Thursday, August 6, 2009

An Interview With Mike Castillo - Editorial Director Asia-Pacific, World Report - London.- Full Transcript

Transcript of the interview with Y.A.B. Dato’ Seri Ustaz Azizan Abdul Razak
Menteri Besar Of Kedah Darul Aman, Malaysia.

World Report: We would like to balance with what the government is saying about Malaysia with what the coalition is doing in the five different states where your party governs. If you could please start with giving us a brief introduction on that?

Y.A.B Dato’ Seri Ustaz Azizan Abdul Razak: We used to have our opposition state before in Kelantan. It was only in the last election, 2008, that we captured five states which were Kedah, Kelantan, Penang and Selangor. Perak has gone so we are left with four states. There are different natures with these four states. First you must remember the historical background of the Malaysian political system which goes back to colonial period. We have so called strict settlement states similar to Penang, Singapore and Melaka which were totally under the British. Pahang, Negeri Sembilan, Selangor and Perak have their own style compared to Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Johor and Terengganu. The culture and the legal systems have a difference. Therefore we have had to make some kind of adjustment. For instance if something is legally implemented in Penang we cannot always implement it in Kedah, or sometimes Kedah and Kelantan can implement it but we cannot implement it in Selangor. This is based on the composition of the population. For example in Kedah Malays are dominant, as well as in Kelantan, but when we are talking about Islam, Kelantan is better than Kedah because Kelantan is stricter. Therefore sometimes with the agenda in Kedah you will find it different compared to Penang. Sometimes with some policies when we are fighting for justice or against corruption we share common grounds. However when we are sometimes talking about some sectors, the rights of Malays for example, the rights of some minority groups for example, here is where we encounter some problems. This is where the redistribution of wealth across the state comes in, as well as economic development and how to make sure that all the ethnics get their share. Sometimes you have to consider all these aspects even when we are talking about religion. In general we have common grounds, the same goals to achieve, but when we are talking about uniformity this is when we run into some difficulties.

World Report: In terms of affirmative action do you favour action in terms of ethnic origin or in terms of performance and intellectual capacity?

Y.A.B Dato’ Seri Ustaz Azizan Abdul Razak: I favour both. Sometimes you have to guide this like children. I am in the northern part of the state and what happened is that the majority are Malays. In terms of education they are less educated compared to Penang or Selangor. Therefore sometimes we have to uphold the implementation of the policy of helping the bumiputra. Sometimes we have negatives and positives when we are trying to uphold this type of concept. For instance, when the bumiputra feel that the government is supporting them they become lazy and do not want to improve themselves. If you let them carry on like that then they will have problems. I do not deny that there is much that the government has done for them but at the same time there is so much corruption. That is why when I came into power I tried to abolish all of these things. I wanted no more corruption, no more abuse of power, and I try to be very moderate with my way of life. When people come to invest in Kedah I tell them to come and invest and let the people benefit. I do not want anything from them. I will benefit from my own people benefitting. People seem to be very happy with my approach and style. There is no hanky-panky in my administrations. I do not deny that some of my officers will do it but if I find out there will be trouble because I am very strict on these matters. To prove this fact we have many investors come into Kedah, and more want to come in. This is because they like to deal with me. You can see my strategy now about how I try to get people confident. Any political party can run the state. It does not have to necessarily be the one in power right now, just as long as you govern well, are transparent and sincere to your people.

World Report: This is an excellent example as we have looked at when the Merapoh project was started, and when you have signed the MOU, and it has been relatively short for such a huge project.

Y.A.B Dato’ Seri Ustaz Azizan Abdul Razak: Yes it has been a very short amount of time. They came to see me in April and I said great, go ahead, and now we have come to the signing of the agreement. Up to today so many companies have come to see me and now I am telling them that I do not want to talk to anymore. I just say to them if you want to come here you can just come. The shore is there, the sea is there, the land is there, and you can just come here and invest your capital.

World Report: You have Kedah Investment Centre as a one stop shop which has been very helpful. We would like to talk with them in the future also. You also have Kulim Hi-Tech Park which is a very interesting development that is performing very well, and of course you have Langkawi.

