PETALING JAYA: The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government has been advised not to take the people for granted and treat them like idiots.
Acknowledging that the “feel good” factor from the 14th general election (GE14) is quickly dissipating, Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) chairman Daim Zainuddin said it is being replaced by an increasing number of complaints.
“I have real faith in people, they are smarter than you think.
“If you are honest with them, they will understand. Do not take the rakyat for granted. People don’t like it if you treat them like idiots,” he told Sunday Star in an interview.
Asked to grade the performance of the PH government, the former finance minister said what is important is how the rakyat grade the performance.
He said PH is still “very young” and its leaders must find common goals and principles that all its members can stand up for.
“Pakatan should be concentrating on its strengths – its commitment to democracy and its promises to strengthen our constitutional institutions,” he said.
Asked during the 90-minute interview if there was a problem in terms of power sharing and the calibre of ministers selected for the Cabinet, Daim said PH is “very much in its infancy”.
“So, teething issues such as power-sharing will crop up because not everyone will have such high altruistic values.
“But the Cabinet has equal representation of all component parties. Unlike Barisan (Nasional), Pakatan does not practise proportional representation. All members are equal,” he said.
Daim also gave his views on a number of other issues.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s successor
Asked about the ideal candidate to replace Mahathir as prime minister, he said “the person who commands the support of the majority of Members of Parliament”.
“… but this has been decided. So I do not understand why this continues to be raised.
“We have a few who love to thrive on instability. Let us concentrate on the economy and address the issues that will improve the well-being of Malaysians.”
The Umno-PAS alliance
Daim said there is nothing wrong with a political party wanting to cooperate with another political party.
“But the problem arises when you say that your cooperation is to champion only a certain race and a certain religion.”
Daim said racial politics is not becoming more divisive – politics is becoming more racially divisive.
“These may start out as ‘games’ that politicians play in order to win support, but there will come a time when the politicians will not be able to control the emotions and actions of their supporters.
“The politicians will whip them into a state of frenzy, and when things get out of control, they will disown them. But the country suffers, the rakyat suffer.”
He said Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-religious country.
“There is no getting away from this fact. Malaysia was developed with the blood, sweat and tears of all the races working together.”
Heading the CEP and ECRL negotiations
Asked if he was concerned that his appointment as head of the CEP and handling tasks for the government such as the ECRL negotiations with China had not gone down well with some members of Pakatan, Daim said he has not heard of the “unhappiness”.
“One or two bloggers suggested that I should not handle the negotiations.
“The truth is very few ministers within Pakatan actually have the experience of dealing with China. I have had the privilege of knowing and working with the Chinese government for many years now and I have managed to build up some valuable relationships.
“I am sure that if the country benefits from these discussions which I am leading, those you say who were unhappy in the first place, will calm down.”
He agreed with Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng that the negotiations are time-consuming and convoluted.
“He has many things on his plate, and to attend to all of these bilateral negotiations would require that he spends a great deal of time on a singular matter.
“I have been helping the government in bilateral negotiations since the 80s. I am very happy to hand over the negotiations to anybody who is interested to take over. I know that Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, for one, has experience in this area.”
Asked if he would change any of the recommendations by the CEP in the current environment, Daim said: “I cannot reveal to you because then I would be revealing the contents of the CEP report, and only the PM can do that.
“We as members of the CEP are bound by the Official Secrets Act.
“Some write and say that the CEP undermines the Cabinet. Obviously, some people do not understand the Constitution. For your information, some countries have got a version of the CEP as a permanent institution. Do you think that they undermine the Cabinet?”