KICKING out Prime Minister Najib Razak and Barisan Nasional is not the magic pill and what the year-old Bersatu wants to do is change a system that is beyond repair, said party head Muhyiddin Yassin.
In his first interview since starting Bersatu, Muhyiddin said removing Najib alone would not end the country’s problems.
“It is not only the personality, it is of what he has done, the policies that he has initiated, the damage that he has created to the country, and the leftovers (problems) that will have to be handled by future generations.
“The trillions of ringgit in debts that the country is faced with and the 1MDB problem will still have to be resolved. Najib’s resignation doesn’t resolve these,” Muhyiddin told The Malaysian Insight at his office yesterday.
Following deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking in 1998, BN also suffered setbacks in the 1999 general election. The result culminated in the loss of Terengganu to PAS and 42 federal seats to the loosely formed opposition coalition Barisan Alternatif.
BN’s popular vote dropped to 56.53% from 65.16% in 1995. However, following Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s retirement and the redelination exercise in 2003, his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi regained 63.85% of the popular vote, with BN winning 198 federal seats.
Muhyiddin said the system, under BN, has now become toxic.
“And when things become toxic, everything they touch becomes poisonous.”
During the hour-long interview with The Malaysian Insight, Muhyiddin also said Bersatu is capable of replacing PAS in the long run.
“We don’t want to compete with PAS and it is not an issue of whether Bersatu can fight PAS.
“But if you study what is happening in PAS and the number of disgruntled members, they are not as strong as they were before.”
Muhyiddin, who has held sports, domestic trade, agriculture, international trade and education portfolios in the government since 1995, said more PAS members were joining Bersatu.
“Recently, I went down to Sik in Kedah to accept more than 400 application forms from former PAS members to join Bersatu.
“It is true, they will not join Umno, for reasons that you all know, but when Bersatu came along, they did not feel odd joining us. We are not Umno.”
Excerpts from the interview:
TMI: Are Umno’s days numbered?
Muhyiddin: I don’t see any proactive moves under Najib’s leadership to rectify the situation. In fact, I have already said Umno has reached a point where it’s very difficult to repair.
It is a 60-year-old party that is undergoing a period of dark ages. (Umno turned 71 this year.)
The problems it faces, such as corruption, abuse of power until “cash is king”, are proven from the top leaders to the grassroots level.
As such, I think that Umno cannot sustain itself very much longer. If we look at the political history in other countries, the founding parties which obtained independence will sooner or later fade away.
Umno has derailed and with that, Malaysians can no longer trust it and its support will slowly decline.
I’m confident that Umno’s time is up and at its tail end. The next elections will determine whether it can continue to be in power or not.
TMI: PAS used to be a vital component of the opposition. Losing PAS would also mean losing Malay votes. Is Bersatu capable of filling the void left by PAS?
Muhyiddin: We are ready, give us time and with more effort, we will be able to spell out more clearly our way forward and the issues we are fighting for.
And later when we form the government, we will have the capability to deliver what the rakyat wants, I think that is what is more important.
So, building up that confidence and trust among, not just the Malays, but Malaysians at large, is crucial.
We don’t want to compete with PAS and it is not an issue of whether Bersatu can fight PAS.
So, if we move deeper into things and try to win the Malay votes, it doesn’t matter whether they are ex-Umno or ex-PAS, I think we will be able to draw the support from them as well.
It is also a question of time. PAS has been long there and Umno has been here for 60 years, while we have just this one year. Given time and good leadership, I think we will able to do what we aim to do.
TMI: If Umno is moving to the far right, where is Bersatu heading?
Muhyiddin: What is important is not centre, left or right. What is central is doing the right thing, for the people.
You can say it is left or you can say it is right, but what is important is when we decide certain things, it is not to show we are purposely going the other direction.
I think the rakyat will take into consideration whether what you are doing is for them, the interest of the people, doing the right thing or strengthening the institutions. I think these are the issues which are of concern to Malaysians at large.
I don’t want to be branded as a centrist, a leftist or a rightist. I just want to do the right thing. We won’t imitate other countries for obvious reasons because they are not the same. We want to do what is best for Malaysians.
TMI: Will they play the race and religion card in GE14?
Muhyiddin: Najib and BN may do it because they have no other issues to use.
He thinks that these issues (race and religion) are close to the voters’ hearts and he can raise sentiments of hatred and the like.
But this is a dangerous trend in a multi-ethnic country like Malaysia and can cause political instability and safety problems.
We have to be wary of such tactics. We want to rectify all the wrongs they committed.
TMI: In 1999, Umno had a difficult time after Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking but in 2004, the Malay vote swung back to BN with a new prime minister. So, if Najib were to step down tomorrow, would that change?
Muhyiddin: I ask you a question, would that solve the problem?
People assume if Najib steps down tomorrow, everything will turn good again. But will it? Or is it only part of the problem?
It is not only the personality. It is of what he has done, the policies that he has initiated, the damage that he has created in the country, and the leftover that will have to be handled by future generations.
The trillions of ringgit in debts the country is faced with and the issue of 1MDB will still have to be resolved. Najib’s resignation doesn’t resolve this.
Maybe it is a good thing that he will be rid of, being part of that system, but whoever is to take over will have to handle the problems.
So, I think it is not going to be the finale if Najib goes. It is not just the person, but the system that the party has created over the years is so corrupt that it is no longer sustainable.
So, while one person can be a factor, it has now gone toxic. When things become toxic, everything they touch become poisonous.
TMI: So this is beyond personality?
Muhyiddin: Personality is one, but of course it is beyond personality. The problem that is faced by the country today is of one man’s creation and of a system that is corrupt.
TMI: What first came to your mind when you received the news that you were sacked from the cabinet?
Muhyiddin: People have asked me if I feel sad but I don’t feel sad. As a Muslim, I accept it as fate and maybe a blessing now.
I think the timing must have been there, because God did not want to see me sit beside Najib after the many wrongs he has committed.
Today, I feel free from these feelings and I’m no longer restricted by the problems we see today. I would not have been in peace if I continued to serve beside him.
I can continue arguing on why I should not have been sacked but I just want to move forward. I think the bigger issue is not about me now. I don’t talk about myself but I will talk about my party and what I struggle for.
What is important are Malaysia’s issues.