PETALING JAYA – Sept 16, 2016: Eight months ago he was removed as Kedah mentri besar (MB) and then in June, he was axed from Umno but Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, who is now the pro-tem vice-president of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, is confident of remaining relevant in the political landscape.
In an exclusive interview with The Mole, Mukhriz talked not only about his plans in the new party but also denied allegations that he was on a fast-track to become the prime minister.
The 52-year-old son of former prime minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad met The Mole at a restaurant in Bandar Utama last night after a meeting with Pribumi Bersatu supporters.
Mole: Now that Pribumi Bersatu is officially registered, what are your plans? Are you aiming for a specific position in the party?
Mukhriz: As it is right now, with any newly formed party, we have yet to have sufficient members so we haven’t had our election.
Because it is not practical for us to quickly do an election, in the meantime many of the office-bearers are appointed by the leadership and I am one of appointees.
I am currently the vice-president of Pribumi Bersatu.
Mole: How many members do you need in order to convene an election?
Mukhriz: We don’t have specific numbers but the way we look at it, we should have a meeting by way of an annual general meeting in the first financial year.
So the first financial year ends on December 31 but because December this year is too soon we will have to extend it to December next year.
So we have within that period to decide on a date when we will have an AGM and we will also decide if we want to have the election then or later.
But whatever it is, it will be done in accordance with the party constitution.
Mole: What happens if Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak calls for an early general election before Pribumi Bersatu has yet to hold its AGM?
Mukhriz: That’s okay. Party polls are just a matter of positions in the party. It has no relevance on any standing by way of a general election.
Within Umno, it may be different because Umno has always been the leading party within BN (Barisan Nasional) so the president ends up being the prime minister and the deputy president is the deputy prime minister… except for now.
So for us, which is not part of the federal government it does not matter at the moment.
Mole: Do you plan into contest in the next general election?
Mukhriz: Yes. I hope the party will pick me as a candidate. As of now, I see no reason why I would not be picked as a candidate because I have been elected by the people twice; as a member of parliament (2008) and as a state assemblyman (2013).
Also, I think being the third man in the hierarchy of the party it would seem obvious that I should stand to represent Pribumi Bersatu.
Mole: Do you have any specific parliamentary or state assembly seat in mind?
Mukhriz: Right now I am inclined to contest in the Jerlun parliamentary seat.
That was my previous seat until I basically gave it up to the present member of parliament (MP) of Jerlun (Datuk Othman Aziz) and I took over the assembly seat that he lost; which is Ayer Hitam.
I went to contest in the seat that he lost to PAS and I won it back and I basically hand-delivered Jerlun to him.
Mole: So despite being sacked from Umno, you’re confident that you still have a winnable influence in Jerlun?
Mukhriz: I would think so. Going by the votes that I got compared to the votes I got from Umno members, it was very clear that I got more votes from non-Umno members.
Perhaps even from among PAS members. So I think I stand a good chance to win in Jerlun even if I were to contest under Pribumi Bersatu.
Mole: What do you have to say about the theory that everything that is happening right now, including the formation of Pribumi Bersatu and the Citizens’ Declaration, is part of an elaborate plan to fast-track you into becoming the prime minister?
Mukhriz: It is quite unbelievable and ludicrous to believe in such a thing. First it was said that there was some conspiracy between Tun Dr. Mahathir and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (former deputy prime minister) to make me a prime minister on a fast track.
But how would it be a fast track if I am an Adun (state assemblymen)? I know that it is still possible for an Adun to be made into a senator and then brought into the federal government but I don’t think it is ever possible for a non-MP to be appointed as senator and then appointed prime minister.
That is just ludicrous. So if there was such a plan, surely I would have contested as an MP because only an MP can be made a prime minister. No two ways about that.
And I am an Adun right now so there is no way for me to become a prime minister. The whole conspiracy theory is just absurd.
Mole: When you were about to be sacked as the Kedah MB, one of the arguments that Kedah Umno used to justify your ousting was that you were a weekday MB. How true was that?
Mukhriz: I want to dispute such a notion that I was supposedly a weekday MB. That is not true. You can see from my records that I was around during weekends too.
The other thing that I like to clarify is that, as an MB, we are invited to a lot of meetings held in Putrajaya and KL by the PM and also by the DPM.
Maybe even up to three or four times in a month. So, it’s not just me, pretty much all ministers have to be in KL for these meetings…. even the present MB of Kedah also has to attend these meetings.
So to say that I was in KL more frequent than they were, I think that would be false.
Secondly, the measure of success is how the people feel on the ground. I think without self-flattery, the rakyat of Kedah had no serious problems with me.
On the contrary, I believe they were quite satisfied with my service as MB. In fact, it came as a shock to them when I was supposedly considered to be a failure, and supposedly that I was going to bring defeat to Kedah BN.
They felt that I was doing a good job and one of the manifestation of that is improvement of the state’s football team.
I did all I could do to bring back Kedah to its former glory and we did it in just two years and now I think the present MB cannot even walk into the stadium without getting booed.
Taking that into consideration, I think the insinuation that I was a poor MB was simply incorrect.
Mole: Assuming that you managed to once again become the Kedah MB, would you do things differently from back when you were a BN MB?
Mukhriz: I think the biggest thing I would do is to strengthen the cooperation between the state government and the federal government.
I was a BN MB but because I was critical of the prime minister who is also from the same party, Kedah was not getting its dues in terms of financial and all kinds of support.
The basis of removing and replacing me with someone else was that the new MB has a close rapport with the PM and this was supposed to be a good thing for Kedah.
Unfortunately, even with the new MB the scenario in Kedah is still the same. The state is not getting the kind of attention it needs. Kedah is still a poor state.
Kedah is an agrarian state that is dependent on the export of paddy to other states. We contributes to the country in terms of food security and yet the state is not financially taken care of.
Kedah should be given better attention because the state does not have any oil-based revenue. The state also does not have a lot of natural resources aside from having a lot of water; which Penang has been taking for free.
We have forests which are currently at risk of a deforestation because there is a tendency for the state to resort to logging in order to generate income which is very damaging for the state.
So, because we are poor, we cannot make demands compared to other richer states. They can make all kinds of demands and the federal government will listen to them.
So what I would like to see changed is that the federal government, hopefully from a new government that will also be the same one that governs Kedah, will re-evaluate their relationship with all other states from financial, economic and social standpoints so that the whole country can flourish.