Having a fun and happy job keeps Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz from becoming a controversial figure these days.
DATUK Seri Nazri Aziz is known for being colourful, outspoken and bold. He is fierce in his defence of the government and of his party, Umno.
But over the past year-and-a-half since becoming Tourism and Culture Minister, Nazri has somewhat kept a low profile which seems to be out of character for him. In the last Umno election, he did not contest for a seat in the supreme council but was appointed to it anyway.
Nazri says he was controversial in the past only because the posts he was holding at that time demanded that of him. His current portfolio as Tourism and Culture Minister, he shares, is really “fun and happy” and he is enjoying himself so much, there is no reason to be controversial.On Umno, Nazri points out that his generation became leaders at a young age and are thus very dominating. But he feels it is time now for them to step aside to let the younger people in the party shine.
Where's your car ?
Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz sticking tourism hunt 2013 sticker to a car at the soft launch of Malaysia Tourisy Hunt 2013 in Kuala Lumpur on Sept. 9,2013. Rohaizat/Star.
> Why have you been very quiet on politics since the 2013 general election?
Mine is a happy and fun portfolio. That is why you don’t get to hear any controversial statements from me because the Ministry dictates my response. You must understand that I am just a low official of Umno. The only elected post I hold is division chief. And I am just one of 191 Umno division chiefs.
I was controversial in the past because of the (government) portfolios I held. When I was Minister in the PM’s Department (in charge of law and parliament), there were a lot of controversies about the AG, parliament, MACC and the Election Commission, so obviously I became very controversial. It was not because of me but the portfolio.
> Does this mean that Nazri Aziz has been “tamed”?
“Tamed” by the portfolio that I am holding in the party. I really don’t care if I am (seen to be) tame or wild. Actually a lot depends on the portfolio you are holding.
As Tourism and Culture Minister, if even this becomes controversial, then I must be a very divisive and a very controversial person which I actually am not.
> How concerned are you over the lack of new blood in Umno while parties in Pakatan Rakyat have many new faces?
What the opposition is going through now is what we went through during my generation. My generation produced a lot of leaders who were in their 30s and 40s back then. I was only 36 when I was Mara chairman. What is happening now is a concern but it shouldn’t remain just a concern. We should look at what we can do to help tackle this.
My generation has been around for some time. It is time for us to give way to younger blood. That is one way we can help. We cannot be saying that ‘If we go, there’s no one else (to take over).”
A party that cares about the people must ensure continuity. I am prepared to go. I can leave anytime if I am allowed to. But I am not in any way telling the others to go. I feel that we, as leaders, should give way to the younger generation. There are capable younger leaders in Umno. We have new blood coming into the party. But the problem is they can’t shine because my generation of leaders are still there.
> Pakatan has leaders in their 30s but why are those in their 40s and 50s considered young in Umno?
That’s how it should be. Otherwise, you’d create the same problem as my generation. If you are already up there at the age of 30 and still there at 60, that’s 30 years! To me that’s not good. For me, leaders should be in their late 40s and early 50s so that they won’t stay there too long. My generation has been very dominant because we have been holding posts from very young. And at the age of 60, we are still expected to hold the post! Susah lah. When can the younger people get to come in?
Except for those holding the highest positions like the PM, the rest who have been MPs for so long and who do not hold any high posts should leave. I would say around the age 60 would be the right time to go.
> Still Pakatan must seem more attractive to the younger generation because they pick a number of people in their 20s and 30s to contest and become MPs?
When you are riding on the wave of anger, boleh lah. But you can’t do that in the more serious running of the government. In any party, like Umno that has been there forever, we are certainly going to face this problem.
In the past, it was letak songkok pun Umno menang (any candidate Umno puts up will win) but these days, it’s the other way around. We have been around for long and sometimes, people just want change. When you ask them ‘Why do you want to change?’ They say ‘takpe lah, we just want to try something else for a change’.
That is going to work against us. This happened with many other old parties too like Japan’s LDP and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of Mexico. We can’t run away from it. Anything new is the flavour of the day. We can’t be the flavour of the day anymore. We are old. So we have to face it and find a way to be the best.
> Is Umno still relevant?
Looking at the 88 seats (of the 222 parliament seats) that we won, we are still relevant. We are the biggest single party in Parliament, so you can’t say we are not relevant. The other Malay parties are way behind us. PAS (which is a large Malay party) has only 21 seats. And how many Malay MPs does PKR have? Only a handful.
The ones facing problems are our partners in Barisan (Nasional). They are the ones who have to buck up. In the 2008 election, Umno had 79 seats and in the last election, we won 88 seats. That’s an increase of 10 seats. If you look at that, you will see that we are very much relevant.
> Non-Malays are asking why Umno is such a racist party as they only defend the Malay agenda all the time.
How is it that when a Chinese party defends Chinese interests and MIC defends Indian interests, they are not racist but when Malays defend Malay interests, it is seen to be racist?
Generally, the Malays feel their interests must be taken care of, so that’s why you still have Umno. The Malay MPs from PKR contested in seats which were 50% Malay and 50% non-Malay, which is why they won in those seats.
Umno won almost all the Malay seats, so the trend is that Malays still want Umno because they want to ensure that their interests are taken care of.
The PAS MPs and the Malay MPs in PKR are talking as if they are very liberal! If non-Malays think bumiputra rights are not fair, they should get the Malay MPs in Pakatan to initiate a move to abolish it.
Ask their Malay MPs if they will do that. I want to hear their answer. They are closet racists! They are concerned about their race but are giving lip service (to other races) because of votes.
> How comfortable are you with the authorities using the Sedition Act?
When you talk about the Sedition Act, it is always the Malays who are defending the Act because their rights are being questioned.
But recently, when Petaling Jaya Utara division deputy chairman Mohamad Azli (Mohemed Saad) asked to discuss abolishing Chinese schools at the coming Umno general assembly, MCA leaders were calling for him to be charged under the Sedition Act. And also for the Act to be used against (Perkasa chief Datuk) Ibrahim Ali (for the burn the Malay Bible remarks). The fact that people are calling for the AG to use the Sedition Act shows that the Act is still very relevant.
> The PM said a few years ago that the Sedition Act, like the ISA, will be abolished. But now, there are calls for it to be retained. What is your position?
I’ve always maintained that the Sedition Act must stay. The only reason I wanted it changed is because the Act is from 1948. Based on the date itself which is pre-independence, people will say it is archaic and not relevant.
So we must have a new Act – The Racial Harmony Act– to safeguard relations among different religions and communities. We need this.
> How do you think Najib is doing as PM?
He is working very hard but I think people memek (mock) what he is trying to do. People are finding issues to make him look not relevant although he is working hard for the country. The opposition is not giving him any chance to show his goodness and his sincerity because they are motivated by politics. They find fault with whatever Najib does.
And you wouldn’t have imagined a government run by DAP would ban journalists but they have done this blatantly. Why is it that when they do it, it is fine but when we do it, it’s not? When they govern, they should be providing a good example and not do all those things they accuse us of.
And we can’t even say bad things about their leader either. Can you imagine if there are sexual things about our leader? They will attack us until teruk.
Our opposition is not living up to the standard of an opposition in a healthy democracy.
> Najib’s popularity has dipped and some say he is a weak leader. Comment?
It is not being a weak leader. It is something that he has to do. With certain things, he has to really sit down and think properly on what he has to do. When the government has been reduced to 133 seats – which is something we have never experienced before – we should really take care of our group. Which means sometimes we have to do things which we never had to do when we were strong. So people see his accommodative action and compromise as a weakness. It is not a weakness but it is something you have to do when you are not in a strong position. That’s all.