No, I haven’t retired from politics. I just retired from my political posts. How can you retire from politics? Politics is in my blood. I’m still interested in what’s going on in life, in politics, economics. One cannot be not interested in all these things. Your life depends on all these things.
Q. What do you think of the government implementing the Goods and Services Tax (GST)?
It has been debated for years as long as I can remember but unfortunately, we do not seem to be telling the stories appropriately. We want to use the kind of information dissemination as we would use for branding something. We use huge billboards. I see one in my area here that says GST is not charged for education. What for? That billboard is a few hundred thousand dollars. Nobody’s worried about education. There isn’t direct communication with the Rakyat.
Q. Do you support the GST?
Yes, I do because the government has assured there will be all those relevant exemptions and it is more efficient. In other words, the principle of having it should not be debated. It’s how you explain it and finally come up with it. Don’t talk about how we will continue to study exemptions. People will become nervous. So why not once and for all get feedback from industries and whatever, on what needs to be exempted? Come out straightaway and the rakyat will be happy. I always mention that if we have something good, let the whole world know about it.
Q. What is your view on Hudud?
I don’t even read about this debate anymore because it’s of no relevance anymore.To me, (there are) better things to look at. The way it’s being debated, why should I even bother to read about it? Why waste my time and clutter my mind?
Q. Do you plan your own schedule?
Of course. My secretary never organises my schedule. Once many years ago, she agreed for me to go to a dinner when I’d already made up my mind to play golf that Wednesday evening. I told her that she could go for it. She was stunned. So from that moment onwards, she has never done it again.
Q. Do you think Malaysians need more outspoken people, like someone who calls a spade a spade?
No, we need people to say what should be said. You can brand it anything you like, do not hide behind the facade, do not twist and turn words and issues so it doesn’t come out right. Do not have spindoctors to craft messages that mean nothing, but sounds right. Don’t do that. We should have people, ordinary people, leaders at any level just say what is right and people must accept it. Don’t play politics all the time.
Q. It is known that most politicians now have PR and image consultants to look ‘cool’ to the people.
I think it is the culture now, people want to look good, look cool, whatever instead of being good, being cool. There is a big difference between looking something and being something. Looking fierce and being fierce are two different things. Looking sweet and being sweet are two different things. Looking smart and being smart are totally different things.
You can make an idiot look smart but you cannot make the idiot smart. So why don’t we just be smart? The smartness will shine without being groomed to look smart. That’s how I look at it. I’m not talking about politicians but everybody. Just be yourself.
What is said above, and more, are just simple messages and way of life that has somehow been eluding many a leader nowadays. Such simple practices and line of thought have become tougher than rocket science for many.
The part about consultants and spin-doctors hits the nail right on the spot.
You may not like the messenger but please take time to read and understand the message. For me it is very valuable and I'm sure it would be worthy for the younger generation and those aspiring leaders to digest the message. Be yourself, don't fake it. Don't try to be something you are not.
Be yourself. Speak like you used to and not adopt a sudden urge to stress and press at the end of every sentence. I must make it known that such 'stressing' comes off more as the sound of someone suffering from constipation than a leader aiming to drive home a pertinent point to his people.
I must thank journalists Rahmah Ghazali and Rashvinjeet Bedi for the right questions to the tough nut leader.