by Anisah Shukry
The Malaysian Insider
8 November 2015
Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s second deputy prime minister, would have been disappointed by the state of the country’s leadership if he were alive today, his eldest son Tawfik Ismail said.
The government is paralysed and the country is “in a mess” because leaders are preoccupied with defending Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak over issues, such as 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and his RM2.6 billion donation, says Tawfik in an interview with The Malaysian Insider.
“I think he would have been disappointed with the way the leadership is right now,” said the 64-year-old in an interview in conjunction with the release of Drifting into Politics, a collection of writings by Dr Ismail himself.
It was also the 100th birth anniversary of Dr Ismail on November 4.
“He would’ve been quite disturbed that the moral compass has been lost when it comes to racial relations,” added Tawfik of his father, who was renowned for his role in rebuilding Malaysia in the aftermath of the May 13, 1969 race riots and served as deputy prime minister under Najib’s father, Tun Abdul Razak.
Dr Ismail died in 1973 at 57.
In the interview, Tawfik also said he believed Najib could change, provided more moderates spoke up and exerted pressure against lobby groups with more extremist views which were influencing Najib.
Tawfik said Malaysia’s leadership had become, over the years more right-wing, money politics had flourished in ruling party Umno, race was used as a scapegoat, and religious authorities were encroaching more and more into the personal lives of Malaysians.
But unlike many government critics, Tawfik does not believe that the solution lies in removing Najib – mainly because he doesn’t think Najib can be removed in the first place.
The opposition simply “won’t get their act together”, while former Umno president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had, during his time, placed safeguards which would make unseating the party president and prime minister near impossible, he said.
These safeguards included how the Umno president was elected, how the security forces were appointed and amendments to the judiciary act.
Tawfik was also unmoved by arguments that Najib should resign over the controversies surrounding 1MDB and the RM2.6 billion donation.
He said the matter had become so convoluted that no one could be sure who was telling the truth: Najib or his critics.
He compared the back-and-forth between the government and the opposition with a record playing the same track: “It gets boring”.
And while others would insist otherwise, Tawfik said there was a “glimmer of hope” in Najib, whom he described as “a moderate who has his back to a wall”.
“We want to break the hold that the right-wingers have on Najib. If enough moderates come out, let their voices be heard, Najib can change,” said Tawfik.
“Our view is to work with whoever’s in power to steer Malaysia back to the right path.”
The “we” he was referring to is the G25 – a group of prominent and retired Malay civil servants promoting moderation, of which Tawfik is a part.
The G25 began as a group of 25 retired civil servants who late last year wrote an open letter to the government appealing for a return to moderation and rational dialogue on the position and application of Islam in laws and national policy.
The group has since grown in number and comments on issues involving race and religion while advocating moderation. – November 8, 2015.