Thursday, April 16, 2009

Coming together for the sake of the nation - Jamaludin Jarjis

Jamaludin Jarjis Rompin MP, a member of UMNO Supreme Council, tells FARRAH NAZ KARIM that he sees it as a cue for the party to up the ante and take the nation to the next level

Farrah Naz Karim: Is the Barisan Nasional losing its relevance?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: Let me reiterate this important fact: one cannot change the fact that the driver of change in this country has been the BN.

The BN's success in uniting the Malays, the Chinese, the Indians and the other ethnic groups under a single political umbrella is what has enabled us to write the Malaysian success stories so far.

At a time when they were lagging behind in education, economy and most other modern sectors, the Malays enacted the Federal Constitution to guarantee the rights of those who had migrated to Malaysia.

They were given citizenship and rights. At the same time the Malays were given protection and support as they were behind economically, and not because they were deemed a superior race. That was never the case and people forget that.

It is our duty to remind our children about this piece of history, this win-win Malaysian story, of how the Alliance (the precursor to the BN) got together to fight for our Independence and fought the communist insurgency and developed the economy through public-private partnerships to get us where we are today.

Farrah Naz Karim: Some say the last general election was a sign that the people are rejecting BN rule?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: People have continued to comment on the last election, referring to it as a wake-up call for the coalition. Sure, you can call it a wake-up call.

But I see it as a cue for BN and Umno to look for new ways in managing our success and to revise our approaches in facing the challenges of 21st century Malaysia.

Farrah Naz Karim: What sort of challenges?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: One big challenge is the management of the demographic changes. For instance, statistics show that given a city that has a population of 100,000, two-thirds are now urban Malays, unlike before when the majority were Chinese.

Policies such as the National Economic Policy have to take into account these new demographic changes.

If the country focused on eradicating poverty irrespective of race in rural areas before, we must now focus on those low-income groups in the cities, regardless of race and religion.

You have those living and working in the city earning below RM1,500; they must be helped.

We need to find ways to boost their income and meet their housing and transport needs. Such issues and challenges surely will be at the forefront of the agenda under the new leadership.

New policies need to be structured in order to continue and sustain the country's successes, and allow the young to create their own success stories and achieve their dreams.

People no longer fight and protest only for their basic needs like water or electricity; they also strive for greater human rights, civil liberties, justice and so on.

Yet, we still need to solve the bread and butter issues, especially in the rural areas.

Farrah Naz Karim: There appears to be discontent among the races in the country. Do you agree?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: I don't think one race begrudges another if help is offered to the needy. What irks some people, especially the younger generation, is when help is given without merit.

All of us have our rights and these are protected in the Constitution. Merit and needs -- not race -- must be the primary consideration, except as stipulated in the Constitution.

Yes, we should give protection, support and assistance to the Malays but the Chinese, Indians and others who are in need of support and assistance should be provided with opportunities as well.

Farrah Naz Karim: As an Umno leader, do you feel that the Malays are in distress and are banking on the party to champion their cause?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: This is a basic concern of most Malays. The Malays worry about losing their rights and special privileges.

The Malay leaders, of course, fight for the Malay cause. That is the foundation of Umno, in as much as the Chinese leaders fight for the Chinese cause through MCA and Gerakan, and the Indians through MIC.

This is what makes the BN framework work.

But here's the thing, the focus should not be solely a Malay cause or a Chinese cause or an Indian cause, rather it should be the larger Malaysian cause.

Let us not lie to ourselves, our fate as a nation is not divided by race. It is one and the same because at the end of the day, if you face difficulty or go under, no one is going to ask you whether you are Malay, Chinese, or Indian.

The shark in the ocean does not care, it will take anything and everything down.

Farrah Naz Karim: Where do the Malays stand in society?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: The Malays still need a lot of help. Of the 11 million EPF contributors, some five million earn below RM1,500 a month and more than 65 per cent of these are Malays.

Whenever the issue of the Malay economic position arises and is debated, I always remind people of the above statistics, and the fact that 65 per cent of Malaysians are Malays, anyway.

To me, in certain areas where the Malays are under-represented, you will need to impose quotas to assure that representation reflects the percentage of the population in that respective area.

However, in areas where the Malays are able to be assisted based on needs, for instance with regards to low-cost housing, quotas need not be put in place, rather it should be open to everybody and be based on needs and merit.

Quotas should only be put in place when necessary and be subject to constant checks and reviews.

The government must help the people by providing them with opportunities to help themselves, not by spoon-feeding them or by turning Malaysia into a nanny state.

Farrah Naz Karim: Do you sense an imminent problem for the country, as open racial debates and polarisation persist?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: We live in an open democratic society, thus we are entitled to have open, healthy debates on any and all issues that concern the people, except seditious matters.

The citizens of this country must accept that freedom comes with responsibility. We have fought and struggled for far too long and have achieved so much together to allow ourselves to destroy this nation.

I say let us not focus on our differences, but rather on what unites us.

Farrah Naz Karim: What does Umno need to do urgently, in order to regain the people's confidence?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: First and foremost the party needs to reconnect and engage the people, especially the younger generation. This is irrefutable and of the highest priority.

We cannot allow the party and the people to be separate entities.

The people are the voice and soul of the party - it is they who make or break the party. There are those who view the party as being arrogant and this image needs to be changed immediately.

Farrah Naz Karim: You were minister of finance when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was prime minister. How do you view our position in the next couple of years vis-a-vis the global meltdown?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: We may want to revisit some of the economic models in this country. We may have gone overboard with the laissez faire free market model. Recently we have seen the failure of the unfettered free market model in the United States.

For instance, low-cost housing and public transport have to be government-led and not private sector-led.

You should only allow people to make money when it is a market product and not a social product, which is why low-cost housing, for example, should be handled by the government.

