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Jed Yong: Interview With Khalid Samad

From Jed Yong's blog

The fact that Khalid Samad was dropped from the Selangor committee last week did not seem to faze the tall, eloquent politician, whose brother is an UMNO Minister, Sharir Samad.

As he gently cuts his salmon steak with a knife before prodding it with a fork at the Petaling Jaya Hilton coffee house this afternoon, the Shah Alam Member of Parliament and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) Central Committee member was a picture of a sophisticated urbanite, quite contrary to the party’s image of a rural, communal and apocalyptic party.

Fitted in a suit complete with a vest, he could be any of the many successful professionals lunching al fresco at the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC). And he was too before his foray into politics in 1983. After completing his studies in Fuel and Energy at Brighton University and then Leeds University in the United Kingdom (UK) in the 70s, he was among the first few government scholars who returned in 1979 to serve in the newly formed national oil and gas company, Petronas. “At that time (when I went to the UK), Petronas wasn’t formed yet, but they sent us there because they planned to start Petronas,” he said.

In 1986, he left to start his own company, also in the oil and gas industry. A decade later, he became the Division Chief, or Yang Di-Pertua, of Shah Alam. In the March 8 general election, he won the Shah Alam parliamentary seat with a whopping majority of 9,314, ousting Abdul Aziz Shamsuddin, who was also the former Minister of Rural and Regional Development. According to Khalid, the constituency of 75,334 voters consist of about 60 percent Malays, 20 percent Chinese and 20 percent Indians. Asked why he won, he says it is because PAS has been consistently serving the community.

On PAS working with the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), he confirms that former Selangor Mentri Besar Khir Toyo did offer the Mentri Besar post to Hasan Ali. But Khalid says a totally Malay government is undesirable. Despite reports of friction among Pakatan parties, he says things are getting better as initially the Opposition did not anticipate being voted into government, but just becoming stronger.

Throughout the interview, I couldn’t help thinking how nice if a politician like him is in government instead of the likes of Jay Jay, our “rompin’” Rompin MP. But then UMNO does not tolerate dissent, Zaid Ibrahim was sacked from the party for attending Opposition functions like Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (People’s Justice Party) National Congress on Saturday. It’s a wonder if UMNO can truly change with its culture of kowtow and close one eye or hear no evil, see no evil minus the do no evil.

Growing up in Petaling Jaya, Khalid says he can see the positive effects of the New Economic Policy (NEP), which PAS supports because of its original “noble” goals like removing economic function by race that may not have evolved naturally. “The DEB (NEP) forced the Malays into different economic functions. In the 70s, the Malays were mainly in government (as) administrators, officers, teachers. The Chinese were in business,” he said. “Left on their own, the Malays may not opt for such jobs and continue their life in the kampungs.”

Yet, he believes that the NEP is up for review to evaluate what has been achieved, why certain goals has not been met and set new targets while curbing abuse. “We can’t just shove it (NEP) down people’s throats and say it’s ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy or sovereignty),” he said.

PAS differs from UMNO, Khalid says, as ketuanan Melayu doesn’t exist and everyone regardless of race is considered a citizen of Malaysia. “National unity is based on justice. Other races asking for rights need not take away Malay rights,” he said. Asked what are “Chinese rights”, Khalid replied, “Vernacular schools, asking for scholarships…” I pointed out that besides Chinese vernacular schools, the other issues, like scholarships, aren’t really “Chinese” issues. He disagrees and feels that top Chinese students may have been marginalised. But in reply to whether meritocracy should be introduced in schools, he said, “Not completely as distributive justice also has to be considered.”

In particular in Shah Alam, I asked if he would support a welfare system like the dole in the UK. “We prefer to give them the fishing rod, rather than the fish,” he said, adding the dole system in the UK too is under strain after Asians abused the benefit by claiming it while being self-employed. He admits curbing unemployment is a challenge especially for displaced communities from estates who no longer have their traditional jobs. To overcome unemployment among the underclass, he believes a “really caring” government will create a community in which each person has “some function that can be played”.

And unlike UMNO and most recently Mukhriz Mahathir (denial here), PAS believes in mother tongue education as agreed upon on Merdeka. At the same time, Khalid says, a national language is necessary for communication and “not because one race is superior to another”. For instance, Khalid says Maths and English should be taught in Malay as English proficiency should be taught in language classes while Maths and Science classes should focus on understanding. According to him, he knows of a student who was in the “top ten” in class and dropped to “bottom ten” after the subjects were taught in English. The Education Ministry, however, was all cheers about more people opting for English in the recent UPSR but the actual performance has yet to be announced or buried somewhere.

As he asked for the bill, the conversation turned briefly to Mahathir Mohamad, our former premier and UMNO’s most vitriolic critic. “He’s (Mahathir) still getting a lot of attention, eh?” Khalid said. I said we have no choice in a way as we don’t have a leader who is actually thinking of solutions to the country’s pressing economic problems.

Well, we can’t depend on Mahathir forever. After over 30 years of social engineering, we should have more than enough good leaders to choose from. As UMNO continues to spiral down the abyss of corruption (let’s call it what it is), an awakening is slowly taking place partly due to the education policies of UMNO, the Internet and a new generation of voters — a generation that does not remember the struggle for Merdeka, the communists, May 13, the socio-economic marginalisation of the Malays in the 60s and the “extremism” of PAS like “kafir-mengafir” and “undi PAS, masuk syurga”. Mudah lupa or sudah lupa, with time everyone is given another chance. Those who are stuck in time, may soon become history as PAS stands to emerge as a leading national party with modern, capable, professional, more honest and dedicated leaders.

Please visit the original post for links and picture.
-Pejabat YB Khalid Samad-


Mat Salo said…
Thanks for coming to our small do the other day, and everyone agreed it was the event's highlight... Wish I could've traded oil n gas stories with you though.. ha ha.

Great interview by Jed Yoong, BTW. I think he portrayed you nicely...

I think you're on the right track.. Plase keep up the good work, YB.

Anonymous said…
I can't agree with u more when u maintain that English should be taught as a language and NOT embedded in science or maths. This would surely be at the expend of the intended contents (for math n sc).
At the Science & Math Education conference 2008 yesterday in Kajang, one researcher (Dr Shirley Tay S.H.) made a study in 2007 in Sabah on teachers over there, with the aim of finding out whether they can grasp the multiple meaning of simple English words which usually crop up when the these subjects are taught. As expected, the teachers themseives are still struggling in understanding more than one meaning of each of these 30 words:

Boil, point, value, form, order, round (off), product, operation, left, rest, balance, mass, state, interse, scale, mean, minute, bear, seal, spot, block, reserve, wind, band, stick, present, tear, light, rapid, sort & complex.

Note that this weird policy was introduced way back in 2003. Perhaps we can go on for another 10years, and hopefully they would improve by then (and the students too!!)

Mr. Smith said…
This country needs politicians like you. May I wish you well. However regarding your statement-
“Not completely as distributive justice also has to be considered.”

If we want to strive for excellence and tap brain power then we must introduce meritocracy.
However, some 10% of the places in institutions of higher learning can be reserved for "distributive justice".
That means 90% meritocracy, 10% "distributive justice."

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