Published: Today 8:51 am
COMMENT | What’s the difference between Mohamad Sabu, the Opposition politician and. As he is widely known as, Mat Sabu, the new Minister of Defence?
Answer: Mat Sabu the Minister, has lost weight, is turning grey, and is surrounded by a retinue of minders, but inwardly, Mat Sabu is still the same man as before; full of humility, down-to-earth, factual, calm and as funny as ever.
When Mat Sabu the PAS politician and later Mat Sabu the Amanah politician, visited London a few years ago, he was in the Opposition coalition.
He would stay at a “bed and breakfast” and talks, arranged by the overseas party faithful, were held in the cheapest community centre, often off the beaten track.
Before some of you run him down, he was in England, to raise funds, when he was in PAS, for the victims of Kelantan’s worst flooding.
In the past, no-one in Opposition had it easy. They scrimped and saved for their own flights and in most cases, were given the use of the spare room in a party faithful’s house. They used public transport, or were ferried around by a party member with a car, provided he was not working that day.
Last week, Mat Sabu was in London to attend the Farnborough Air Show, to invite British and other European defence companies to Malaysia’s Lima Air Show, an event held every two years. This time, the reception, accommodation and transport were overwhelming.
One night, he met the Malaysian diaspora in London. Unlike previous Umno-Baru ministers, who would arrive late, Mat Sabu and his entourage were early.
He joked that he had never been to Malaysia Hall before, as he was not welcome there, in the past.
Formerly, few students would dare to attend his talks but last week, Malaysians piled in to listen to him. The room filled to capacity, quickly, and many were forced to listen from outside.
Mat Sabu said Malaysians should be proud that a change of government had happened without bloodshed. He thanked the people for their decision to force change.
Putting Malaysia on the right track
With the potential to make Malaysia the Tiger of Asia again, and with the help of his peers, he said that they would work hard to put Malaysia on the right track.
To loud applause, he said that in GE-14, he had won the most votes (71,142) by a Malay politician, but he warned Malaysians to work tirelessly, to fight the perkauman (racism) issue.
He joked that TV3 would feature him on a daily basis, unlike before GE-14, when he was never seen, and he warned his wife, not to get carried away with earrings and handbags.
Reminding us that pockets of the community were still trapped by issues of racism and religion, he then confirmed that the administration of Dr Mahathir Mohamad was going to investigate the mysterious deaths, ranging from Altantuya Shaariibuu, Kevin Morias, Hussein Najadi, Teoh Beng Hock and many others. He also touched on the cancellation of various mega projects.
Besides that, tackling corruption was one of their biggest issues. Mat Sabu said it was easy to talk about tackling it, especially as their administration was only two months old, but he stressed that any minister involved in corruption would he kicked out in 24 hours.
He urged Malaysians to criticise him and his peers if they strayed off track, or had not fulfilled any of their promises, but he said not to indulge in creating fake news.
With much relish he described Mahathir, his long-term political enemy, who locked him up, twice, under the ISA. Mat Sabu had once criticised Mahathir’s mega projects, but the difference, he said, was that Mahathir’s projects such as KLIA, KLCC and Putrajaya were visible.
On the other hand, despite RM42 billion being poured into 1MDB, no-one could see the progress of the project, as it was invisible, and this was one aspect that the rural folk failed to appreciate.
‘Pass your concerns to Ambrin Buang’
He wondered how many billions of ringgits were stashed in the homes of other former ministers. Nevertheless, he urged people with information about corruption to contact the office of Ambrin Buang with their concerns, and to prompt an investigation into the scandals.
Ambrin, the former auditor-general, now heads a special investigation committee on procurement, governance and finance.
Mat Sabu marvelled at his boss’s punctuality, his attention to detail and his stamina, which shamed most of the younger ministers. Many of them were reluctant to admit tiredness, especially as the 93-year-old did not show signs of fatigue.
Mat Sabu even praised Mahathir for being a changed man, a liberal, who dismissed their fears when they were horrified to learn that many ministerial posts had been given to non-Malays/non-Muslims, especially those from DAP.
Praising his one-time cellmate, Lim Guan Eng, who managed to reduce Penang’s debt to Putrajaya since he governed the state, Mat Sabu was confident of Lim’s ability to attract foreign investors and reducing the RM1 trillion national debt, especially as frugality, or Lim being kedekut, was one of his traits.
Mat Sabu’s deputy, Liew Chin Tong, was described as a man with a sharp mind and not one ounce of racist sentiments.
Racism being one of his main concerns, Mat Sabu urged us to support good non-Malays and Malays. He reiterated that there was no excuse to retain non-performing and “bad” Malays, just because they were Malay.
BN lost, he said, because they were awash with money. Pakatan Harapan won because they had very little cash, most of which, in his case, he said, he had to borrow from friends and colleagues. But the winning factor, was the goodwill of the rakyat and their spirit to force change.
What was bad about the talk? Perhaps, the organisers did not realise Mat Sabu’s appeal and the respect Malaysians have for him. They arranged only a small room for his talk.
What was ugly? Many members of the audience making long statements and directing their long-winded questions to the wrong minister. Perhaps, they were not aware that Mat Sabu is in charge of the security of the nation.
Oh yes! Ever since they were introduced decades ago, I find it difficult to accept a doa recital at the beginning of every talk. Keep religion out of lectures. If the Muslims want a doa, then the other faiths should also be catered for, but then the night will be longer.
A video clip of Mat Sabu’s recent talk in London, recorded by Teoh Hun Teng, can be viewed here.
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.