Change or be changed

MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek has a Herculean task leading the party into the general election. He speaks candidly to TERENCE FER- NANDEZ AND ASRUL HADI ABDULLAH SANI on what ails the MCA and the BN, He also has flowery words for his predecessor in the first of a twopart interview. The Malay Mail: You said there has been a significant change in the BN administration since 2008. Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek: I would say to be fair to (Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib (Razak), he really takes the trouble and the initiative to reach out to all communities. And I would say he is the most hardworking prime minister this country ever had. TMM: So you see 2008 had to happen for BN and Umno to actually start listening? CSL: To be fair, the 2008 political tsunami is a signal that the Barisan Nasional must change. Not just Umno. Everybody got to change including MCA, Gerakan and MIC. TMM: Let's talk about Gerakan. CSL: We don't talk about Gerakan.

I think we should not be talking about Gerakan. TMM: Is there any way that Gerakan and MCA can work together? To achieve a common good? CSL: My policy is an open door policy. Any engagement should be based on mutual respect and based on equal partnership and I have said that in front of the prime minister during the BN convention. TMM: So MCA does not take a big brother approach to Gerakan? CSL: It doesn't work that way! If I don't want Umno to take the big brother approach then MCA should not adopt a big brother approach. And I am the first MCA president who reached out the most to the Indian community. I can show you the amount of allocation that has been given to the Indian community and it will shock all of you! I would say not less than RM4 million. All programmes that I have initiated in the last one year; the MCA medical foundation - 25 per cent of the recipient of the 1MCA medical foundation are Indians.

TMM: Some would accuse you of playing racial politics when other leaders have been calling for IMalaysia and all that CSL: I am not playing racial politics. I am just trying to tell you that we should get out of this racial pigeon-hole but having said that, I have to admit that it is not easy. You see, we raised about RM17 million last year and we have given out until now about RM7.6 million. About 1,200 people of all races have benefited from this, of which 25 per cent are Indians. And we have no problem with that because diseases are blind to race and religion. When you are down with a disease and being poor, we just have to help and as a doctor, I frilly understand that. The 1MCA education loan which was started by me is for all races but I have to admit that I see more and more Indians coming here. I have got no problem with that This is because half of the Indian voters are in MCA constituencies. TMM: And also that mean basically they have given up hope on die MIC? CSL: I won't dare to say that I reach out and if you look at the Tamil press, my name is always in there. TMM: Because you don't see the kind of interaction between the Indian leaders and the community terms of reaching out and getting results. CSL: That is why PM has taken a lot of initiative to reach out to the Indians, Chinese and of course to the Malays. I think he is the first prime minister who ever does that, to be fair. TMM: Would it have been different if 2008 didn't happen? CSL: No, I don't think so because Najib's character is such, if you notice that he doesn't lose temper. I have never seen him losing temper. He is a good listener, he listens and he has good memory. TMM: Let's talk about the prime minister's own battles that he has to fight from within. CSL: Every party has that, DAP also has this problem. PAS also has this problem (Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim also has this problem. If Anwar doesn't have this problem then the 11 lawmakers would not have left the party and sing different tune to what they were singing before the election. And these are the people very close to him. People like N. Gobalakrishnan, Zulkifli Noordin, people that were very close to him. People like Chandra Muzaffar who was his deputy. Basically all the original founders of PKR are no more with him. TMM: OK. You have taken a presidential approach towards the candidacy of your predecessor Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat in putting party above self by announcing that he can stand if he's a winnable candidate. CSL: If he is a winnable candidate, he stands. But now he says that if I want him to stand I must go and approach him! My response is that here is a man, a senior party leader, who everyday opens his mouth and talks about himself, candidacy and nothing else. So you can see what sort of leaders we have. TMM: But Tee Keat has created this whole aura... CSL: It all came crumbling down after the vote of no confidence at the MCA emergency general meeting. TMM: But people have taken him. The fact that the investigations into the PKFZ (Port Klang Free Zone) debacle would not have yielded these results including the charging of two former MCA transport ministers had Tee Keat not allowed it CSL: Well, then its good. That is politics. TMM: It would be good for MCA if he is going to stand on the party's ticket Don't you think so? CSL: I have my reservations because Chinese people look at leadership not on just one issue. People who would see how you react But I would not like to talk about Tee Keat in this interview because to me, what is past is past TMM: But he is still a thorn... CSL: No, he is not a thorn in the side. TMM: But he is relevant? CSL: I would say he is a chrysanthemum among the bed of roses. TMM: How hard has it been for you in rebranding MCA since becoming president in 2010? CSL: It has been a very difficult job knowing that this is wartime and the war zone is entirely different now. The war zone has more

