KUALA LUMPUR, May 27 — Umno’s Pasir Salak MP Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman is a man with a long history of controversy and uncouth behaviour throughout his political career.
Tajuddin is known for his notoriously brash nature and abrasive language, from being sacked by the Umno Supreme Council to only being reinstated three year later to releasing controversial statements such as threatening “to slap” ethnic Chinese who take their complaints outside Malaysia.
Having started his political career in the 1980s, his latest fiasco landed him in hot water as he was terminated with immediate effect from his post as the non-executive chairman of Prasarana Malaysia Berhad after his frivolous handling of a press conference to address the two-train collision on the LRT Kelana Jaya line at KLCC that injured over 200 passengers.
Here’s a list of times that the Pasir Salak MP has courted controversy throughout his career:
In 1995, Tajuddin was sacked by the Umno Supreme Council for his involvement in money politics of RM6 million for the post of Pasir Salak division chief. This position was then held by then Perak mentri besar Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib.
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who became the deputy prime minister at the time — strongly supported Ramli for the post, leading to his dismissal from the party.
He was also tied to allegations of corruption in the award of a RM1.3 billion 23-year concession to his company to build the Universiti Teknologi Mara Tapah campus.
He was later re-elected to Umno in 1998 unconditionally after three years in the wilderness, and was elected Pasir Salak Umno deputy chief without contest in 2000.
On May 6, Tajuddin pledged to sue Datuk Seri Azmin Ali who was then with PKR if he continued to convict him with the “six million dollar man” title — a moniker he earned after he was sacked from Umno in 1995 following allegations that he had paid RM6 million to secure his position as a division chief.
He also claimed that he was sacked from Umno by Anwar then because Anwar wanted to become prime minister of the country.
A few months later, on November 5, he berated then opposition Member of Parliament M. Kulasegaran — who represented neighbouring constituency Teluk Intan — after the latter made the claim that Tajuddin was “hated by Indians in Pasir Salak”.
Tajuddin had called Kulasegaran a “b*****d” and a “bloody b*****d” in Parliament, challenging the then Teluk Intan MP to “settle outside the House of Commons”.
“How do you know this? You bloody b*****d? Show me proof,” he shouted to Kulasegaran.
Deputy Speaker of Dewan Rakyat at the time, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar had told Tajuddin to retract his statement, but he said that he would only do so if Kulasegaran did the same.
In the end, both MPs retracted their statements, with Kulasegaran saying that this was the first time he had heard that the word “hate” is not an acceptable term.
“I will withdraw it and replace it with ‘don’t like him’,” Kulasegaran said, to which Tajuddin replied, “I withdraw the word but [Kulasegaran] shamed me. It is nonsense. We can settle this outside [if Kulasegaran is not happy].”
Issues between Tajuddin and Kulasegaran did not end there, and on April 8, the latter complained that he was threatened with assault from Tajuddin.
Kulasegaran said Tajuddin headed towards him making accusations and threatened to beat him.
“He claimed that I had tarnished his name and I was warned that if I don’t stop, he would send people to my constituency and beat me up. I’m perplexed over his actions, and I hope the House will launch an inquiry,” Kulasegaran told the House.
The two were then summoned by Dewan Rakyat Speaker at the time, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia to explain the alleged threat on April 13, with Amin giving stern warning to Tajuddin not to harass the Ipoh Barat MP.
On September 30, Tajuddin, who was agriculture and agro-based industry deputy minister, was embroiled in controversy over his statement that the Chinese community would be “slapped” — lempang in Malay — if they sought foreign help over their grouses.
He then attempted to explain his way out of the situation, with multiple reasons given from outright denial to claiming that he was misquoted, to saying that it was “just a reminder” and even declaring that it was just “a joke”.
He added that such choices of words “are not suitable for a veteran politician like me.”
“How can I use the word lempang and so on? That is a school kids language. This reporter, I do not understand her. That is her interpretation.
“I am not a young boy. How can I use that kind of word! If I say something, it should suit my stature as a veteran politician. How can I use stupid words like that!” he said.
Tajuddin again courted controversy on March 31, when he publicly defended then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor for their extravagant lifestyle.
He told reporters outside Parliament that it is perfectly normal to purchase expensive handbags for significant others.
“[Just] one or two bags, why not? She’s a lady, I know girls like handbags.
“I was told that one of the ways of tackling a girl is buying [her] a handbag,” he told reporters in Parliament.
Tajuddin was responding to an article by Wall Street Journal and Sarawak Report, which claimed Najib and his family spent US$15 million on holidays, shopping and jewellery.
“The way they go on holidays is just normal,” he said.
In the same year, Tajuddin faced criticism when he said “The only woman with a ‘Kok’ is in Seputeh”, referring to Teresa Kok, MP for Seputeh.
