Wednesday, July 02, 2008

best, most honest, interview ever...

The independents should really rule the country... :) Check out this interview published in today's NST.

At the parliamentary debate on the government’s efforts to address inflation on Monday, sole Independent MP Datuk Paduka Ibrahim Ali stood up and really let rip; firing salvos at the government and opposition benches.

Q: On Monday, you seemed very angry with all the Members of Parliament. Why?

A: I expected the debate to concentrate on the price hike. But when they start debating, I saw it divert. Speeches became political -- accusing each other on matters not related to the price hike.

Everyone brought up issues that had already been said in Parliament and this took up time.

So, when petty things cropped up, and people still repeat what was said before, I became a little bit angry. That's why I stood up and spoke my mind.
They said, "We have to go on an austerity drive. So, the government cut 10 per cent off cabinet members' entertainment allowance."

I don't like it. Especially when there were accusations against others, and I know the accuser's background.

If you want to accuse others and say "You are morally no good", you must make sure you yourself are good. If you want to say that people are dirty, you must make sure you are really clean.

So, when I listen to members from the government bench or opposition bench accusing this and that, yet at the same time I know their background, I cannot take it.

If you live lavishly, in a big bungalow, where did you get the money? If you do business, how come you can make so much profit? "Sama saja lah!" (pot calling the kettle black). That's why I said, "Don't talk, lah. Because I know your background."

I didn't intend to create trouble or make people angry. I just wanted them to do their job.

We should value the time of Parliament and be focused.

I did my homework for the debate. I couldn't say what I wanted to say, because the debate went off-course. If in Parliament people are professional, then you will follow the trend.

If the trend is a hoo-hah kind of trend, we will also become hoo-hah. That's why I became angry.

Q: What did you expect from the MPs?

A: That first we would discuss whether or not there is a price hike globally, and whether, since we are an oil-producing country with a small population, is it justified (to raise the price of petrol).

I wanted to look into how we decide whether Petronas money is being properly managed.

"Properly" doesn't just mean during Pak Lah's time (as prime minister). It can even mean during (Tun Dr) Mahathir's (Mohamed) time. Without fear or favour.

We should have concentrated on whether the way the government is restructuring the subsidy is the correct thing to do. At the moment, the government is implementing this follow-up action in an ad-hoc manner. There is no holistic plan.

Because of the hoo-hah, the debate touches a little bit on this, a little bit on that, and we don't achieve anything.

Q: Were you for or against the price hike?

A: I'm quite in between. I agree there's a price hike globally, and don't intend to politicise the issue.

But even if there's a price hike globally, I want to know what the government will do to overcome this problem.

As far as the price hike is concerned, it should go gradually, not shocking like what happened. The way the government announced it was not proper.

The news leaked out about 4pm and the cars were lining up so long at the petrol stations that some of the car-owners couldn't observe the Maghrib (sunset) prayers.

There should not have been a leak. So, at midnight, the government should announce that the price hike takes effect in the morning, so there won't be a rush for the petrol pumps.

Q: Are the tax rebates sufficient?

A: I don't think so.

We are debating the RM900 wage. But someone sent me an SMS, saying even those who are earning RM2,000-RM3,000 cannot survive.

I used to pump RM100 worth in my car, and it would bring the petrol gauge needle to three-quarters the tank. Now, it's below half.

So, you can imagine how it is for a family - not only the house rental, or house loan repayment, car, and children's needs.

So, earning RM3,000-RM4,000 is meaningless.

In America, Britain and other western countries, if the petrol price goes up to $7 a litre it's okay as their per capita income is high.

In Singapore, it's US$8,000-$9,000, but for us, it's US$2,000. How can that be enough?

Q: Have you been receiving a lot of SMSes on this?

A: More than 1,000.

I've been quite rational about this. Although I sympathise with the issue, when there were demonstrations, I didn't participate.

Not that I'm the type to be afraid. I've been to (jail under the) Internal Security Act twice.

I understand the price hike is global, but I'm not happy with the way the government handled the matter.

I don't want to go down to the street to protest an issue I know there's justification, because that's just looking for publicity. That's why I criticised the four PKR members for cycling (to Parliament).

I told Gobalakrishnan, "Debate professionally."

