The good, bad and ugly of Mat Sabu’s London talk


What’s the difference between Mohamad Sabu the opposition politician and Mohamad Sabu, the defence minister?

Answer: Mohamad the minister has lost weight, is turning grey, and is surrounded by a retinue of minders, but inwardly, he is still the same man: full of humility, down-to-earth, factual, calm and as funny as ever.

When Mohamad the former PAS and now Amanah politician visited London a few years ago, he was in the then-opposition coalition.

He stayed in bed and breakfasts, and gave talks, arranged by overseas party faithful, held in the cheapest community centres, often off the beaten track.

Before some of you run him down, he was in England as part of a PAS effort to raise funds for the victims of Kelantan’s worst flooding in 2014.

In the past, no one in the opposition had it easy. They scrimped and saved for their own flights, and in most cases, were given the use of spare rooms in houses of the party faithful. They used public transport, or were ferried around by party members, provided they were not working on the day.

Last week, Mohamad was in London to attend the Farnborough Airshow to invite British and other European defence companies to the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (Lima), 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, Mohamad and his entourage were early.

The minister joked that he had never been to Malaysia Hall before, as he was not welcome there in the past.

Only a handful of students would dare to attend his talks before, but last week, Malaysians piled in to listen to him. The room filled to capacity, quickly, and many were forced to listen from outside

Mohamad said Malaysians should be proud that a change of government had happened without bloodshed. He thanked the people for their decision to force change.

On the right track

With the potential to make Malaysia an ‘Asian tiger’ again, and with the help of his peers, Mohamad said that they would work hard to put Malaysia on the right track.

To loud applause, he said that in the 14th general eelction, he had won the most votes by a Malay politician, but he warned Malaysians to work tirelessly to fight racism.

He joked that TV3 would feature him on a daily basis, unlike before GE14, when he would never be seen on air. He also said he warned his wife not to get carried away with earrings and handbags.

Issuing a reminder that pockets of the community are still trapped by issues of racism and religion, he then confirmed that the administration of Dr Mahathir Mohamad was going to investigate a number of high-profile deaths – ranging from Altantuya Shaariibuu, Kevin Morias, Hussein Najadi, Teoh Beng Hock and many others.

He also touched on the cancellation of various megaprojects.

Mohamad said it was easy to talk about tackling corruption, especially as the Harapan administration was only two months old, but 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 stray off track or do not fulfil any of their promises, but not to indulge in creating fake news.

In his speech, Mohamad – with great relish – also talked about former political enemy Mahathir, who had locked him up twice under the Internal Security Act 1960. 

Once a critic of Mahathir’s megaprojects, he pointed out that the difference now was that Mahathir’s projects such as KLIA, KLCC and Putrajaya were at least visible. On the other hand, despite RM42 billion being poured into 1MDB, no one could see the progress of the project, one aspect that failed to impress rural folk.

Mohamad 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.

He even praised Mahathir for being a changed man – a progressive, even – who dismissed public fears of ministerial posts being given to non-Malays, especially those from DAP.

Billions stashed away

Mohamad also wondered how many billions of ringgit 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.

Praising his one-time cellmate, Lim Guan Eng, who managed to reduce Penang’s debt when governing the state, Mohamad was confident of the finance minister’s ability to attract foreign investors and reduce the RM1 trillion national debt – especially as frugality is one of his traits.

Or as Mohamad described it, Lim being kedekut (stingy).

His new deputy Liew Chin Tong, was described by Mohamad as a man with a sharp mind and not one ounce of racist sentiment.

Racism being one of his main concerns, Mohamad urged the audience to support good leaders, be they Malay or non-Malays. He reiterated that there is no excuse to retain non-performing and ‘bad’ Malays, just because of their race.

BN lost the May 9 polls, he said, because they were awash with money, while Harapan won because they had very little cash – in his case, most of which he had to borrow from friends and colleagues. But the winning factor was the goodwill of the rakyat and their spirit to force change.

Perhaps organisers of the talk did not realise Mohamad’s appeal and the respect Malaysians have for him, when they only arranged a small room for it to be held in.

