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By June RamliTweet
Kuala Lumpur, May 25: Ever wanted to be a politician but didn’t know where to start? Well, you are in luck as we recently got a chance to speak with an up and coming Malaysian politician Mahathir Mohd Rais who is the Bersatu Segambut Division Chief of Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. To join a political party of your choice in Malaysia, one would need to make their expression of interest known, followed by filling out a membership form and paying some membership fees etc. All this information is readily available online. Just Google them out. Once one is done fulfilling these procedures, they will be recognised as a party member at the very least, however, to get noticed as a budding politician, one would then need to be actively involved in the party’s monthly meet-ups and always be readily available to help those in need.
Spoiler alert though, when starting out a career in politics, it is pretty much a thankless and unpaid job. The glitz and glamour of being a politician only kicks in after one is successfully elected as a government official and not before.
In this exclusive interview with DailyStraits.com, Mahathir tells us first-hand what got him interested in politics, the sort of work he would like to do once he gets into government and much more.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I come from a middle-class family. Growing up, things were never easy for us. We had to struggle when it came to luxury but the food was always on the table. Life wasn’t perfect but it was realistic, to say the least. My late father, whom I respect and admire a lot had a security business that is still ongoing to this day. After his demise, his business managed to keep us all afloat. My mom has always been a housewife. I have four other siblings, two brothers and two sisters. I am the eldest. I did my Diploma in Business Administration at University Malaysia Pahang (UMP) and I took extra certificates as I had interests in other two fields which are Skill Development Aircraft Technician and also Electrical Engineering. Both are very useful to me. As of now, I am currently doing my master’s in Business Administration, also at University Malaysia Pahang.
Do you have any other family member who has dabbled in politics before?
As weird as it sounds, no one in my family has ever been into politics. They were just engaged in the matter at hand but not exactly invested in it. I am proud to say that I am the first one in our family to actually pursue a career in politics.
How long have you been in politics and what got you interested in the first place?
I started my journey in mid-2015 when the issue of 1MDB was blazing around. I guess that was such a turning point for all Malaysians alike. Corruptions were left and right and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (BERSATU) was a new party at the time. I saw the opportunity to be part of it and I just decided that it was time to help the people of Malaysia. It was the best choice that I have ever made. I started off as the BERSATU representative as party registrar for parliament Segambut since I lived in that area. Then, I have appointed to the position of Division Chief, and I was the first youth to ever hold that position in the country. I was 27-years-old at the time. I was called by Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman to be one of the National Bersatu Youth Exco from 2016 until 2020. I was also involved in the secretariat position in Pakatan Harapan and was given the responsibility to be the chairman of Jelajah Harapan Malaysia. I once held a governmental position in 2018, after Pakatan Harapan won the 14th Malaysian General Election. The position that I got was as Special Function Officer for Deputy Minister Of Federal Territories Datuk Dr Shahruddin Md Salleh. Before I was part of politics, I never had a working position that was closely related to politics. I was just working with my late father running our family business at the time. The urge to become a politician kicked in because I felt responsible for the people of Malaysia. It was up to the youths to make a greater change in this country. I realised that if I didn’t start then, no one else will. Someone had to take the first step and so I decided that it would be me.
Why did you join Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia?
I think the major turning point would be the inclusion of Dr Mahathir Mohamad into the field of politics from 2015 to 2016. Things were extremely intense, considering how the leadership of the country was being administered at that time by our former prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak. Additionally, the party had people who were optimistic and excited about the change. Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was one of the most important figures who fought Najib Razak at the time and that is why I decided to join the party.
Why not hold a position in your native, Sabah?
