Having secured his 134th nomination for UMNO President, Najib is technically the new UMNO President. It is practically not possible for Tengku Razaleigh to secure the required 58 nominations with the remaining only 56 divisional meetings to go.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, he will officially replace Abdullah as UMNO President by the scheduled UMNO General Assembly on March 28-30th, 2009 and he automatically be the 6th Malaysian Prime Minister.
With the barrage of accusations levelled on Najib with alleged involvement in the Altantunya murder, reversal of Statutory Declaration by PI Balasundram, improprietary in defense purchases, and brickbats of personal issues on his wife, Hindu practices, etc., he is one Prime Minister not expected to have the luxury of support given to new broom for the next 13th General Election.
More so, will be the challenges from an impending global economic recession that comes with the complexity and debri of a collapse capitalist financial system.
There is then the Pandora Box let opened by Abdullah through his rash liberal stance that lead to unconstitutional demands by non Malays and component parties of Barisan Nasional, and larger budget allocation from East Malaysian states.
While allegations levelled against Najib have yet to produce any proofs and evidences, and successfully tested through the court, more accusation is piled against him. And, many more coming according to the grapevine.
This lead some to believe that he is not likely to feel the chair of UMNO President or 5th Floor Putrajaya. (More on that in another posting.)
One issue seldom used against Najib is his advantageous position as an UMNO blueblood by virtue of being the son of the second Prime Minister. He replaced his father as Pekan MP to be the youngest MP at 29.
Few would deny that Najib has gone through the mill. He has been tried and tested.
The following is a 2004 interview, a year after his ascent to Deputy President UMNO and Deputy Prime Minister:
The Sun, November 19th, 2004
Tried & tested
WHEN Datuk Seri Najib Razak became Pahang mentri besar in 1982, he was 29, the youngest to hold the post.
When he was named deputy prime minister in January, he wasn't the youngest but is the first son of a former prime minister to have reached the position after "having been tested at every juncture".
While he may be seen as young at 51, he says it is "the quality of experience that you have gone through" that matters.
He believes in hard work and sincerity and "God will eventually decide whether you make it or don't," he tells ZAINON AHMAD.
Role as deputy PM
Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi recently completed his first year as prime minister. Soon you too will complete your first year -- as DPM. So how has it been so far?
Well, my appointment was on Jan 6, so I still have a couple of months to go. But it has been a very enjoyable and productive period since I was appointed as deputy prime minister.
I have truly enjoyed my relationship with Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. I believe we work well together. And there is a high level of comfort in the personal relationship between the two of us, I believe. And a high level of trust and confidence that we share between the two of us.
And I think that it is cardinal in terms of the workings of the government and the party. And this forms a strong basis for us to move the agenda for the nation as well as for the party.
Previously this question may have seemed unimportant -- I mean your late father was deputy prime minister for a long time but made it as PM. But under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, three deputies never made it. So I think it is quite relevant to ask this. How do you define your role as deputy both in the party as well as the government?
Well, at the outset I have made it very clear that the prime minister sets the agenda for the nation and the party and the deputy is there to support him and to help him particularly in the implementation of trying to achieve the national agenda and the agenda for the party.
And this is where I see the crux of my responsibility lies and, of course, in translating that the prime minister will allocate certain specific functions.
I have plenty to do now -- in terms of running the ministry of defence, Felda, as well as about 16 cabinet committees under me.
Plus, of course, the prime minister invites me to be with him in practically all the major committees which he chairs. Normally the deputy prime minister is also the deputy chairman.
The concept of Islam
My next question is on Islam. Why does Umno appear hesitant about drawing a line in the sand on Islam rather than be baited by PAS. I mean, why follow the PAS agenda?
No, no. I totally disagree with that.
Also, why can't we, for instance, go back to the pre-Iranian Revolution days -- the days when Islam was seen as uninfluenced by the militants?
I don't think we are moving to the tune set by PAS. We are, in fact, carving our own concept of Islam. And that has been articulated by the prime minister -- with his concept of Islam Hadhari.
It is actually not only one's personal commitment to Islam but also aspects of how we translate Islam in terms of nation-building, in terms of a better society, in terms of concepts like justice, equitableness, fairness, good governance, good values, fighting against the ills of society including corruption and things like that.
Because, PAS is basically political Islam. PAS manipulates Islam. But we have our own agenda -- that Islam is the basis for the betterment of our society and our life on this earth and in the hereafter.
The non-Muslims believe in the Islam we practised in Malaysia before the Iranian Revolution. They believe that was easier for them to accept. They are more comfortable with what was there before the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution.
Ya, but defining Islam in the way that we have done,we have also rejected any form of extremism or radicalism and bigotry against the other races.
We advocate tolerance and acceptance of the other religions -- the rights of others. In fact, by doing that, we have been quite successful in gathering the Malay heartland's support for Umno and rejecting extremism.
If you don't come out with a clear concept of Islam -- the Islam that we want to project -- then people will turn to PAS, which is even more dangerous.
