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The Star Online

Saturday April 19, 2008

Former Selangor MB prefers to see the glass as half full


THE first few days after Selangor fell to the opposition, former Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo seemed as if he disappeared from the political radar.

After the brief sojourn of silence, Dr Khir once again grabbed the spotlight by attending a controversial forum together with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Then, he announced his readiness to contest the Umno Youth top post.

In the meantime, he has had to fend off insinuations from the new state government which has been trying to dig up scandals during his eight-year leadership.

Dr Khir said he would take the challenges. He added: “It is not my style to run away.”

The first few days after Barisan Nasional lost the state, it was difficult to contact you. Now, you have a blog, appeared in forums and are readily contactable by phone. Is this some sort of a reinvention to remain relevant?

The first few days were intense. I was involved in talks with many parties to form the best state government possible. I do not want to reveal much. That is in the past. Then, I had to move house and many people came to see me over the lost. It seemed as if I had disappeared but I was always here. I do not run away, it not my style.

You have recently created a blog, saying you wanted to let the people have a direct voice to you. Did you listen to the people when you were the Mentri Besar?

I did try my best. I read the SMS sent to me, often staying up to 2am to do it. I opened every letter sent to my office. When people complained about contractors not doing a good job, we changed the contractors. When rubbish was not collected, we directed Alam Flora to buck up. When infrastructure needed repair, we tried to do as much as possible.

Our income was about RM1.2bil. RM600mil went to emolument and management, another RM300mil to development. We need to juggle so many demands with that money. The new state government will also face the same quandary. We can build roads and replace lampposts with every complaint, but we will need RM2bil -RM3bil for that.

Also, I could not satisfy everyone. Take the squatter issue for instance. We held first, second, third rounds of talks with them. We acted on the decision of the majority. But some parties only listened to the minority. For development on highlands, we imposed strict conditions but for some of the land, the owners bought them a long time ago. If we forbade development, the owners would take us to court and we would have to pay. Taxpayers would be the losers.

You have been called a weak leader. What is your response?

I am human. I have my weaknesses. I concentrated too much on developing the state. I did not really play politics.

There were accusations, that you surrounded yourself with people of Javanese descend (Dr Khir is one) and that you dropped performing veterans in favour of new faces close to you for the general election.

Look at my exco. How many of them were Javanese? (Former state executive councillors) Datuk Mokhtar Ahmad Dahalan, Datin Paduka Seripah Noli, Datuk Raja Idris are not. From my Mentri Besar’s office, most of them are not as well.

As for the candidates, I included names of all division chiefs, including (Umno information chief) Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib’s. For some divisions, I submitted five to six names.

I stressed this point during the Umno state liasion meetings but some people chose not to believe that.I was also accused of not informing the veterans before they were dropped as candidates. I could not tell them because I did not know. I submitted their names up and the top leadership made the final decision.

Were you asked to resign as the Selangor Umno liasion chief after Selangor fell to the opposition?

No. I resigned to take full responsibility for the loss. There were already accusations flying, parties blaming each other for the loss. I did not want that to escalate further and damage the party. Furthermore, it is better for a minister to be the state liaison chief. There will be more funding from the Federal Government.

The Selangor Mentri Besar’s seat is seen as just too hot. Are you the third one to get burnt?

It did not feel “hot” when I was helming Selangor. I do not agree that the seat is jinxed. This time, the tsunami was just too strong.

The new administration under Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim seems to be making the popular moves – free water for the first 20 cubic metres, no new cars for state executive councillors and no office makeover. I sincerely wish him well. The official residence in Section 7 is in dire need of repair but I put up with it for eight years. I also did not refurbish the Mentri Besar’s office when I took over. We are fair. Give them a 100-day honeymoon. Then, we will check if they manage to fulfil their election manifesto.

