By WONG CHUN WAI
ON POLITICS, THE SOCIAL CONTRACT AND TOLERANCE
Your Royal Highness, since the March 8 elections, Malaysia has seen a lot of changes in the political landscape. Selangor, for example, is now under the Pakatan Rakyat while many national political figures come from the state. What is your general impression on politics?
As a rule, I do not get involved in politics. I am expected to remain neutral and above politics and I am very conscious of this. But I wish to say that the expectations of Malaysians have increased. They want their elected representatives to be more mature and to have more depth.
For example, I am disturbed that some of our politicians, regardless of their political parties, prefer to dwell on trivial issues. They are harping on issues that have no relevance to the country. With the global economic crisis, I would expect them to focus their energy and resources on how best they could help Malaysians face this financial uncertainty. But the issues that these politicians have brought up are disappointing. I am concerned with the manner some politicians exploit racial issues for their own agenda.
Malaysia belongs to all races, not just the Malays. The country is what it is today because of the contributions of all races and that is something we must acknowledge.
I am concerned with the quality of some politicians. I hope the leaders will put some thought into grooming and succession. This is like a race. The baton must be passed to the best runner to finish the race. We are talking about the future of our children. They deserve the best leaders.
Tuanku, at the recent Conference of Rulers meeting, a statement was issued defending the country’s social contract, stressing the need for Malays to be united and assuring non-Malays of their rights under the Federal Constitution. Was it at the initiative of Tuanku?
Yes, it was my initiative but it was made collectively following consultations with my brother Rulers. People need to understand that the social contract is a primary basis on the formation of Malaysia.
It has held the country together. The general principles have been accepted by all races. The country has been successful because of the spirit of give and take. Let’s not debate it because it is better for the rakyat to understand the history behind the social contract and know how Malaysia’s independence came into being.
The rights of the Malays are well protected, no one can just take away these rights and they cannot be amended without consent from the Conference of Rulers.
Malay unity is important. Any form of dispute – political or factional – is bad. As Rulers, we want to see the people, especially the country’s largest ethnic group, to be focused on more important things.
That was why after the last Rulers Conference, we came out with the statement that the non-Malays should not feel apprehensive over their rights. These are rights guaranteed under the federal and state Constitutions. We took great pains to ensure the statement was carefully worded, taking into account how sensitive this matter is.
ON YOGA AND FATWAS
Could Tuanku comment on the controversy surrounding the fatwa prohibiting Muslims from practising yoga?
State religious matters come under the jurisdiction of the Rulers. It is a state matter. In states with no Sultans, it is the King who decides. It is not the prerogative of the Mentri Besar or Chief Minister, let’s be clear.
In the case of a fatwa, there are many steps to be taken before it can be gazetted. The state Fatwa Council, chaired by the Datuk Mufti, has to deliberate on such matters. Anyone can make proposals but finally, it is the Ruler who has the final say.
Islam is a beautiful religion. It is a practical religion. It must be known for its values and compassion. It is not about punishments or banning this or that. This has unfortunately happened. Islam is not about force. Substance is more important, let’s not forget.
I noticed that in the case of the yoga issue, some people seemed eager to jump the gun by making announcements to show their authority when they have none. The result is confusion. Muslims and non-Muslims are confused.
An indepth and thorough study by the state Fatwa Council must be conducted before any decision is sent to me for approval.
ON APPOINTMENTS AND STATE AWARDS
Tuanku, recently there was controversy over the appointment of a non-Malay as acting general manager of the Selangor State Develop-ment Board (PKNS). What is your opinion?
I think it was a non-issue. The person has served in PKNS loyally and effectively for 30 years, so why should her promotion be questioned? If she’s not good, she would have been sacked a long time ago.
Her job as acting general manager, which is only temporary, is only to ensure the smooth running of daily operations. She cannot make any decision that runs contrary to the objectives of PKNS, as raised by some quarters. The Mentri Besar is still the PKNS chairman and also the board will decide on policy matters.
Moreover, she would just be an acting general manager while the state government looks for a chief executive officer as replacement. The PKNS must function effectively while the search is continuing for a suitable candidate. I don’t know why her appointment should be an issue.
Your Royal Highness, you have made it a point to limit the number of Datukships but the perception is that certain states have been over-generous in awarding these titles. Some feel that Datukships have lost their prestige.
