Q&A: Nizar Skirts Questions On Religion

Andrew Ong | Jun 18, 08 2:09pm

Perak Menteri Besar Mohamad Nizar brushed aside many thorny topics, particularly on religion, yesterday.

Among the subjects he skirted:

• The PAS Youth proposal to enforce the Islamic lifestyle in all Pakatan Rakyat states
• The state government decision ‘not to promote’ Islam Hadhari in Penang and Selangor
• Whether Perak will enact laws that affect the lifestyle of the people

The questions were posed at a press conference ahead of the Pakatan Rakyat state government’s first 100 days in power, to be marked on July 7.

However, Nizar made it clear that the administration of the state comes before the ideology of his party, the hardline Islamist PAS.

He elaborated on this and related issues in a subsequent interview with Malaysiakini, which will publish the report tomorrow.

Edited excerpts follow from the press conference.

What are the projects to be undertaken under the Northern Corridor Economic Region?

There are two phases. The first phase is from now until 2015. It involves four states - Northern Perak, Kedah, Penang and Perlis. We will implement seven main themes: tourism, education, manufacturing, agriculture and human resources.

Those are (among) the main items that we are (involved in) with the federal (government). The double-tracking (rail) system will be part of this and also some high-tech parks.

What strategies are being used to spur economic growth?

One strategy to speed up economic growth is to expedite approvals for local and foreign investors...(in) various industries such as tourism, manufacturing and petroleum. One such project has already been agreed upon. The ground breaking session will be held soon.

We are also identifying arrears (accumulated over) the last four to five years, amounting to RM170 million in local authorities and district offices.

I’m heading a committee on increasing state revenue. We would like to appeal to all residents who owe the government money for (land) premiums and quit rent to complement (our efforts) and help the government. We need their assistance.

The federal government is channeling funds to the state through the federal development agency (JPP). Does this infringe on your rights as the state government?

They (federal government) does not respect the democracy that is freshly (minted) in Perak. We will not tolerate the concept of a mini-government within a government. I think that is not right.
Pakatan Rakyat state governments will be discussing the matter.

We will voice (our disagreement) on several platforms for example, at the Conference of Rulers. Prior to that, there is always the conference of chief ministers and menteris besar. That is one platform where we will (ask why the JPP has been abolished in Sabah, but not in Pakatan states).

This is double standards and I think the people are capable of assessing the situation... it has an impact on us. But we have to do business as well.

What cost-cutting measures have you introduced?

At federal level, they are on an austerity drive here and there. The Pakatan Rakyat government made this claim on the first day itself.

(For example) we don’t drive new cars (although the previous government had budgeted for this). They were supposed to replace all the V6 cars because these are not in good condition. But we didn’t take the opportunity to replace the boneshakers. (Sungkai assemblyperson and exco member) A Sivanesan (left) has problems with the gearbox (of the car).

We didn’t take advantage of the allocation to replace the cars. Why? Because we feel bad that the people are faced with rising inflation. It would be very unkind of us (to spend). So we drive the boneshakers. Even if (the cars are) slow, we (still) reach our destination.

Will members of your government declare their assets?

Yes. We will declare our assets once it is done at Parliament level. The forms will be distributed once parliamentarians make their declarations to the Anti-Corruption Agency.

Are you happy with the performance of your government?

We have yet to achieve a level that we are proud of. Now, for example, we are giving land titles. There are still teething problems.

Therefore, I don’t feel satisfied. When we decided to write off compound fines in a one-off move, there were rumours that people were still being issued with notices. These (issues) are ongoing. We have to resolve them because (this is among) our promises.

What about election pledges on water tariffs?

That will be announced later. We have to announce in stages. We cannot announce all 10 (election pledges) at the same time, otherwise we can’t manage.

Have any state government officers left the state administration?

Surprisingly, none. We have told them that if they don’t want to be with us, if they don’t want to listen to us, then the door is wide open. Surprisingly, none of them (left).

Isn't boycotting Utusan Malaysia a form of discrimination?

If we allow the people of Perak (to read the Malay daily), they become even more racist. So it’s the obligation of the government to stop any racist sentiments. It spreads racism. The government cannot tolerate that...(and) if any (other) newspapers do that to the Perak government, I would not hesitate to tell my exco members that (the particular) newspaper must not come to our office.

It would be wrong of the Perak Pakatan Rakyat government to allow racist elements to be spread to readers. (When the newspaper proves it is) not racist, then we will reconsider (the boycott).

PAS Youth has proposed that the Islamic lifestyle be implemented in all Pakatan Rakyat-held states. What is your response?

You have to ask the PAS Youth leadership because I am the menteri besar of Perak. You should call Azman Shapawi (PAS Youth deputy chief). He will answer. He did not make the statement in Perak.

Will there be any changes to laws governing society?

Do you feel any changes in your social life? Are we biting you? It is a non-issue. Your children have been going to school, you have been working, you get your pay. Is there any disturbance?

Your views on Islam Hadhari?

The Federal Constitution is very clear. Article 3 states that the official religion of the federation is Islam and other religions are allowed to be practised. Period.

What about ketuanan Melayu?

Go back to Article 153. We’ll stick to that.

Will Perak ban Islam Hadhari like in Selangor and Penang?

You had better correct your statement. Did they say that? Does the word ‘ban’ translate from Bahasa Malaysia? You had better check that. It would be unfair to our brother governments if they didn’t utter that word.

(Selangor has decided “not to promote” and “to disallow” the spread of Islam Hadhari. Penang has since followed suit.)

Is there a possibility that state assemblypersons will defect to Barisan Nasional?

As you can see, thank god, (the unity among) all 31 of us (is) still intact. When we elected our speaker and deputy speaker, we were strong and had the confidence of our grouping.

How would you describe the relationship between the three Pakatan political parties in Perak?

Our relationship has been superb and we move like a rocket. The 11 of us have been great. We have nasi bungkus together. We (took a) bus together (to Parliament).

When have you heard of a menteri besar getting on a bus to go to Kuala Lumpur? It has never happened in the history of Malaysia where the three (opposition) parties (have gotten together like this).

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