09-02-2015 12:22

'Nothing wrong with BN that cannot be corrected by what is right with BN'

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 9, 2015:
Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah is known for his forward-thinking and liberal political approach, a clear contradiction from the majority of the nation’s politicians who prefer to adopt more of the conservative mindset that many have criticised to be unsuitable for the current generation.

The 54-year-old Umno man and former Deputy Higher Education Minister’s distinction from most of those in his party has even led many from the Opposition coalition, and the public itself, suggesting for him to leave Umno and jump ship to Pakatan Rakyat instead.

To know more about the progressive leader and his opinion on the nation’s politics, The Rakyat Post interviewed Saifuddin, who is also the CEO of the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM), a centre involved in the dissemination of information that is based on the concept of moderation.


Q: How has the racial harmony in modern day Malaysia changed due to social media?

A: Social media is impactful in various ways, including to strengthen social cohesion, widen the contradictions, and even support or oppose the reconciliation initiatives. It is really up to the users, but according to Distinguished Professor Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, our unity has reached quite a successful level called “social cohesion”. However we have not realised the full “unity” that we desire. This is due to the “contradictions” such as racial, religion, political, economic, and geographical factors among others that are occurring within the society. In order to address the contradictions, we need to do a “reconciliation”, as is seen in the Prime Minister’s effort in establishing the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC).


Q: What are the political leaders’ role in these changes?

A: Some politicians use racial issues to widen the contradictions. Some argue that racial differences should be accepted and respected, in fact, celebrated and regarded as our soul and strength, and work to manage it well. I prefer the latter.


Q: What are the influences that have shaped your political mindset?

A: I started as a student and a youth activist. I was taught there are three pillars of perjuangan (struggle), which are idealism, activism and intellectualism. I embraced and held on to these pillars in every capacity that I happen to be in before I became a politician.

I was a teacher, editor, writer and columnist, university administrator, businessman and activist. To me, the struggle is the same. Only positions or designations have changed. So, in politics, I continue with these three pillars of struggle.


Q: Is the political world the way you imagined it would be, before you entered into it?

A: it is not so different than I had earlier imagined. Perhaps more dirty than I thought.


Q: What are your thoughts on some political leaders that prefer to air their dirty laundry in public?

A: I try to differentiate between washing dirty laundry in the public and being critical. I believe in the latter which comes in two aspects: calling for goodness and preventing from badness. I am more of the type that believes in calling for goodness.

I believe that if you do good, people will choose you over your opponents. That is why I am sometimes more critical in the ways we in BN are doing things than looking at attacking Pakatan Rakyat.

It is like the work of a salesman. I think BN should focus more on improving our offerings than attacking (though also necessary) Pakatan Rakyat.

What BN needs to do is to advocate new politics that include political integrity, new governance framework, innovations in democracy and progressive political thoughts. We also need to be in sync with the new realities and how the middle-ground (of the electorate) thinks.

Besides that, we should limit our attacks on Pakatan Rakyat to only substantive matters.


Q: How do you plan to contribute to the people?

A: The Rakyat must decide what the future looks like, its contents and its sharing. We must conduct an honest evaluation on where we are today. As chairman of Akademi Belia, I have started a project called “The Future of Malaysia”.

We engage and organise series of dialogues with the rakyat, especially the youth. We gather the inputs and plan to submit our findings to the government and present it as the “peoples’ thoughts on our destiny.”


Q: You have talked of the flaws in Sedition Act and you were among those working on the National Harmony Act. Now that the former will be kept, what will happen to the latter?

A: I’m hoping that even though the name (Sedition Act) stays, the contents will be improved. We must include “intention” and “harm” as this will raise the threshold to ensure that individuals can’t be easily charged over the smallest things. We also have to limit sedition to only the grounds of 3Rs: race, religion and the ruler. The Harmony Act must still be enacted in order to fulfil two major objectives — the prevention of unfair discrimination and the formation of a mediation mechanism.


Q: What are your thoughts on suggestions for you to jump ship and be part of Pakatan Rakyat?

A: I am paraphrasing Bill Clinton, there is nothing wrong with BN that cannot be corrected by what is right with BN.


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