The same goes with regard to public transport. It is a basic need of the low income community. It will also help manage the traffic congestion that currently pervades our towns and cities.

Put these public products or social products in the hands of private companies and the objective will always be money and how to obtain the highest returns, which then translates into higher costs to the public.

We all realise that public transportation and public low-cost housing need to be delivered at affordable level to benefit the low-income group.

It is the duty of the government to provide for and develop such social products for public good.

Farrah Naz Karim: Do you think there is enough time for Umno and BN to be revived before the next general election?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: People know that things can neither be done nor changed overnight. It takes time.

If the government shows that it is taking the effort to rectify the problems, tackling the issues that concern the public, giving hope to the masses by pointing out and saying "Yes, I hear you", they in turn will give us the grace period to work things out.

We must also be prepared to change the economic model of the country and improve things for the poor and urban low income group, as well as ensuring transparency of the government.

As long as we seek to change and do the required work, then the people will see, appreciate and be with us again.

We need to regain the people's faith and trust. The only way to that is to work and show that the party acknowledges, listens and works for them and cares for them.

Farrah Naz Karim: You really think that is enough to convince the young electorate?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: Effective communication can help the government get through to the people, especially the young. The new demographic of the country requires the government to engage the people more and gain greater access to them.

Make the people, in particular the youth, feel relevant and involved in the political processes.

At the moment, however, we are still in the mind-set of yesteryear. We are still relying on the newspapers and the 8 o'clock news on TV to convey our message across.

I don't know if there's a ministry with information officers who can just go on the Net and respond to the issues right away when queries concerning their ministry are raised.

It is not unusual for complaints to take a week or more to be answered, if at all.

At the moment, the people, especially the young, check out the websites if they want to know more about the latest issues in town.

As the government, we should constantly strive to be proactive and communicate with the people.

Farrah Naz Karim: You think the next leadership will take heed of this?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: I believe the new leadership will bring about this generational change.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak is what I would describe as a post-Merdeka generation leader, in the sense that he represents Malaysians who inherit the nation from the sacrifices and efforts of pre-Merdeka leaders, from Tunku Abdul Rahman to our current prime minister.

Farrah Naz Karim: You were dropped from the Cabinet despite winning your parliamentary seat. Were you shocked or upset?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: Not really, it was a blessing in disguise. I was in the fast lane for a very long time. I am an electrical engineer by training.

When I was made chairman of Tenaga Nasional Berhad, it was a dream come true. When former PM Tun Dr Mahathir (Mohamad) appointed me as Second Finance Minister, it was beyond my dreams.

Later Pak Lah asked me to serve him. For me all of this was beyond my dreams and the episode was amazing, and so everything has surpassed my dreams and I'm grateful for it. Now I am happy to serve my constituents.

Farrah Naz Karim: How is that?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: After all I am closer to the 60-year mark, and it allows me the opportunity and time to pursue my other interests.

It also allows me to polish my corporate work, attend to family business as well as spend more time with my family.

Farrah Naz Karim: Word has it that the administration wasn't happy with the way your then portfolio was run, especially the expenditure that was said to have been extravagant?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: I was carrying out and exercising my duty and responsibility.

Farrah Naz Karim: The Angkasawan Negara project was also mentioned in that context?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: Of course, you can never be perfect. I'll let history be my judge on that. To me personally, the Angkasawan programme was a great project.

On one count at the launch of the mission it had more than 90 per cent public support. It not only gives the nation and the people a sense of pride, but galvanised the entire country, in particular the younger generation, in striving for knowledge.

Children of today can feel proud of the fact that one of the nation's very own son has gone into space. They can emulate and build their own dreams and seek to break the barrier of knowledge.

This is all-encompassing -- from the kids in the kampung to those in the city.

Farrah Naz Karim: Why do you want to run for Umno vice-president?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: To serve the party, the people, and this great nation.

Farrah Naz Karim: Are you confident of winning?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: I am grateful to the divisions that have nominated me for the Umno supreme council as well as the vice-president's post.

I am talking to the grassroots to find out what they want and expect of me.

Farrah Naz Karim: Why do you need to contest for this post when you can make changes even with the supreme council seat?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: Like I said, I'm still in the process of listening to the ground...

Farrah Naz Karim: But you offered yourself for the post, right?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: It was the grassroots that nominated me. I thank them for their support, confidence and belief in me. But let me qualify and reiterate again, I am still checking the ground and then I will make the necessary decision.

Farrah Naz Karim: You are without a cabinet post. Wouldn't those in the cabinet be in a better position to make these changes?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: Umno delegates have the wisdom and maturity to select their leaders. I trust they have their yardstick and benchmark. History has proven many times the wisdom of the Umno delegates.

Farrah Naz Karim: How would you rate the other contenders for vice-presidency?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: As I said, I trust the wisdom of the Umno delegates to pick the right leaders for the party.

Leaders who are able to take the leap and bring the party to greater heights will be chosen. We shouldn't doubt their wisdom and maturity.

Farrah Naz Karim: You are seen as Najib's man, isn't that an advantage to you since he will be taking over the premiership soon?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: I believe Umno members and the public will judge me as my own person, regardless of whom I may or may not be close to. A person should be assessed on his ability and track record in the party and the government.

Farrah Naz Karim: Do you consider winning the vice-president's post as a step towards the top two posts?

Jamaludin Jarjis - MP Rompin: That's traditional thinking. Why should it be that way? Umno already has a leader in Najib, who is still young and is the first leader of the new generation.

We as members, regardless of rank in the party, are here to offer our support to the leader and it is for the party members through their delegates to choose the team to support him.

That is their prerogative.

The leader has been chosen, now it is time for Umno to choose his knights of the roundtable to assist him and support him.

(Source: NST)

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