Y.A.B Dato’ Seri Ustaz Azizan Abdul Razak: Many foreigners want to make Langkawi their second home but I really want to control it. I want to preserve the nature of Langkawi the way it is now before it is spoilt. I do not want to turn it into a Monaco or a Casablanca. Of course we have to have tourism in Langkawi but certain areas have to be designated for tourists.

World Report: We have also talked with many hospitals as we are working on another article about health travel. Penang talks of Langkawi as completing the offer as such. You can have treatment in Penang and then go and recover in Langkawi.

Y.A.B Dato’ Seri Ustaz Azizan Abdul Razak: We call Langkai now the gem of Kedah. I had to rename Langkawi. Before Langkawi was known just as a geo-park but I wanted people to know that Langkawi was ‘the island’ of Kedah. Also the ambassadors from Germany and the Middle-East wanted to bring yachts to Langkawi and I said it was fine but I would give them only a very restricted area. They asked me why I was so concerned about my land and I told them that I had to make the right choices for the future of my land and people. We are actually in competition with Penang. I would like to have same people coming from the Middle-East, Germany and England. I want people to come and enjoy the weather, the beach and the panorama the way it is. The problem now is in terms of transportation. We do not have airport facilities like Penang so this a problem that we have to get around.

World Report: You mentioned at the beginning wealth redistribution. Do you feel that the economic policies that you can put in place in your state will improve the average man on the streets life?

Y.A.B Dato’ Seri Ustaz Azizan Abdul Razak: There are certain groups who try to control everything which leaves many poor people. After I have come into power in Kedah I am able to control the state expenditures and make sure the state revenue from natural resources is controlled and maintained. At the moment I am trying to improve the economic condition of the state. First I had to provide job opportunities. We can provide about 30,000 jobs to young men. We have an agreement with Australia that we can send our people to study there. When they come back they are qualified to train our local boys. One thing that I will mention is that Kedah is the Holland of the East. This is because they are a small country in Europe but a giant in terms of agriculture production. The world is in need of food now as there is a global food crisis going on. We can produce rice, fruit and vegetables. If I can introduce this kind of agriculture system we can have a special type of program where people in the villages can send their produce to the international market. For instance in England there is no rambutan or mangosteen. We can send these fruits to abroad. I have also recently learnt about shortages of fish in certain countries which has led to controlled fishing. In Kedah we have many fresh water lakes so I am starting to introduce aqua-culture. I do not want to introduce plans that need huge capitals. I want to introduce plans that can be carried out with small capitals and that can be carried out by my people. This is because by nature my people are farmers. When they have this kind of income it will improve the economy.

World Report: It is good to know that you are performing well and people are happy because we feel that if the four states that are controlled by your party do an excellent job then it will give your coalition a very good chance of winning the general elections. This is because people will see the neighbouring state and see how well you are doing.

Y.A.B Dato’ Seri Ustaz Azizan Abdul Razak: It is like in Kedah. People know that I am opposition and that I do not have enough support from the federal government, but I can still survive. They support and respect me because there has been no corruption practiced by myself. I live a very simple life. I stay in my own house, which is a small house. It is an ordinary teacher’s house. If you come to Alostar you will see the residence of the Menteri Besar there. It is a very simple life. I believe that I can stay for two or three years and someone else can take over the state. I do not mind. It is democracy.

World Report: We do feel that change on a national level is round the corner. How ready do you think the current political and economical elite are to give up power?

Y.A.B Dato’ Seri Ustaz Azizan Abdul Razak: I believe that there is big change coming soon. The only issue we are worried about at the moment is some problems with PKR and Anwar Ibrahim, but I do believe this will not stop us and that there will be great change.

World Report: Just to wrap things up, what would be your message to our UK audience about Kedah and about the way to do business there?

Y.A.B Dato’ Seri Ustaz Azizan Abdul Razak: I welcome everybody to come here. I practice democracy and respect the democratic system. I respect the people’s power and the people’s needs. I uphold justice and am not the Taliban type. After I had been in power for one or two months I had visitors from the English and Australian embassies to see how I am. I showed them my office and told them that I could speak English. Even the intel president came to see me because he invested a lot of money in the Kulim Hi-Tech Park.

World Report: Thank you very much for your comments.

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