Sometimes, you can have a political gimmick. (But) I told Gobala, "Things like this must be thought out properly. Now you cycle to Parliament, the four of you, as if you are telling the nation you are the only group who are fighting.

"I came here today with a car. As if I don't fight like you are fighting. So, you are unfair; you are purely looking for publicity."

I'm more interested in getting the input, the proposals and putting them to the government.

If the government doesn't take all 10 proposals, then at least one or two can be accepted.

Then I'd feel happy that I've done something for the people.

There is a time for protesting, like last time, when we were students. Now, you've been voted (into Parliament) by the people, so, now you have Parliament as a venue.

For those who are not MPs, they don't have a venue, so they can go and demonstrate.

We should give the government some time first and see what it can do. If after six or seven months it's still not working, then we take another step.

Demonstration is the last resort.

Q: You said neither the government nor opposition MPs are in a position to talk on this point, because they all receive allowances.

A: Yes. For example, the Constitution allows a person to contest both parliamentary and state seats. So, a person contests and wins both seats, and is also made the menteri besar.

Do you know how much travel cost is incurred by an MP?

I put my address in KL, so I don't claim travel expenses. I only claim air-fare if I go back to my constituency. The rest I don't claim.

But, if a person wants to claim, with laundry included, all in, he gets RM12,000 a month from Parliament. If he holds a state seat too, that's another RM8,000. So, combined, it's easily RM20,000.

This applies to all MPs. Just the ordinary members. So, imagine if you are a menteri besar.

And then, someone said he flies economy class. That's all.

If I were a chief minister, I'd give my Parliament salary to orphans. Then baru class.

But if it's only to the point of flying economy class... Sometimes, when business class is full, you have to fly economy, whether you like it or not.

It's no big deal. Cheap publicity.

So, it means he attacks the government to show, "I'm a chief minister, but I fly economy."

That's not a good thing to do. It's too small a gesture. It should be more challenging, more tangible.

The same as riding the bicycle. If you want to show you are really opposing the price hike, then really sacrifice, do something people can see and feel the effect. Otherwise, it's no use, it's purely political.

Q: MPs fly first class or business class every weekend. It adds up. Wouldn't it also help if all MPs resolve to only fly economy class?

A: Yes, I agree. That's what I'm trying to say.

I remember, when I was a deputy minister for a while. That's when I realised, no wonder people like to be a minister.

Even if you have a salary, if you go on official duty to certain areas, if there's mileage, you can claim!

If a minister goes to officiate a parent-teacher association meeting, you can claim. If you go to a coffeehouse, even though there's no government business, if all your political friends come around you and eat, you sign and you can claim.

At Hari Raya you have an open house. I thought, "Wah! Open house. I never do this."

I'm not saying I'm very good, but on these things I'm quite cautious. As a former student leader, I feel shy.

I went to the open house of a deputy minister. Two thousand people! I looked at the canopy - fantastic! If it's RM15 per head, you calculate how much that is.

Some open houses cost RM50 per head. So, RM30,000-RM40,000 is spent on a Hari Raya gathering.

Q: All this is claimable?

A: Yes. But only if you are the minister, deputy minister or MP. A political secretary also gets a lot of perks. A car, a driver, laundry. But only when parliament is in session.

But a minister and deputy minister gets allowances for house, maid, driver - all sorts of things. And then, every year, a holiday.

That's why Pak Lah could announce a cut in the holiday allowance - only in Asean and only for three persons. Last time, how many?

I didn't do this, so that's why I dare to talk.

For instance, a person is entitled to one holiday a year with his family.

And this is how a scam can work: I bring 15-20 supporters with me. They take a room in a hotel in London or wherever, and the bill is made out to me.

I can take five or six rooms, but the room details are not disclosed. It's all my friends staying. And paid for by the government. A real abuse.

How could I say all this when I only had 15 minutes?

I wanted to come to Parliament and give a good factual speech. But time constraints and this hoo-hah hoo-hah. So, that's why I feel so upset, and I also hoo-hah hoo-hah.

So, I go back to my old days, which I wanted to change. But the environment doesn't allow me to.

Q: You said, if government wants to save money, do it properly.

A: Do it properly means, prudent management. Celebrations, festivals. A 10 per cent cut on entertainment allowance is not enough!