It was very specific, such as, RM1,000 for every Selangor undergraduate, RM25,000 in takaful premium to the senior citizens. Such promises are very noble. I will also help them by assisting in the registration of all the eligible parties. What is good for Selangor is good enough for me.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad picked you as Mentri Besar over many others who were seen as capable when Tan Sri Abu Hassan Omar resigned in 2000. Do you feel you are indebted to Tun?

Tun Dr Mahathir is my former leader. I respect him very much. However, respect does not mean I share all of his opinions. This time, we lost Selangor because the “political tsunami” was very strong.

I handed over a well-run state. Development is on track. The state-owned companies have turned around and the state finances as well as the management system are working well. That speaks for itself. If I had ran the state to the ground, that would have been shameful.

Where is your loyalty? Weren’t Umno leaders “advised” against attending the forum organised by to discuss about Umno’s performance in the general election?

I am loyal to Umno. I attended the function because I wanted to face those who are so angry at Umno. We cannot run away or we will lose them even more. If the Umno supreme council questions me over my attendance, the reply will be the same. There were calls for Pak Lah to step down. I did not participate in that call.

Are you loyal to the president that is leading Umno now?

I am loyal to Umno. Pak Lah said he has listened to the message sent to Barisan Nasional by the voters. Pak Lah must put right what is ailing the country. The people are angry because they feel the Government is not firm when handling issues. We cannot be apologetic when tackling problems.

What needs doing?

1. Fair distribution of equity among the races. To me, the spirit of the New Eonomic Policy is good – to restructure society and eradicate poverty. But the implementation must be objective. Implement the equity distribution according to what the races need. For example, on poverty eradication, make it clear how much percentage of that inspiration for the different races, how much go to the Malays, the Chinese and the Indians.

2. The education system. It is time we care for all types of schools, the Chinese, Indian and national schools. Have three deputy ministers to be in charge of the three different types of schools. Let the deputy ministers have their respective working mechanism and the minister as the main coordinator.

3. Inter-religious matters. Make it very clear what can or cannot be done for Muslims and non-Muslims.

Did you put into practise what you preached when you helmed Selangor for the past eight years?

Yes, I tried my best. For instance, I put into practise how much percentage of government allocation went to each race. You can check my records. As for religion, I gave allocation not only to mosques but also to churches, temples and other religious houses. Of course, my limitation was, I could not fulfil all requests because of limited funds.

Are you ready for a showdown in opting to run for the Umno Youth chief post?

People have been coming to see me. I would not want to rock the boat if Datuk Hishamuddin Hussein (the current youth chief) chose to remain. He has decided to vacate the post. As for the others wanting to contest, it is nothing personal.

You mentioned in your blog that you have come a full circle. From a nobody to a Mentri Besar, and now, back to a nobody?

Yes, I have been through one learning curve. I am 43-years-old and ready to take on the second learning curve, using the experience I had in running the state.

How will you survive?

I have a clinic. I will manage it again. I am still an elected representative and there is an allowance. I have moved to a rented house somewhere in Shah Alam. Can la, cukup la (its adequate).

The reality of politics is that friends will desert you when you are down.

True, that happens. You know who your true friends are. When I became the Mentri Besar, I told my wife to be prepared to be ordinary folks again someday. That someday has arrived. I am taking this as my second cycle. Who knows what peak I will scale this time – it can be bigger, or smaller than the first cycle. I am ready for the challenge.

COMMENTS: Since he has openly made his stance and spoke his mind, it is for the rakyat to consider who Dato' Sri Dr Khir Toyo as person , as a leader and as a politician. The "gap or lacunae" between what he said and what he actually did for those eight years is there in the open and in the record for all of us to "see". The learning curve always starts from unconscious incompetence through conscious incompetence. Perhaps he is on the plateau portion of the learning curve. So much to unlearn.

Comments :

kenji san said...

I'd like to remind you that as an MB, he cannot afford building a big mansion with Bali style design. Obviously, it sounds corruption somewhere in the house.

and please, we have too many crooks in the government.





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