Friday, November 14, 2008

Berani kerana Benar

Mukhriz interview with The Star

Mukhriz throws down the gauntlet at his accusers to prove money politics

This is the first in a series of Umno interviews. Next on the pipeline are Q & As with ex-Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Khir Toyo and deputy youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.

Mukhriz: Walking the talk.
BESIEGED by claims that he is not walking his talk on the issue of money politics, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, in an interview with The Star, has thrown down the gauntlet at his accusers ... prove it and he will back out of the race for the Umno Youth chief post.

Q: What is your view on the five months campaign period.

A: This gives us ample time to meet the delegates. But it can also be abused because it gives certain parties more time to buy votes. If money politics is not resolved, it does not matter what we want to bring to the party, it will come to nought because Umno will lose the trust of the people in the next general elections.

Q: Since you are an interested party, the option to go by the book or join the game is also opened to you.

A: I have a clean track record and I am not about to ruin my reputation by indulging in money politics. People know that I lost in Kubang Pasu in 2004 (for the division Umno Youth chief) with my honour intact because I did not use money. I also won the national exco seat with the highest votes. Until now, people still come to me and say that they respect me because I do not indulge in this kind of nonsense.

Q: But lately many people are saying that all your talk about eradicating money politics are just rhetoric and that you are equally involved in such acts.

A: Then they should bring this up. People who were offered money under my name should report it. I know that some people are saying that I am dua kali lima (meaning the same) when I speak about these ills, but people on the ground who really know me will tell you that I am not like that.

Q: There are claims that you have appointed agents, that so and so who are close to you, travelled all over the country to buy nominations on your behalf since the division meetings started.

A: They are not representing me. I have to admit it is easy to be framed. All it takes is for someone to bring money bags and say “please vote for Mukhriz.”

Q: How do you plan to protect yourself against such political manoeuvring?

A: Just by being me so that people can judge me by my deeds. I pride myself with the kind of integrity that is much needed in Umno. I will do nothing that can bring disrepute to the party.

Q: Some people believe that you don’t have what it takes to be an Umno Youth leader. They say that your are too soft and you lack the fiery temperament normally associated with Umno Youth leaders.

A: Look at my track record, I have always been consistent and have been so for the four years I was active in politics. I may not have ‘in your face’ type of approach, but my firmness and steadfastness on important issues is well known. I have been going against the grain when it was not a politically correct thing to do and I am not the type who toady to anyone. I am not about to shout in someone’s face and call for rally. I may not be the type that demonstrates in public to get front page news coverage. But I concede that each man has his own way and means. Our performance in March and the results of the Permatang Pauh by-election have shown that our present method may not be the best. Maybe my style is more acceptable.

Q: Do you think Umno Youth is ready for the kind of change that you are trying to promote?

A: I qualified to contest within three days of the start of the division meetings. I believe the resounding support that they have shown thus far is not so much for me but more for what I stand for. They understand that change is critical for Umno if it is to rule the Government next term.

Q: You have the highest nominations thus far. How confident are you that this will translate into real votes come March.

A: Figures don’t lie. Should I lose, it would mean that grassroots obviously want me but not the delegates. If that is the case, are we certain that this is the best way for Umno to conduct its election?

Q: What do you see as your greatest challenge in the next five months.

A: Money politics. I we don’t rectify the perception that Umno is fraught with money politics, we will definitely lose in the next elections. It will not be due to the Opposition being stronger, but because the people are disgusted with us. I find it disturbing that Umno is no longer associated with good values which is the key to winning back the people’s support.

Q: Among the three contenders for Umno Youth chief post, you are seen as the most politically naive. Will that cost you votes?

A: I’d rather be naive then be dirty. When I tell people not to take that RM200, they say, come on its only RM200. This is the point where the system breaks down. If being naive means standing up for your principles then I am willing to be naive. I will back off if people say that I use money.

Q: What will your strategy be in the next five months.

A: By being myself. Talking is fun, but I don’t go about accusing others. I hope people have the good sense to judge me by my deeds. I would like to win, but I am not that desperate to the extent of setting aside my dignity and principles. We lost Kedah (to the Opposition) we lost the state, yet the intensity of the competition for party posts was unprecedented.

Q: Does being Tun Dr Mahathir’s son help you in your political quest?

A: Much as I respect my father for his sacrifices for this country, I am not beholden to him and I don’t necessarily have to agree with him all the time. In fact, when he left Umno he was implying that I should do the same. He was quite disappointed when I decided against it. People told me that my ratings fell after that. He also said that he supported Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (as Umno president) when I had clearly said that Najib is the best successor. We have had differences in opinions.

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