KUALA LUMPUR — January 24, 2019: Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman had the tables turned on him when BBC journalist Shaun Ley pointed out what appeared to be the 26-year-old’s conflicting views on Malaysian politics.
In an interview with the BBC’s HardTalk programme that was aired yesterday, Ley had quizzed Syed Saddiq over his earlier remark on how one should not be bound to the past, when the latter cited Malaysian history to justify his membership in a mono-ethnic political party, Pribumi Bersatu.
“Why did you join a party which only permits people who from indigenous communities to stand for election?” was Ley’s poser, adding that race-based parties were antithesis to Syed Saddiq’s mission to empower racial equality in Malaysia.
To this Syed Saddiq responded to show the Bumiputera, in 1957, only possessed two or three per cent of the country’s economic equity and made up 90 per cent of Malaysians earning less than RM100 per month. This answer Ley found inadequate.
“You told me to not be imprisoned by the past, then why are your party still imprisoned by the past?,” retorted Ley.
Syed Saddiq had earlier told Ley to never allow the past “to lock us from moving forward” when the latter asked him about Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks about PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s 1998 sodomy case, for which he was last year given a royal pardon.
The young minister nonetheless insisted that to expand Malaysia’s economic pie, the government needed to pursue a policy of equitable economic redistribution.
He went on to say it is wrong to insist that race and religion are no longer important considerations in Malaysia.
However, throughout the 23-minute interview in London, Syed Saddiq did not elaborate on if the pursuit for an equitable economic redistribution could only be done through race-based parties regardless of a multi-racial ruling coalition.
Ley had also asked him what exactly is the Malaysian government’s stance on the Sedition Act, which despite the promise of a repeal, was lifted from a moratorium following the death of firefighter Mohammad Adib Mohd. Kassim during a riot at a Hindu temple in November.
While insisting that the government is committed in repealing this law as promised in the Pakatan Harapan election manifesto, Syed Saddiq argued that it cannot yet be realised as the provision is still needed to protect the wellbeing of Malaysia’s monarchy.
“Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy. A part of our identity is linked to the Kings, which we respect dearly,” he said, adding that the Sedition Act will be repealed once the government has prepared an airtight legislation to avoid abuse whilst safeguard the interests of the Malay rulers.
Additional reporting: Shaira Idris