If they turn to PAS then it will be a different kind of Islam that they will follow. It will be a radical form of Islam.
Education and sports
As a former education minister, maybe you can explain why certain schools are no more elite schools like in the old days. There is a feeling that by reviving elite schools, we can reverse the slide in education and values such as valour among our youths and so on. Democratising education is fine but that does not mean having to do away with elite schools.
Well, the elite schools are still in existence. Actually, when you talk about the elite schools, you can include the fully residential schools, for example.
You can also include the Malay College Kuala Kangsar, the Maktab Rendah Sains Mara, the Royal Military College. These schools ...
What about the VI?
Victoria Institution is a controlled school. You can't just enter. You have to achieve a certain level of performance before you can enter. So the elements of designating schools as centres of excellence are still in place.
These old elite schools used to be where sportsmanship and loyalty were strong. They used to breed our top sportsmen and women. Anyway, why, as more money is poured into sports these days, have standards dropped? In the '60s and '70s, with little money we did very well. Also as a former minister in charge of sports, maybe you can explain what went wrong.
There is a host of reasons -- one of which is that our school system today has become very academic in its pursuits.
During those days, people were more balanced in their approach -- during our time sports and the other co-curricular activities were seen to be very important activities.
But now there is a very strong pursuit towards getting good academic results in order to become professional and so forth.
So in the process, society itself has marginalised sports, in terms of peoples' participation, in terms of their lifestyle, and so forth.
Secondly, of course, society has changed. There are other interests for people to pursue. People don't do the things people used to do before. They were quite happy kicking a ball in those days.
But now you go, for instance, to internet cafes. People do electronic games. They do other things. We didn't have drug problems in those days but now it a serious problem in society. So society has changed and become more complex than ever before.
And in the process sports has suffered. And, of course, people are now more interested in economic and material advancement and sports is seen as not being able to provide for that.
So parents tell their children don't waste your time, don't get involved in sports because it will lead you nowhere. And teachers as well are not like the teachers of those days. They were really involved then. They put their hearts and souls into sports.
And sports events were major events for the schools in those days. But today sports day just passes by without much fanfare. I remember in those days when the MCKK played against VI, even the sultans would attend. Such a big thing then -- MCKK versus VI. It was a major event.
But now ... So if you talk about the lackadaisical position of Malaysian sports, then you have to ask yourselves why -- because sports is part and parcel of society, the values of society, the preferences of society.
But the government has recognised that there is a need to revive Malaysian sports in a sustainable manner. So that's why the cabinet committee on sports has been set up with me as chairman.
Political path and destiny
When I first met you about 20 years ago, you were only deputy education minister. Now you are deputy prime minister. It is a remarkable career path, don't you think?
It depends how you measure it. People think I am still young -- but I am not. I am now 51 and 51 is no longer young. People think that way because to them they think I had just only recently entered politics.
But time has moved on. If you are a civil servant, if you are 51, you are just five years before retirement. But, of course, if you measure it against Chinese leaders -- who are known for their longevity -- then 51 is seen as young.
I am thankful to God that I have achieved, I have arrived at this level -- and I arrived at this level by, I'd like to think, having been tested at every particular juncture. That I have not done in haste -- that everything I have done is in normal progression.
Still, it's remarkable. You were an ordinary Pemuda member, then you became deputy leader and then leader. You were elected vice-president and now deputy president. In your first term as MP you were deputy energy, telecom and posts minister, then deputy education minister before becoming deputy finance minister. And then at the age of only 29 you became Pahang mentri besar. After the 1986 general election you became Youth and Sports Minister, 1990 education and 1995 defence -- until today. And you are only 51.
Well, I have gone around. I have gone around and experienced exposure. I have always said that it is not your age that matters, it is the quality of experience that you have gone through.
Because you can be somebody at 50 but if you have got limited experience ...
On the other hand you can be somebody at 50 but if you have been exposed all over -- you can be a better person because you have got all-round exposure and experience.
Do you think you are a man of destiny? Do you believe in destiny?
I don't know. I'd like to think that if you put your heart and soul into doing something and have the goodness in you -- in your heart, the sincerity in doing things -- ultimately the blessings from God will come.
And God will decide eventually whether you make it or don't. So I think as a mortal, as a human being, you just have to work and do things in accordance with what has been prescribed by God, what is expected of you.
The Anwar Ibrahim factor
When you heard about the release of former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, were you worried? I mean worried that he may be one of the factors you may have to deal with in the future?
I realise -- everyone realises -- that eventually Anwar would come out.
It is only a question of when -- whether sooner or later -- something that was going to be inevitable. Because he is not going to be in prison forever. So one day, he is going to come out.
So you just have to deal with it when he comes out. That's all. That's the way I look at it.
Was there ever a problem between you and him? I mean you were together in Pemuda -- he was head and you were his deputy. After he went for the V-P post you became the head. And then you were in his Wawasan team.