COMPLACENT: Hurt is why I said when you are in power for too long

you take things for granted Pic ARIF KARTONO

youth, younger people, and higher expectations. Now with the advent of information technology, people are no more dependent on traditional media and you are dealing with Pakatan Rakyat which in my debate with Lim Guan Eng, I said they should be given an Oscar for their ability to spin, ability to package, ability to create false impressions and the ability to give false hopes. They win hands down on this ... and finally the ability to create issues beyond what you can imagine and MCA and the rest of the component parties have been unable to respond effectively to all these issues created. TMM: You said BN has been unable to respond effectively? Why is that? CSL: Because we are used to it, complacency sets in. TMM: Not that there is truth to what they are saying? CSL: I wouldn't say that there is no truth but it is spun and has assumed gigantic proportions. Lynas is now spun like it is a nuclear plant when you know it is not a nuclear plant. Agreed? The NFC (National Feedlot Corporation) is wrong but it is not true to say that the condominiums were bought to rear cows but in the minds of the people, they thought the condominium is used to rear cows! TMM: The perception is that government funds were abused for personal gain but BN and the government has not effectively addressed this perception, don't you agree? CSL: Yes, they have not responded effectively. TMM: One good example, is Rafizi Ramli. You arrest Rafizi by handcuffing him... CSL: When you infringe on Bafia (Banking and Financial Institutions Act 1989), that is a serious offence. We all survive because we trust the banking institution. You all must understand that If a bank clerk can sell information then all of us are gone. TMM: What people probably want is for MCA to call a spade a spade. CSL: Yes, I have been calling a spade a spade. Because if a person is wrong even if he exposes anything but if you infringe on the law, you have to face the music. If that is the case, then there will be a lot of people who are going to bribe the banks and get the accounts of so many other people. TMM: Is that really looking at the bigger picture? CSL: Oh yes, you expose the wrongdoings of people then it is well and good. Congratulations, you have done a good job but in the process of exposing others, you should not breach the law. TMM: But is that not how the people are going to see it? CSL: But is that the truth. We cannot just survive based on their perception on what we should do because they want us to do like that TMM: People are saying why Rafizi is handcuffed and not (NFCorp director) Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail and in PKFZ why not (former transport ministers) Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik and Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy? Or even O.C. Phang! None of them were handcuffed and this we are talking about billions of ringgit in taxpayers money! CSL: To be honest, normally they would be handcuffed. But when they take pictures, sometime you can ask for it to be taken off. To be honest, I do not know the details. To me, those are all forms but not the real substance. TMM: Rafizi is veiy happy that he was handcuffed because effectively you have "martyred" the guy. Whatever he says now will be the Gospel truth. People will say he was charged to prevent him from exposing more. CSL: That is okay. If you think the charge is just to muzzle him then I don't think so. To me in any other country, if you go show an account to the press then something must be wrong with the banking institution in this country, seriously wrong. I would be jumping if somebody would take my account and show it to people. I am surprised that educated people think that there is nothing wrong and that he is doing a good job. Then the banking staff can play God if that is the case. All of us would be at their mercy. TMM: But people are questioning the timing of Rafizi's arrest CSL: There will never be a correct time to arrest people. When Ling Liong Sik and Chan Kong Choy were charged, you said election was coming and this was part of the BN whitewash machine. Six months has gone by and one year is coming soon. So how? TMM: But don't you think that there is something that BN can learn from Pakatan in terms of political gumption or timing and being as crafty as them? CSL: That is why I said when you are in power for too long, you take things for granted. They have thirst for power. We are not hungry enough.

Malay Mail, Page: 14
Wednesday, 8 August 2012

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