending my term, I am available to serve and that was all.
He said yes, okay, and then he very kindly said to me at one of our recent CEC meetings that he would certainly put my name up and in fact he was going to announce it at the CEC but was reminded that he couldn't, shouldn't do it, because the matter had to go back to DAP Penang and then to the state government.
Then after the statement on Bersih, Kit Siang saw me and said it was unfortunate with the senatorship coming up that this had come about.
He said it may be a bit difficult for them to nominate me again. And I said to him, if this is going to cause any problem for the party, please do not put my name up, because not having my term renewed is really no skin off my nose.
I never asked for it in the first place and I do not want my being re-nominated to be the cause of disharmony within the party. So they did exactly what I told them to do not put my name up.
Somehow I don't think they would have put your name up anyway.
> Oh, absolutely. Am sure they welcomed it. But I wanted my position to be entirely clear. I am not pushing myself forward. The party, as I also said to them, no man is bigger than the party. If in your opinion I have transgressed, I would expect you to take action. I encourage that. Put me through the disciplinary procedure.
When did you tell them this? Immediately after getting the rebuke or before that?
> After getting the rebuke. He (Guan Eng) made the point that I had done this, that, and the other. If they're saying that I've done something so serious that it requires disciplinary action, I said go ahead and do it because that's what leadership is all about.
Leadership is about tackling unpleasant tasks and not evading them. I told Guan Eng, I would think a lot more of you if you took appropriate action. Going to be difficult but this is your duty in the interest of the party.
What did he say?
> Absolutely nothing, No reaction. No reaction to me suggesting that I want to resign from the CEC and after a decent interval, as I did not want the whole thing to be seen as a rushed job, I would leave the party.
Here's a very unfair question. Is Guan Eng disappointment as a leader? You obviously have great admiration for his father.
> The son is a different kettle of fish. I don't want to get personal. He is a good leader, apart from other qualities. Leaders must be good listeners, this is from my observation.
So is he a good listener?
> By my reckoning, he should learn to listen more and give everybody a chance to be heard.
You have to first learn to be, I think, a little modest because it's not for you to say how well you're doing or how well you've done for Penang. Let the people of Penang decide. That is really the true measure of your achievement. When people say “well done Guan Eng”. But for you to scream your head off about CAT (a DAP slogan standing for “competency, accountability, and transparency”)? What is CAT? Cat is a slogan. But to him no. But when it comes to 1Malaysia, 1Malaysia is just a slogan. But CAT is not.
If all this didn't happen, would you contest as candidate if you were asked?
Did anyone speak to you about that?
No one spoke to you about this?
> No one, although I did say to Guan Eng, Kit Siang, if they needed, if they were short of any candidates and felt I could be of any use, I was ready. You know, even at my age, if the party felt they needed my services, I am ready to serve.
Is this your last venture into politics?
> Absolutely, no question there. But what really made me finally decide to leave although I was thinking very seriously about what I should do was last Sunday at about 8.43AM, I had a phone call from Guan Eng. I don't know whether to describe it as an act of contrition or whether he felt that I needed to be compensated for the loss of the Senate seat.
He offered me - now this really staggered my imagination offered me a senior fellowship at the Penang Institute, dangling travel as one of the attractions... And I said I'd have to think about it. This was followed up yesterday, after I had made up my mind.
His aide rang me at lunchtime yesterday to repeat his boss's offer, but added that this time there would be a stipend of RM50,000 a year, along with other things. I regard this offer as totally insulting.
Totally totally insulting, and I could only conclude that it had come from someone who had no sense and not even a modicum of respect. Did he think I was that kind of person? What an insult. You rebuked me for the wrong reason, you removed my senate position, and then you offered a fellowship at Penang Institute. This man has gone out of his senses.
This was the clincher as far as I was concerned. This man has no sense of decency, in other words.
He ignored your emails, he insulted you... And I guess as a man of ethics and integrity, this Penang Institute sounded like a bribe.
> It's a bribe, it's a salve for my hurt pride. To me, as a senior person... I'm trying to find an English word for this behaviour, and I cant. The only word is a Malay word, and it's “biadap”. I mean, that's what really made me decide I will not work with this man. I am prepared to be rebuked, but the reason for the rebuke must be made very clear, you know.
Do you think that he was under pressure from Anwar Ibrahim or someone else to do all this?
> I wouldn't go so far as to say that, but Kit Siang did say that there's a lot of pressure from Pakatan Rakyat. And at that point I said to him, I did not join Pakatan Rakyat. As far as I am concerned, I couldn't care less. I joined DAP. I am a DAP man. I am a DAP member. The fact that we are part of the coalition is a different matter, but I've not sold my soul to the party, and certainly not to Pakatan Rakyat.
You seemed reluctant to talk about Anwar the other night. Any particular reason?
> I wanted to keep it on a dignified level. I made it very plain at the start that I'd have to be very careful about what I said. I want to be fair and Guan Eng isn't here to defend the party or defend himself. But Anwar, I have never been an admirer of Anwar. I don't even know him.