I was born in Sabah but I grew up in Kuala Lumpur. My parents and I moved to KL when I was one year old. They settled here and KL has become our home ever since. Segambut was their area of choice at the time because the rent wasn’t as expensive as the other places in KL. As I have fore-mentioned, we weren’t rich. So, my parents came to KL to ensure, that my siblings that I have now would have a better future and I can gladly affirm that my parents’ choice was and will always be a blessing. I wouldn’t be here writing about myself if it weren’t for them. Nonetheless, we have relatives who are still residing in Sabah but none of them was active in politics. However, I always looked forward to helping the people of Sabah in terms of their infrastructural development. Now, that I am part of the political world in Kuala Lumpur, who is to say that I can’t make a change in Sabah soon in the future? I am certainly looking forward to that.
How long have you held your current position with Pribumi and where do you see yourself politically in the next five years?
I’ve held on to my current position with Pribumi for the past seven years now. I am still seeking great opportunities when it comes to developing my portfolio. I have always loved questions that make me ponder about my future. In the next five years, I want to be a person who can help the people of Malaysia make a change and unite those who are left out of the conversation. As cliche as it sounds, my concerns have always remained the same, I want things to become better. A complete change might be drastic but if I could decrease the percentage of poverty, hunger and financial burden on even a fraction of the people of this country, I think that it will be extremely mind-blowing and humbling, to say the very least. So, I want to contribute and dedicate my full power to building Malaysia and its citizens. That is where I want to be, physically, mentally and emotionally speaking in the next five years.
As a politician with no government position, do you get paid at all for your current service?
The reality of a genuine politician is that there isn’t any salary. Salary is only given when we are in governmental positions. Most positions that I have mentioned above are more towards volunteerism and my own self-determination to bring change to the flaws that our system has.
If you are not getting paid now, and only doing the role for the greater good, what sort of work do you do for money?
I know it sounds very sad and frustrating when people hear that salaries aren’t really a thing for those who are in the world of politics, yet I believe that I am here for a reason and that I am not willing to give up just yet. I feel lucky enough that I was given the opportunity to widen my perspective when it comes to politics. I came from nowhere and I wasn’t perfect during my young adult era. Yet, to have been recognised as one of the youngest leaders out there is still a dream come true for me. This motivates me every day to become better, strive for greatness and never give up no matter what. I am honoured that my words are taken seriously. I believe that to a certain degree, I would say that I am quite influential. So, I choose my words wisely. As of now, I am working under my late father’s company. I am the managing director of that company. That is considered my permanent and official job. Thus, whatever political interests that I dedicate myself to, are very much from my own pocket. Without a doubt, I’ve had a few NGOs that supported me during bigger events and charity programs. However, this was based on their trust and recognition of me. I had to build a brilliant profile to ensure that the help is possible. My advice to future politicians out there is to remember why you started in the first place when the going gets tough. Financially speaking it will be hard but I believe that if the youths today aren’t willing to sacrifice a bit for the future of Malaysia, then we have no future.
On a whole, Malaysian politicians are seen as corrupt individuals and are known to dabble in politics only to enrich their own families. From your research does this hold any truth?
Without a doubt, there are flaws not only in politics but in every sector including human beings in general. This is a fact that I believe we must live with. I don’t think every Malaysian politician is corrupted, but some are. I guess those who struggled less and ends up as a politician doesn’t necessarily know the pain of being those who are struggling. They want to ensure that power stays in their hands no matter what and that is just extremely disappointing. Nonetheless, if people were to unite, corruption could be handled. My experience as a politician taught me that with a heart that strives for greatness for the people who are suffering, the truth will always point its’ way to justice. These corrupted politicians will always get caught for their mistakes. They might have the money, but they will never have the dignity or patriotism that we real politicians are fighting for.
If you do get into the Malaysian government in the future, what ministerial post would you like to hold and why?
I really want to be part of the Ministry of Home Affairs because it is very much related to security and safety. There is certainly more to it than just that but the core of it is to maintain peace and harmony for every individual in Malaysia. Even now, my family business, the business that my late father worked for is under security and safety. I believe that I can continue not just the legacy of my family, but even the legacy of Malaysia with my experience.
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June Ramli is the editor of DailyStraits.com. To stay in touch with June, look her up on Twitter @junesairaramli