I do not want to talk about other states. But as far as Selangor is concerned, there is a limit. It has been my practice to award fewer than 30 people Datukships even though the state limits it to 40. Only people who have contributed to the state or country deserve the title. It should not be given to any Tom, Dick or Harry. It should not be perceived that you can buy them. If that happens, or has happened, then those responsible must examine themselves.
This year, I have decided that only a few people would be awarded Datukship, two Dato Seri and one Dato Setia.
There would be no politicians, either from the past or present government. The present government is barely eight months old and it would need to prove itself first. Even a baby takes nine months to be born. We must give them enough time to show their work.
I am sure there are deserving cases in the present state government but let us wait first. Let them focus on their work, not awards or rewards. Titles should not come with positions.
As I said, I do not want to comment on the position of awards in other states but in Selangor, I wish to maintain its prestige and exclusiveness. It must be branded so people would value it and people would have high regard for the recipients.
BEHAVIOUR OF SELANGOR STATE ASSEMBLYMEN AT THE STATE ASSEMBLY
I understand that Tuanku has taken steps to check the behaviour and decorum of state assemblymen.
I have asked palace officials and even my brother to attend State Assembly meetings. I want them to report to me how these assemblymen, that means the state government and opposition, prepare themselves for these meetings. Do they know what they are talking about and have they done their homework? Are they taking part or just sitting quietly to observe the proceedings with no contribution.
This decision is not aimed at any particular party. It doesn’t matter if they are in Pakatan or Barisan. If they behave badly or ignore decorum, I will have a word with them. This is not political interference. I repeat not political interference. I just want them to know they represent Selangor, so they should be at their best.
ON CRIME AND POLICING IN SELANGOR
Tuanku, crime has continued to be a major concern in Selangor which has the highest crime rate in this country.
I continue to receive complaints from the rakyat on the ground situation. I read about crime in the newspapers and even at dinner conversations. People talk about it. It’s not just a Selangor problem but a national problem. In Selangor, we have the highest crime rate because the population is now the biggest in Malaysia. This is also a place which attracts outsiders and foreigners because of job opportunities. Social problems such as crime comes naturally unfortunately. It is expected.
I have been told that crime prevention has improved. The Selangor police are saying that this is their most successful period in the last 10 years with the state index showing a marginal increase. Gombak, Ampang, Shah Alam, Kuala Langat, Hulu Selangor and Sepang districts show decreases overall.
I am sure the police are trying their best but perceptions are important. If the public do not feel safe on the street or even at home, no amount of assurances would be good enough. Even the homes of police officers are burgled. That is bad. There should be more policemen on the streets. People feel safe when they see policemen on patrol. Traffic cops alone are not good enough.
What about the larger use of closed-circuit television (CCTV) in more parts of Selangor?
I am glad you asked that question. This has been bothering me for some time. I am in fact frustrated at the delay in implementing the CCTV project in Selangor. I had suggested this to the previous state government and now, we have a new state government. Nothing has happened, so excuses and more excuses.
The CCTV project has been successfully implemented in Subang but I do not understand what’s holding it back from being implemented statewide by the state government.
There is no point having the best roads or best homes if people don’t feel safe. In Britain, there are thousands and thousands of CCTVs being installed in strategic areas. I cannot understand this delay in Selangor.
Tuanku, what is your hope of the new state government which is now under Pakatan Rakyat?
There is much expectation and anticipation for sure. They were voted in by the rakyat. We have demonstrated that we believe in democracy and the new state government has been formed.
At the same time, we have to understand that the new government is also on a learning curve. However, Selangor is a developed state and the most important state in Malaysia, so the new government must understand the impatience of the people.
People expect them to know their job from day one. On that score, they must understand these demands.
For example, investors would not like it if there are delays in applications for projects. I also do not want them to complain to me that projects are being held up for no good reason.
What is your birthday wish?
It’s simple. I like to see the people of all races live together in harmony. We have been able to do that for the last 50 years and even before independence and I believe the ordinary people love peace. What they want in life is simple – to live happily, have a decent life and see their children have a future in Malaysia.
I share their aspirations and I hope the politicians would also understand the need for this. Let us all adopt a give and take approach. Let there be consensus.
There is a need for more common sense. I hope the politicians will take note of this. If you have a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, it does not mean you have common sense and I have to stress that common sense is important.
I also wish to see less friction or less emphasis on trivialities. We tend to focus on trivial issues which serve no purpose.
Some people are quick to make judgments or quick to react without understanding a matter thoroughly or studying it in-depth first.