Malaysia’s Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman was recently interviewed by South China Morning Post (SCMP) and said that former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak will not be able to make a swift political comeback in the country due to the recent 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad) scandal.
On January 25, Friday, SCMP’s Bhavan Jaipragas held an interview with Malaysia’s youngest Cabinet minister and asked him a few questions regarding Najib Razak, the media situation in Malaysia, the country’s ties with China, and the mixing of sports with politics.
The video of the interview was uploaded in SCMP’s Facebook page.
Malaysia and the constitutional monarchy
The interview started out with Mr. Bhavan asking the minister about the place of the monarchy in today’s Malaysia in relation to Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah being named the country’s new king. The minister replied by saying that the constitutional monarchy has always been embedded and a part of Malaysian culture and history. “I think that it is the same in today’s context. The role of the government will always be separated from the role of the monarchy but in terms of cultural and historical context, it will continue and forever be respected.”
Najib Razak’s political comeback
The minister was then asked what he thought of Najib Razak’s calm composure towards the latter’s upcoming criminal trial in February, his new campaign and the chance of making a quick political comeback.
“I don’t think so. People say he looks unperturbed, the very same thing people said prior to election which led to the confidence of a lot of BN (Barisan Nasional) and their supporters.”
“They say Datuk Seri Najib is very confident that WSJ (Wall Street Journal) will not pose a risk to him, that the 1MDB scandal will be ignored by the Malaysian people, and they will be elected with a two-thirds majority.”
“But yet, the very same perception which crumbled post-election, I believe, will also be the very same thing which will happen now.”
“I think the evidence is clear. This is not just a localised case. Other countries are with us. At the same time, it’s a global money-laundering scandal, the biggest one in the world. I have a strong feeling that justice will be served.”
The 1MDB scandal, being too big and too grave in scope, will be hard for the people to disregard when it comes to voting for Najib Razak in the future.
Ban of Israeli athletes
Interviewer Bhavan then focused on the next topic about the recent ban on Israeli athletes and how the whole thing is against the Olympic spirit which could also exclude the country from holding a world event like the World Cup.
“The Malaysian government has its own stance and it’s an issue that we feel passionately in defence of our Palestinian brothers and sisters. And it’s key that we speak up for those who are voiceless. And the stance not to accept Israeli athletes into Malaysia is one of it.”
He emphasized how Israel has gotten a lot of support from many countries while the recognition of Palestine does not exist, and those who did support the latter got punished by Western forces.
From there, the minister talked about why he thought Palestinians have no voice in the international community. He gave the example of U.S. President Donald Trump taking back more than US$200 million of development aid from Palestine and other countries who decided to speak up against the Israeli oppression.
Because of this, he said that the Malaysian government “must stand strongly with our Palestinian brothers and sisters to show that we oppose the actions of the Netanyahu government who continues to oppress the Palestinian people and ferment a situation where Palestine remains as the biggest open-air prison in the world.”
When asked whether or not this stance mixes politics and sports and is against the Olympic spirit, the minister replied that it “is a question of humanity.” He mentioned how the Olympic Council (OC) has boycotted countries before due to human right abuses such as South Africa, under the apartheid regime, being omitted from the Olympics, a case less severe than the oppression in Palestine.
On Malaysia-China ties
“I am a firm believer in forming as many strong bonds of friendship with other countries especially one of the global superpowers like China, but while we do so we want to ensure that we enter agreements justly and fairly and negotiate it well.” He explained that this extends to other issues not limited to the Transport Ministry.
Lastly, the minister was asked about “ugly political bickering” regarding the succession of prime minister in the midst of the new Malaysia.
“This is a new government, and with a new government comes a new practice, where we air out our opinions, we can agree to disagree.”
“On top of that, when the media is freed up, the media embraces the new democratic space, therefore we see a lot more disagreements or bickering being aired in the open.”
The video could be watched here.”
He continued by saying that due to the media being monopolised before, the bickering was not aired. But the same will not happen in the new Malaysia.
The minister added that the move towards transparency is “a symbol of a new democracy. I believe this is progressive for this new Malaysia because, in the end, we don’t have an overarching power. There are sufficient checks and balances within that democracy. And I think that’s a signal of the way forward.”
Meanwhile, netizens are saying that the minister might be too young and that actions must be seen.