Is it noble for us to say, "This year, even though there's going to be Hari Raya, there will be no Hari Raya gathering at the house, the government will not pay for the minister or deputy minister"?

I talked about the Jabatan Hal Ehwal Khas (Jasa) under the Information Ministry. They are gathering all the (Umno) ketua cawangan (division chiefs), according to state.

Some states send two, three thousand people. They come to Kuala Lumpur and stay in hotels. The speakers are Pak Lah and (Umno information chief ) Muhammad Muhammad Taib, and they talk on Umno.

Jasa said, "It's not a campaign; we invite these people to give talks on price hike, all the current issues."

That's fair enough; but why didn't you invite others, like non-government organisations from Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah?

This is what resulted in Umno being defeated in these states. BN has the power, but the people rejected it, because these are the things they object to. Hotel, transport - all paid for by Jasa.

Celebrations. So many celebrations, like Hari Merdeka, the launch of Labour Day or whatever day. You will see thousands of people brought into KL from various agencies. And it's all paid for by the government.

Gatherings: The prime minister visits the state and officiates a factory. The MB wants to impress upon the PM that he is a terror punya menteri besar (a good MB). So, when the PM comes, 5,000 supporters turn up, and the PM thinks, "You are a good MB."

Do you know how much is spent on transportation, food, tents?

They think doing this shows the public supports the government. But, at the end of the day, it becomes the other way around.

I've been overseas many times and I've attended quite a number of functions organised by the government where their ministers and even the prime minister is present.

No bunga manggar! So simple. When they have a conference, there are no corsages or rosettes for the VIP, and no kompang. And the VIP don't care if the press don't come.

Just shake hands with people and go. And they only eat a little bit, no lavish spread.

But, at the end of the day, they won the elections.

There is no point in having a big function, spending a lot of money, but the stomach of the people is empty.

You belanja besar (spend a lot of money), but people feel now semua harga barang-barang naik (everything goes up).

At the end of the day, election comes, you lose.

So, it doesn't matter that it's a small programme, or that it's not glamorous. But (what matters is) the people feel okay.

Malaysians are very kind.

They get angry because the price of goods go up, and there's not enough money. When they look at their leaders living lavish lives, driving big cars, they become angry.

But if they see their leaders are suffering too, then they are not angry. Sama-sama (everyone suffers together). This is very important.

But here, leaders nak tunjuk aje (just want to show off). Nak tunjuk glamour, tapi actually kalah (want to be glamourous, but actually lose).

Never mind if there aren't a lot of people at the functions. As long as the people are more happy.

When government offices have their gathering, everyone is forced to attend. If they don't attend, it will be recorded. So, they go.

But look at teachers. A lot of teachers, when they work with the government, they support BN. Once they retire, all support opposition. Why? Because they were forced last time. If we hadn't forced them last time, they wouldn't be angry with us.

It doesn't matter if they don't come for the gathering, as long as, at the end of the day, they vote for BN.

The approach is wrong.

Q: The other very interesting question you raised was whether the government or the prime minister really understands what people are going through on the ground. Now why would you say that?

A: Firstly, the motion on Monday should've been presented by the prime minister, but it was put forward by Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir (Abdul Samad). But this is a major issue. So people want to listen to a reply by Pak Lah.

The prime minister should present the motion by having a plan.

And Parliament should have allowed three or four days to debate, instead of just one.

With Malaysian people, if it's been explained properly and the government really has a justification, they will accept it.

Kalau zaman susah pemimpin jalan kaki, rakyat jalan kaki tak apa.

Kalau zaman susah pemimpin naik kereta, rakyat kena jalan kaki - ah, rakyat mengamuk.

Now you look at us - give money, take people for meals, carry people around in a bus and have them meet Pak Lah and when we ask if they are sure they will vote (for the government), they reply: "Sure!"

And then what did they do?

How are we going to determine that this will not happen in the next election?


Anonymous hyperX said...

So by any chance the petrol price can decrease? Life has been difficult these days. Sigh...

July 02, 2008 12:19 PM  
Blogger yapthomas said...

Totally agree..
This is the kind of candidate that I will stand by and vote for him NEXT!

July 04, 2008 9:46 PM  

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