On November 20, Tajuddin made the statement when responding to a question by PAS Pokok Sena Datuk Mahfuz Omar about raising local rice production in relation to imported rice.
Instead of answering the question, Tajuddin deviated into talking about the Bersih 5 rally and how it had caused a disturbance as most of the roads in Kuala Lumpur were closed off.
He was interjected by Deputy Speaker Datuk Ronald Kiandee who asked him to answer Mahfuz’s question about local rice production. Before replying, Tajuddin laughingly asked, “Seputeh, why? The only woman with a ‘kok’ is in Seputeh parliamentary.”
The Seputeh MP’s surname sounds similar to the word “cock”, which is also used for male genitalia.
Tajuddin’s remark triggered a roaring protest from a number of opposition MP’s who demanded that the Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister retract his statement.
Shah Alam’s MP Khalid Samad, quickly stood up and called Tajuddin, “sial” (damned) for making the statement against Teresa.
Tajuddin then challenged Khalid to repeat the curse word against him outside of the parliament and threatened to sue him.
“They think they can say whatever they want and that we just have to listen. But can someone simply curse another person in a debate? I wish [Khalid] would repeat the words ‘Tajuddin sial outside of Parliament and if he does, I will ask my lawyers to sue him. Someone needs to teach him.
“Her name is Teresa Kok. What’s wrong with me calling her name? Does this justify Khalid’s calling me sial? If my father and mother were alive today, how would they feel, someone calling me sial?” responded Tajuddin.
On December 1, heated arguments arose in Dewan Rakyat after Tajuddin disrespectfully called Muar MP Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman “budak”, which translates to kid in Malay.
This happened after Tajuddin told Syed Saddiq not to interrupt him as he stood up to question Puncak Borneo MP Willie Mongin.
“Sit down, sit down first, child. Sit down, learn more, many more need to learn. Wasting your time, my time,” he said before snickering.
At this point of time, Syed Saddiq reminded Tajuddin that the latter’s cucu (grandchildren) were watching the Parliament and that people are not going to forget this.
“Your grandchildren are watching this, you know? People are not going to forget this Yang Berhormat,” Syed Saddiq said while Tajuddin kept ordering him to sit down.
Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh then defended Syed Saddiq by saying that Tajuddin had breached Parliament Standing Orders by calling Syed Saddiq “budak”, but Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun refused to listen to her explanation.
“Standing Order, 36–4, Pasir Salak called Muar budak. This is not the first time Muar has been called a budak. This is bullying and other children are watching the proceedings,” Hannah Yeoh said.
Other Opposition MPs chimed in their support for Hannah Yeoh but Tajuddin can be heard saying that there was nothing wrong with his remark as he was older than Syed Saddiq.
“What do I need to explain? I’m 72, how old is he?” Tajuddin said.
On January 4, Tajuddin, who was now Prasarana Malaysia Berhad chairman insisted that there is no conflict of interest in the Latitud 8 project, a project in Dang Wangi that is smack dab in the middle of the Kuala Lumpur city centre, which he said was granted to a firm linked to his family in 2012 through an open tender.
Tajuddin said when the project was awarded in 2012, it was before he was appointed as chairman of the national transport operator.
He also defended himself by saying that at that time, as a businessman, he too needed to make a living.
“I don’t see anything wrong, if you ask me. The project was awarded eight years ago, when I was Felcra chairman at the time. If you got a project eight years ago through an open tender, was it wrong?” he asked reporters during a press conference.
He added that this is not the same as him having already been appointed the Prasarana chairman eight years ago.
“It’s different if I were awarded now when I am the Prasarana chairman. Then, it is a conflict of interest and an abuse of power,” he said.
In 2012, the project was awarded by Prasarana to Intan Sekitar Sdn Bhd, which is 51 per cent owned by public-listed Crest Builder Holdings Bhd and 49 per cent by Detik Utuh Sdn Bhd.
In offering a clarification, Tajuddin said his family has a 40 per cent stake in Detik Utuh Sdn Bhd through Tindakan Juara Sdn Bhd, and this is how his family is linked to the project.
The project came under scrutiny when news reports surfaced indicating that Prasarana is considering terminating the project and may have to compensate RM80 million to Intan Sekitar.
And now his latest fiasco, Tajuddin was sacked by the Ministry of Finance as non-executive chairman of Prasarana with immediate effect after a disastrous press conference on the light rail transit (LRT) crash in KLCC.
During his press conference, he showed little empathy and sensitivity for the victims, making cavalier comments and attempting to joke about the crash.
An online petition demanding Tajuddin resign was immediately started, reaching 100,000 signatures only after 21 hours.
When contacted by Malay Mail, he did not seem to mind the termination from his post.
“Not yet. Want to terminate, terminate then. What is the issue? What is the matter? Want to terminate, terminate lah. Thank you lah. I can do other work” he said over the phone.
* An earlier version of this article contained an error which has since been rectified.