Excerpts of exclusive interview with Raja Petra

The following are excerpts of an exclusive interview with Raja Petra Kamarudin held recently. The editor of the Malaysia Today news portal, who is in exile in the United Kingdom, sat down with the New Sunday Times at a hotel suite in Singapore for over two hours to discuss Malaysian politics. Looking fresh after his holiday in Phuket, the Selangor prince spoke among others about his former ally Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition front and the Najib administration.

New Straits Times

On Anwar and his sodomy trial

Question: They talk about rule of law, but when the court  does not rule in their favour, they will say there is no  independent judiciary. We know there’s one verdict coming out on Jan 9. What is your comment?

Answer: Well I think we have a bigger fish to fry. This  agenda for change… the perjuangan cannot be about personalities. Now, we should not reduce this perjuangan into a  struggle for Anwar. Even Mandela went to jail for 27 years, there was not a campaign to free Mandela. Even though there  were groups, the Free Mandela Group. It was a campaign to end apartheid. But not to free Mandela, as much as Mandela was a catalyst. And I am sure Mandela is a much bigger figure than Anwar by far, in terms of historical importance.

And what I worry is that we will be reducing the struggle into a struggle for Anwarista. And don’t forget, Anwarista is a  word that I invented back in 1999 . Anwarista is a movement for Anwar. We do not want an Anwarista. Now, if Anwar goes to jail, and if he goes to jail as a political prisoner, that’s another issue.

In Myanmar, it’s about a political prisoner. It’s about freeing a political prisoner. But Anwar is being put on trial not on political grounds but on criminal grounds. Now the issue of Anwar, whether he is or is not guilty of sodomy, whether Anwar was fixed up and is a victim of a sham trial, and so on, that’s another issue. But the point still remains: whether he got a trial that he wanted.

Question: Sometimes people forget about the victim, which is Saiful.

Answer: Actually, we are tired of this issue of sodomy. We want the whole thing over and done with. In fact, we’re hoping the trial is completed instead of being dragged on.

Question: But he was the one who dragged it.

Answer: Yes, but the whole country gets dragged along. We don’t need this. The whole country’s future cannot depend on one man.

On Anwar and the Selangor administration

Let’s talk about the jewel in the crown, of course Selangor. Now you look at Selangor. Are there many drastic changes in  Selangor? The feedback I get from business people and this is the yardstick we use, corruption is the same, there is no  reduction in corruption. People still have to pay ‘under the table’ to get things done, and that’s the most important thing  we are fighting for, good governance. So we fail on that score. We complained to Anwar. We told him people are not happy. The Selangor people are not happy and don’t assume you are going to retain Selangor. There is a good chance Selangor will go back to Barisan because people are not happy, and Anwar’s reply, and this was during a meeting: the trouble with Khalid is ego, tak mau dengar cakap. (refused to listen). Cannot control him. I said you appointed him as MB. We are telling you Selangor is not performing. You are telling me you have a problem with him and the problem is he got an ego, he doesn’t listen. So what are you going to do about it? You created the monster. What are you going to do about it?

He appointed himself as economic advisor. What’s your advice? In the last three years since you have been economic  advisor, you’ve gone overseas 60 times. Sixty times overseas trips in a mere three years. Shouldn’t you be staying home  running the state? Running the party? Running the coalition? The coalition is in a mess. People are fighting with each  other. What’s his comment? No comment. Total silence. We told him: stay home, run the state, run the party, coalition.

Will Anwar fade away?

Because it is politically expedient to support Anwar. Because there’s a possibility that we are going to form the next federal government. But if we don’t form the next federal government, then we have to wait another five years. Anwar will become irrelevant very, very fast. Can Pakatan form the next government and therefore continue with Anwar’s relevancy? It would depend on Sabah and Sarawak. You got 165 parliament seats in west Malaysia. Out of 165 parliament seats, how many can Pakatan win? 85? Say Pakatan wins 85, they grab the five MCA seats, grabbing 85 parliament seats in west Malaysia. And then Barisan only left with 80 seats, with 70 will be Umno. And only 10 for the others MCA, maybe MIC, zero, or Gerakan one.