Which is why it is surprising. Following your appointment was the height of DAP-PKR coalition.
> That's right, they'd just won elections. The great honeymoon period.
Is Guan Eng under pressure from Anwar because they are close to winning Putrajaya?
> I can't really be 100% certain, but one never knows. For them, it's political expediency. It doesn't matter because I don't think they'd give two hoots about anything or anybody who stands in their way. Asking too questions, raising issues, and so on.
So were the coalition in support of Bersih? Had they made it known?
> I think they had, all the top boys. All the three parties, it was generally accepted that we were behind it. Sending out messages on Twitter and this and that, getting people to come.
I support Bersih objectives, as long as they don't cross the police line. My instinct told me that this was not going to end peacefully, from experience, stories, reports you have read from other parts of the world. All demonstrations particularly street demos start off peacefully but the average rate of success where they end peacefully is very small.
So how do you feel?
> I feel liberated from the tyranny of demagogy. It's a blessed relief, I received so many wonderful messages of encouragement from people like Koh Tsu Koon, the president of the Senate, many others.
Nine people came to see me, we sat down and had a drink together. These people they have tried to, well, transform DAP at their level. They find there is so much cronyism, so many cliques. You don't belong to the leadership clique, you're out, You make an unfavourable comment, you're out. I suppose no party is free from all this.
Chow (Chow Kon Yeow), head of DAP Penang, sent message saying I respect your decision. He should have been Chief Minister yet they parachuted Guan Eng in. He's CM, Sec-Gen, MP
So do you think the coalition can make it to Putrajaya?
> At the moment I think this is as close as they will ever get because the so-called coalition is very fragile as they have not been able to resolve some very fundamental questions before going to elections that need to be addressed.
For example, the Muslim state. I do not know how they are going to resolve this because PAS will not abandon it. It is the central pillar of their religious and political beliefs. It's like asking someone to abandon their principles.
Is this what you observed?
> This is what I saw from the inside. DAP, for example, is not happy with the current ambivalent attitude from PAS. One day they say yes, we won't be a Muslim state, the next day say they will be. For the sake of political expediency they need to show they are united but that unity is not grounded in any kind of deep foundation.
It doesn't take a lot, you can see, for Karpal (Karpal Singh, DAP national chairman) to show his displeasure. How can you go into battle when your strategy is compromised by different ideologies?
What about the recent reforms made by the current government?
> I see the whole thing not as a product that you can pick up off the shelf of a supermarket. This whole thing is the government trying to respond to the needs of the people. I see this as series of processes.
This is why I said they may not be perfect, a lot of that is still a work in progress, but a process needs a little time. We have waited for so long. Under the previous administrations, we articulated these concerns of ours but they were totally ignored. So for the first time we have a government who for reasons of its own is listening. Again, maybe for political expediency.
But as far as the average person on the street is concerned, that is not his worry. His worry is that some of the things which he feels are not in place are not being looked at. So while I don't agree with the government all the time, my disagreement has to do with policies, policy issues.
I have never made it a habit to condemn everything someone does, whether it's government or opposition or individuals because I believe that it's not all bad. By the same token, not everything is good. We want the government to take into account the feelings of the people, what it is the people want.
This is why I support Bersih for free and fair elections. They have raised awareness. But they have done enough now, the government is listening. Give the government a chance to put right what we see as inadequacies within the electoral system, for example.
I am naive and sometimes very stupid, but I believe I'm doing the right thing.
So what do you think of the rumours that you've been bought?
> Tunku Aziz has been paid? The moment I expressed my view on Bersih getting involved in breaking the law, people did not stop to think about what I was against. They seem to believe that I was opposed to Bersih. And it didn't help when my own party's rebuke attributed my opposition in the wrong manner. To me it was a little dishonest because I feel I was rebuked for the wrong reason. I would take any rebuke like a man but there must be fairness, justice and equity. Things I have always fought for and stood for.
Some have said I was bought over by Umno. Even yesterday I received a lot of messages asking me to confirm whether I was leaving DAP to join Umno because the rumour mill had started. Of course I denied it and explained that I am not a frog. In any case, I haven't seen colour of their money. The rumour is just a rumour that I left to join Umno, was paid millions by MCA, I am a Trojan horse, I am a mole.
I have all along been undermining DAP as a Trojan horse, but the point is it's not as if I asked to join to be a mole or Trojan horse. I was invited to join and I tell you that I do not know anyone in Umno. Not one Umno official. I do not know any one of them.
So what is next for you?
> Whatever I do, I want to serve our country, and I think I have had the benefit of a lot of exposure, both in business as well as international organisations like the United Nations, the Commonwealth Secretariat. If the government or anyone thinks I could be useful, I'm happy to do that for our country.
But absolutely no politics. As they say, once bitten twice shy. But in this case once bitten, forever shy. Sekali cukup la.
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