Saturday, May 22, 2004

"First Class Parliament" (CNBC Interview)

YAB PRIME MINISTER’S INTERVIEW WITH CNBC
PROGRAMME: THE CNBC CONVERSATION
Saturday, May 22, 2004, 8.00 p.m.
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CNBC:
Let’s start with this - To what degree today would you say that your agenda today has been shaped by the legacy of past Prime Ministers?

PM:
Yes, in a way yes, but I don't know to what degree. The most important aspect I would say that Dr Mahathir has been able to introduce, plan for the smooth transition, so when I took over there was no problem in the party - there was a strong support for me (the UMNO Supreme Council, the BN High Council, all the Mentri Besars in the cabinet). So that gave me the opportunity to proceed with whatever I had to do, and to gain the support of all of them.

And of course I have inherited if I may say, a government that has done well, and I have to look after my country which also has done well - good infrastructure, an economy that is stable, the political situation, stability - poitical stability, there's peace, there's security. All these to me are good fundamentals, and this is very much due to the efforts of Tun Mahathir, and Tun Mahathir himself has made his own contribution. So I have always looked at myself as having to manage something successful that I have inherited. What I had to do in managing this is I have to look ahead, because I cannot just stop at this level, or at this point, Malaysia must proceed ahead, not on the same level, we must proceed forward and upward, so that's therefore will be my responsibility.

CNBC:
It is an exciting time for Malaysia right now. The 11th parliament just sworn in, 90% of the MPs are from the ruling BN coalition. I hear you plan to be quite tough on them.

PM:
Well I don't know what the people say - to be tough, to be firm certainly; Because I had repeatedly told the MPs, they have to show good examples, they have to… people must be made to realize & accept that they're hardworking MPs. MPs must provide quality service.

It has also to be a first class parliament, where democracy is seen to be really working.

CNBC:
I am wondering though with the opposition so scaled down, whether you feel you will get the lively debates you are hoping for.

PM:
Well, I have told the MPs. I said I would welcome constructive criticism from all of you - that I would. And I would like to see a lively debate. I would like people to feel that having a very small opposition does not adversely affect the way democracy is practiced in Parliament. So they can express their views, they can make constructive criticism in ways that will benefit us.

CNBC:
Many people were quite disappointed that the new broom that applied to the new cabinet was not a lot more vigorous and there were some people who were retained in the cabinet whom outsiders looked at and said - these are names retained who might have been engaged in questionable activities. What is your response to that?

PM:
First I'd like to say that some people may not know there are 14 new faces in the cabinet. First time, young ones too. The cabinet will be assisted by all ministers, deputy ministers, even more, & young people, in & among the deputy ministers and parliamentary secs. These are the people who have to exposed early.

What I have to do is create a right mix, a combination of experience, and even age if you want to say that, with the new, dynamism of the young people who come in.

Two: When I wanted to name the candidate… to be candidates for the election, I have consulted especially those people have been talking about as having bad records, probably have a file with the police. I check and if the policemen or the BBR says, Ok, no problems there, Then I decide whether he should be named to be a candidate or not.

CNBC:
Malaysia is at a very critical juncture right now, in the way public agencies are run, and how the private sector fits in with that. Do you really think it is possible to delink political influence, political personalities, political connections from the way business has traditionally been done in Malaysia?

PM:
I don't think there will be too much difficulty. Perhaps in the beginning maybe. But the most important thing is when you do something, reasonable people, people who can think will be able to know that's the right thing. The question and issue is whether they want to criticize because their interest - their personal interest...that's all. But if they want to take it up, and agitate and hope to gain support for that, they are not going to get support because what we would like to do is do it right, make it fair, make it clear to the people that this is the best we can think of for Malaysia and for the people. It doesn’t only apply to the private sector, in terms of the good governance, and in terms of the need for the leadership for the cause, which include the boards, as well as the executive, the management, to embrace the culture of high performance, to adhere to good governance and accountability and all that. I don't think anybody will stand up and dispute and say - no we won't have it. Nobody would oppose that. If there is anybody who outwardly wants to oppose, in whatever we can see it, it's because their own personal interest has been affected.