And perhaps many audience members did not realise that Mohamad is in charge of the nation’s security, what with the many long-winded questions and statements addressed to the wrong minister.

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 Muslims want a doa, then the other faiths should also be catered for, but then every event would be much, much longer.

Rebuilding Malaysia


  • Jimmy Arokia (nom de plume) says:

    Sorry should read a “member” and not “party” and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights year is 1948. His choice can be found in several Articles including Article 18 and possibly Article 2. You can easily goggle this august and wonderful declaration on the United Nations webpage.

  • Jimmy Arokia (nom de plume) says:

    In answer to Yin’s question of whether racism in Malaysia will be banished, the reply is that as long as you have humanity, you will not get rid of racism. It is part of the human condition. However, we, as individual can avoid feeling racist in our heart of hearts. Question our feelings each time this negative feeling come into our mind to see whether it is rational or not. The very fact of the election of the Pakatan Harapan government is premised on racism. Without the presence of Dr. M to helm the coalition, there would not be a new Malaysia. That is how deeply ingrained racism is, in Malaysia. There will be very few Malays who will be able not to conflate the issues of kleptocracy and Malay exceptionalism. As my late mother informed me, the ones with the ability have all left, leaving those who are unable due to poor education attainment such as the street food vendors and small business owners to fend for themselves. As for the very small component of the non-Malays who are willing to co-opt themselves to gain business concessions as they understood the Malay lacked entrepreneurial ship due to the bumiputra policies of spoon feeding. They are willing to sell their souls for a few dime the likes of which you see in the Tourism Malaysia head and the Air Asia brown noser. Of course, this is not an indication they have not left, they already have a Plan B in that property in foreign jurisdictions have already been purchased and leaving Malaysia, should there be any trouble is a matter of when. Until and unless the mindset is changed, the sliver of hope (harapan) is and will be just that. The latest hare brain idea which the Dr. is obsessed with is the foundation of a third car company. He somehow thinks that engineering of such sort is necessary and be good for the country. Dr. M, please let this go as it is a hare brain idea. Car manufacturers have all left Australia despite massive subsidies from the government. The amount of subsidies given to Ford, Holden, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Nissan over the years would have easily paid for a car for every living being in Australia. At the end of the day, they still pulled up stump and quit. These car companies produced heavy petrol consumption cars for this big country and nobody was buying it. They have a massive r and d department and yet they were not viable. They have excellent quality control and despite constant recalls for faulty mechanism were superficially excellent cars. The potong saga however is another matter. In the West, they called it a “heap of shit.” They are poorly built and designed. I was aghast to find the speakers for the cars located behind a miscellaneous door tray where you normally keep your wallet or umbrella. You feel that they must have engaged a blind industrial designer to perform the task. To compound the problem, no car manufacturer in Japan worth their salt will be involved leaving the worst car manufacturer to take up the cudgel, Mitsubishi. Please concentrate your effort, Dr. M, on bringing to justice the real murderer of Altantuya Shaaribuu. A legal tip, the doctrine of complicity will place those who have knowledge of the commissioning of the crime in the same position as those who performed the dastardly act. However, why would this hubris laden AG, recused himself from LGE’s rasuah case, when he is not appointed by LGE, or a party of any of the opposition component parties, or related to LGE by blood or marriage? This AG is a clown and should join a circus when it comes into town. Bung, you only recuse yourself if there is a conflict or potential conflict of interest. However, this does not mean you cannot recuse yourself from such decision making, as it is a freedom of choice article enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1954.

  • Jimmy Arokia (nom de plume) says:

    A truly great Malaysian, humble and kind. This is the type of person that makes me feel proud to call myself a Malaysian not the son of perverted parents like Najib Razak. The way he forgets most of the things, you wonder whether he knew which country he was the Prime Minister for. A liar, thief, murderer and kleptocrat. The lastest rubbish is the jewelleries being owned by a Lebanese company. In case, he does not realised Lebanon has been in a perpectual state of disunity and chaos since 1975 and why wasn’t the importation of such amount of jewelleries declared to custom.

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