So you have to go to Sabah and Sarawak, which has 57, including Labuan. Last election, Pakatan only won two. And 55 was with Barisan Nasional. Here in west Malaysia, last  election you won 80, and then won another two by-elections in Kuala Terengganu and Bukit Gantang. You add in by- elections you got 82. But you won 80 in west Malaysia. So from 80 to 85 by taking away the five MCA seats, OK lah. It’s a reasonable forecast. But you only won two in east Malaysia. 55 (seats) was won by Barisan.

How many you expect to increase? You need 30 from east Malaysia. So 30 plus here (west Malaysia) 85, you only got  115, which means you only get a three seat majority. But if three people jump, you lose the government. So ideally, you  need a 10 or 15 seat majority. Which means you need to try to  get 35 seats from east Malaysia. Thirty-five plus this one,  then you get 120. That’s a comfortable margin. But how are you going to get 35 seats from east Malaysia? You only got two in the last election.

To jump from 80 to 85 is reasonable. But to jump from two to 35, that’s a bit too far to jump. To get 35  seats from east Malaysia, you must have a strong coalition. What happened in the Sarawak state election recently? DAP did very well, but that’s it. Because DAP only took the Chinese seats, but outside that…habis. They couldn’t do it in a state election, what makes you think they can do it in the general election?

If you could have done it, you would have done it already. The fact that you weren’t able to do it means you can’t do it.  Sabah is in a mess. So I don’t see how from two seats, you are going to increase to 35 in east Malaysia. Maybe, you can  increase it to 10. But 10 plus this, it’s still 95.

Leadership transition within Pakatan

Anwar projects himself as a future leader only because  Pakatan allows him to do so. So why does Pakatan allow that to happen? We are creating this impression, this fallacy that there is only one man that can lead the opposition. DAP made  a statement that even if Anwar goes to jail, they still support him. Are you saying there is nobody else? The fault lies in DAP, Pas, and Anwar goes around talking about the party because he has got the party, who appears to accept him and only him as their leader.

And when people like (Datuk) Zaid Ibrahim comes along as an alternative, that there can be other people, they kill him  off. They won’t accept. Anwar goes around the country talking and he’s good when it comes to ceramah. But is that  a measure of his support? Many elections which I had gone around personally, by-elections even where the crowd is there, but how is it when it comes to the votes?

I have spoken to some people who were with him when he was in the government. They have pointed out what he did.  And I asked him and they say, ‘You know, Anwar has his shortcomings.’ Anwar has his skeletons in the closet. Yet you  support Pakatan. Their answer is, ‘What choice do we have.’  It all boils down to that. What choice do we have?

People support Anwar purely because they see him as the only alternative to what we have now.

Lessons from Egypt

Question: You and your people (in MCLM) are striving for all these changes in your own way. Don’t you think the current  Barisan Nasional government is doing that in certain ways through evolution rather than revolution?

Answer: Yeah, we always say as we always hear about evolutionary change as opposed to revolutionary change. In  some countries, evolutionary change has to be put aside in favour of revolutionary change.

Let’s be practical. In Malaysia, a revolutionary change cannot work because of the very delicate racial balance. We can talk about it in Egypt because in Egypt everybody’s Egyptian. Every man on the street is Egyptian. In Malaysia, not every man on the street is a Malay. So this is more delicate. So I suppose for a country where it is not multiracial, or not delicately multiracially balanced, it is easier to achieve that kind of a militant way of changing.

They (Chinese voters) don’t want Tahrir Square type of change. But even then you merely embark on evolutionary  changes…small changes. I think it’s time Najib grabs the bull by the horns, and call a spade a spade.

On cracks within the opposition

What are they doing? In Penang, they are fighting: DAP versus DAP. In Perak, they are fighting: DAP versus DAP. In  Selangor, they are fighting: PKR versus PKR. Pas versus Pas. In Johor, they are fighting: PKR versus DAP. In Sarawak, they  are fighting. No, we are not fighting Barisan. No, we are fighting each other. You think the voters are going to love you for that? In fact, the voters are now beginning to say: This  time we go back to Barisan, forget about Pakatan. That is my  very honest….I am not supporting Barisan, I am not saying Barisan is the best government, but Pakatan has not shown it  can be a better government. That’s all, and I am not saying it. The voters are saying it. I am telling you what the voters are saying.