10 things about: Saifuddin Abdullah, moderation poster boy

Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah wants a Malaysia that is no longer obsessed with race. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah wants a Malaysia that is no longer obsessed with race. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 — Former Temerloh MP and ex-deputy Higher Education minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah wants a Malaysia that is no longer obsessed with race. Not so unusual really as he is known for his liberal views.

It is a view that is a double-edged sword: He paid a high price for it politically, losing both the Parliament seat and Umno Supreme Council spot, but at the same time he is immensely popular with Malaysians who share his moderate views.

Today he is CEO of the Global Movement of Moderates which is under the patronage of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

But how exactly does Saifuddin plan to convince Malaysians to join in on his vision? He thinks the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), of which he is a member, is a good starting point even though many people perceive it as yet another toothless tiger which cannot make or influence policy decisions.

In his own words:

  • Moderation is an age-old philosophy but needs contemporary articulation.
  • The main challenge of the NUCC is to get buy-in from the people because we started on a trust deficit from the people.
  • I put my own KPI as a member of the NUCC… to convince the council that its proposal should among others say something like, ‘the government needs to migrate from race-based policies to needs-based policies’. Because unless we do something as bold as that, then people will just say NUCC is just another committee.
  • I would rather that religious authorities in the country do two things… Number 1, they should do more preaching. Number 2, they should do less regulating.
  • I have no ambition in Umno even when I was in the Umno Supreme Council. I actually joined Barisan Nasional… that has always been my thinking but because I cannot join BN as a direct member, I have to join a party and that party happens to be Umno.
  • The major objective is to attract young members because there are so many young, urban professionals who still believe in the BN ideals, but for various reasons don’t find it comfortable to be a member of any of the political parties. That is the only way forward for BN.
  • Yes, if you are an MP and also part of the Cabinet, you can get certain things done easier and faster, otherwise you still try to influence decisions.
  • Amending Section 15 of the Universities and University Colleges Act was my proudest moment because for once I had the opportunity to actually go through the whole thing… I got censured by the Cabinet, I was called by the prime minister, my party members walloped me like hell… but you carry on and the government decided to amend it.
  • I believe in the national consensus/reconciliation, we can actually overcome it if we can uphold the 10-point solution and address the issue… we are advising the prime minister, through the NUCC to relaunch the New Economic Model. It is a good piece of work, I tell you, it’s anytime better than the NEP.
  • If we can put these few things in order, we can arrive at 2020 as a more mature Malaysia and the reason I say we can is because GE13 clearly showed that Malaysians are becoming more colour-blind politically.

Related Articles