Time - Malaysia is a rare example of a democratic Muslim-majority country. But Malay-Islamist supremacist rhetoric is on the rise. How do you plan to combat it?
DSAI - First, economic development. A more just, equitable system so that no community or part of the country is seen to be ignored or marginalized. Second, of course, is education, because extremism, racism, religious bigotry, breed easily among the more ignorant segment of the population. When I say ignorant, I don’t mean you’re not qualified, you don’t go to university. I mean the lack of understanding of the total message of a religion dependent on some of the mullahs and sheiks, with their very narrow, obscure interpretation. Third, to make them realize that Malaysia, although it is a predominately Muslim country, is a multiracial country. And we have survived hundreds of years with the presence of Buddhists, Hindus, and Christians. There is no reason why you should upset this and cause enmity.
Have you ever considered asking PAS to come on board, because your government is a coalition government?
On whether we are prepared to engage with them, of course we do. We must. And I’ve sent [an invitation] to them ... Yes, I have been open to the idea from the beginning. After all, this is a unity government and we do what is best for our country. But of course, we are going to draw a line. Islam is the religion of the Federation [of Malaysia], but this is a multireligious country and I want every single citizen in this country, of all religious persuasions, to know that they have a place in this country.
What has PAS's response been?
There has not been a clear rejection nor a positive response. The political climate is still a bit heated, so we’ll let it cool off for some time.
OK, so is it possible at some point?
I don’t want to preclude that. Of course, contingent upon these major policy conditions being accepted.
You cannot achieve all the reformasi—whatever you thought about it back then—in one year or in the next few years. So if you were to prioritize two or three things, what would they be?
Governance. I mean, in this country, the plundering was a mess and corruption is systemic. And if you stop that, it is a major success story. Not a single tender in the past nine months has been awarded through a negotiated process. There is [now] a proper tender, a transparent system. This is a major departure from the corrupt practices of the past. In Parliament, we have formed umpteen select committees. They can summon ministers and civil servants, question them. In the judiciary, there is not one case of appointments or decisions that I’ve interfered with.
Your coalition partner UMNO’s stated demand is to have a pardon for Najib. You would be one of the members of the pardoning board if it ever came to that. How would you treat it?
As I’ve said publicly, our system in the pardoning board is a process. It is the sole discretion of King [Yang di-Pertuan Agong].
But on your advice?
There are a few issues that the King may not seek the advice of the Prime Minister—on the issue of pardons, on the issue of investiture, and some issues pertaining to Islam and Malay customs. I trust the wisdom of the King to protect the Constitution.
So you would be impartial to it?
I mean, every single convicted person has a right to submit his or her appeal to the pardons board. And it is the duty of the pardons board to consider each case professionally. That’s all that we will do. And each member will give their views to the King. The King has a final say. Of course, they say the King can act on the advice of the Prime Minister. But unlike normal government duties, this advice has its limit, because the King has discretion, as I said.
I get that. But if the case came to you tomorrow, what would you do?
I will think about it.
Statesmen and leaders think about legacy. What would you want yours to be as Prime Minister?
Sounds like you are asking me to retire early? I would say this: this man from the village who came up, suffered in the process, and really wanted to do his best for his people and his country. That’s it.
That is a very diplomatic answer.
No, no, it’s not. I just want them to remember, here is Anwar, who is probably crazy in many ways, fought hard, suffered immensely in the process, but he really meant well. There’s an honest answer.
Do you have any regrets?
Hmm, Frank Sinatra, “My Way.” Yes, regrets, I have a few. I should probably have been a bit more patient, a bit wiser. But no one in their younger days was patient and wise. - Debasish Roy Chowdhury,Times MagazineTimes Magazine
I laud Anwar's preparedness to accept PAS...
I had not wanted to say anything in regard to Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim’s statement during his interview with Time magazine that he does not rule out PAS joining the coalition government if policy conditions are accepted.
However, a letter writer in Malaysiakini said this was not a new proposal as I had made it in May, when I said I had “fallen into the realms of hypocrisy and desperation, sacrificing principles for surface-level stability”. This was not so.
In my statement on May 29, 2023, I mentioned that I personally support the idea of PAS being part of the Anwar coalition government although I had not discussed it with DAP Secretary-General Anthony Loke or any other DAP leaders, but PAS must demonstrate a change of attitude to show that it supports the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s call for political stability and national unity in Malaysia.
For a start, I asked, was Hadi prepared to retract and apologise for the numerous wild and preposterous allegations he had made against the DAP and me?
Secondly, would PAS MPs show that they would stop playing up race and religious issues and be model MPs who support political stability and national unity?
Thirdly, would PAS support the objective to make Malaysia the role model for the world for inter-ethnic, inter-religious, inter-cultural and inter-civilisation dialogue, understanding, tolerance, and harmony?
The results of the six state general elections, the two by-elections of Pulai and Simpang Jeram in Johor and Pelangai by-election in Pahang, have stabilised the political situation in Malaysia for the next four years and given hope that Malaysia can rise up again to be a great world-class nation. - Lim Kit Siang