KUALA LUMPUR, 11 April 2009: The new cabinet should be evaluated after it has been given a chance to perform, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said today.
“Let’s give them six months to perform and then we can assess them to see if they have earned the people’s confidence,” he said.
Refuting a Bernama report that quoted him as hailing the new cabinet on 10 April 2009, the Umno veteran said whether the administration under new Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was capable or not was left to be seen.
“I did not hail the cabinet as neat and capable because it is left to be seen. It is not for me to judge in a day or two [after the cabinet was appointed],” he told reporters today.
The Member of Parliament for Gua Musang called for a press conference at his residence this afternoon after what he described as “media manipulation” by Bernama of a speech he delivered at a school in his constituency.
“There was no way I could have been misunderstood because there was a tape recorder and a TV camera recording [the speech],” he said.
“I’m sure the government is not desperate to get affirmation in the national media so that they should manipulate what I said,” Razaleigh added.
He said “a lot of people were upset by what I purportedly said but I didn’t say all those things.”
Instead, Razaleigh said he had expressed the people’s hope, including his, that the cabinet could regain the people’s confidence in the national leadership.
Asked if he thought there were good and capable people in Najib’s cabinet, which was sworn in on 9 April, Razaleigh said: “Whether they are good is left to be seen.”
What’s the principle?
He also said it was “confusing” why Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin was not appointed to the new cabinet.
“Of course it is the prime minister’s prerogative to pick who he wants but he still has to hang on to some kind of principles. He can’t abandon part of it and cling on to another,” Razaleigh said.
For example, he said, even though Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil lost her seat in the 2008 general election, she was still appointed a minister. “I was told it was because she won the Wanita Umno chief post. But what about the Umno Youth chief then?”
Razaleigh said he wasn’t the only one confused, adding that an explanation should be given about the rationale behind Najib’s decision.
Asked if he thought former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad influenced Najib in appointing Mahathir’s son, Datuk Mukhriz, as deputy minister and in sidelining Khairy, Razaleigh said: “He may have or may not have. I don’t know. I wasn’t there.”
However, Razaleigh noted that Mahathir supported Najib in becoming both deputy prime minister and prime minister. “Dr Mahathir has influence over Najib.”
Asked what he thought about Najib’s first few acts a premier in releasing 13 Internal Security Act detainees, Razaleigh said: “It’s a good move but why not release all of them? Why so selective? These are people’s lives and freedom we are talking about. One shouldn’t play with this when one assumes power.”
Asked if the Barisan Nasional’s losses in the Bukit Selambau and Bukit Gantang by-elections were a referendum on Najib as the new prime minister, Razaleigh said it was inconclusive because Najib just assumed power.
Not leaving Umno
To a question about rumours that he would be joining an opposition party, Razaleigh said: “I don’t think I’m going to leave Umno for now. But one can never tell about tomorrow.”
He said the new Umno and national leadership had not sought his views about reforming the party or about how the country could move forward.
Despite being sidelined by the party and one that he described as “losing the fight”, he however said he was a “strong Umno supporter” because he still had hope.
“I care about the majority of the people in the party. I’m not important but the cause of the party is very important to me,” he said.
He added that the party which he said had become a “flank party” needed to speed up reforms if it was to survive in the next general election.
“Lately, Umno has not won in a single seat in a by-election. It is a disgrace. Before, in any by-election, we just had to name the candidate, and we would win for sure.
“Now, we have to pray, work hard, give money and still we don’t win. Something is wrong in the political system.”
Razaleigh said he hoped that in the next three to four years, the government would respond to the people’s demands and needs.