No. I did not challenge Anwar in any way. We did not go against each other during the years in Umno politics. And I was his deputy for a number of years, and it was only when he left Pemuda that I took up the mantle of being Umno youth leader.
In that sense we never confronted one another. We could work with one another. But when events happened in 1998, we both had to take our respective positions. And I took mine and he took his.
So there is a time, I suppose, you have to decide one way or another. I decided to be with the government.
In the 1999 general election you won narrowly in Pekan -- a seat you inherited from your popular and illustrious father. I am sure this must have left a mark on you. In the light of a reversal of that vote recently, what do you think happened?
There were many reasons. But at that time the whole mood of the country was different.
The Malay heartland was against us basically. As you can see my constituency is 92% Malays. So it is like one of the constituencies of Kelantan or Terengganu in the Malay heartland.
The mood was different, as you can see, not only in the Malay heartland but also in constituencies like Shah Alam and Gombak where our majority came crashing down from over 20,000 to just about 2,000 -- clearly a movement against us. And Pekan was no exception.
And also, secondly, I was very much involved in national matters as minister of education at that time. And I spent a little bit less in my constituency thinking that it was not under serious threat.
I wanted to spend more time in terms of looking after my portfolio as minister of education -- a large portfolio and a massive challenge. And I left it to others to look after the constituency.
I don't want to absolve myself, of course, I have to take responsibility as well. So that's why I was determined to prove in the recent general election that I could recover -- and I did.
I not only recovered but I think I can claim that mine was the most improved performance -- from a majority of 241 to 22,922. So it was four and a half years of hard work and correct political planning that we did. I was convinced the people of Pekan wanted me and I wanted to prove that point.
Defence and National Service
I think you are the cabinet minister with the most number of years at the Defence Ministry. You must be the most well-informed minister of defence. I wonder why the long tenure there. Is it because you like defence and whether that has something to do with your father being the first defence minister?
Actually, I have always enjoyed military affairs -- even when I was a child. Thus, you can say that being defence minister was something that comes naturally to me.
And I do read a lot about military history -- I still do. And I still watch TV channels relating to military history and military affairs, especially the Discovery channel and so forth.
So to me it's something which you can say is up my street. But as deputy prime minister I cover so many other things as well.
Do you think the role of the Defence Ministry is much different now than it used to be -- especially after Sept 11? Maybe even after what happened in southern Thailand?
Well, our role has to be attuned to the changing times and the nature of the threat to our national security because that is our mission -- which is to protect national security.
And when you talk about national security, it means territorial integrity, it means the safety of its citizens, it means protecting our institutions and values and our way of life.
If the threat comes from extremists, if the threat comes from terrorists then our security forces will have to deal with it. We are basically dealing with it, between ourselves and the police.
Of course, when you talk about pre-emptive arrests it is with the ministries of home affairs and internal security. We are also involved, like for example, in dealing with the Abu Sayyaf in Sabah where many of our soldiers are stationed.
We are actively involved in southern Philippines where we have fifty of our officers under the international monitoring team. And, of course, we are keeping an eye on what is happening in southern Thailand.
Do you think that as minister responsible for the national service, you are severely challenged?
National service is of course a very challenging thing because it is the first time that we are doing it. And we have decided to take the bull by its horns.
We never took the soft option. The easy way out would be to be very selective in the selection of trainees.
In other words you take the trainees from the school system, for example; you take trainees from the good schools, for example. Then you don't have the kind of problems that we face.
But on the other hand, if you were to do that then those problem kids will not have a chance to be trained in terms of nation building, in terms of inculcating the positive values, in terms of making them better citizens.
We know they are problem kids and that some of them are juvenile delinquents, we know. They are selected by computers, so we know. Computers make the selection on a random basis and so are not biased.
We accept the fact. But to us that is the challenge. The challenge is how we can turn them around to be better individuals.
You once told me that your late father refused to have a swimming pool built at his official residence Sri Taman, when the PWD told him the cost. His remark to the family was "what will people say." Is it easy to be like that now?
Well, I think times have changed. It is no longer a big deal to have a small swimming pool in your garden. People have become wealthier now.
Times have changed and this is due to the fact that our earlier leaders sacrificed and guided us in the right way. We are the beneficiaries of that. We must not forget that so much of what we have today we owe to our forefathers, we owe to our previous leaders.
But I have learned in terms of observing my father and what he told me. And I think it has benefitted me to understand and appreciate this thinking and reasoning.
Many people believe that two women exert a strong influence in your life -- you mother and your wife. Are they right?
I think for every individual that is the case. I think I will be very sad if you have someone say that my wife or my mother have no influence on my life whatsoever.
I think that will be a very sad thing. That goes to show that he has grown up without love and care, especially from the mother. But as much as they have influence -- the relationship is such that they have to understand that it is me that is running the position that I am in.
And I don't want the public to think they are influencing me in making my decisions and things like that. They are there to guide me, to give me confidence, emotional support and so forth, but the decisions are mine.
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