At 25, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman has chosen to dedicate his time to Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and the country. With Pakatan Harapan’s victory in the recent 14th General Election, the young Muar member of parliament has work to do. He shares his dreams and hopes with Sariha Mohd Ali, Nazura Ngah and Arfa Yunus
Question: Did you expect to win the Muar parliamentary seat in GE14 since you were running against former deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Razali Ibrahim?
Answer: In the beginning, I only felt I had 50-50 chance. I was surprised when I won, and with a big majority too. Besides, through the redelineation exercise, about 2,000 potential Pakatan Harapan voters had been moved out to the Bakri parliamentary seat.
I never thought I would win with a 6,953-majority vote, although I was quite confident due to the acceptance of young voters. I feel the youth wave is very important and should be given due attention, or else it can cause our downfall in the next election. It will be wise if we continue to be humble because this victory is just the beginning.
Q: It is said that your victory was due to support by the youth at the time when sentiments against former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak were at an all-time high. What was the mechanism used by Pakatan Harapan to attract the young?
A: In my ceramah, I spoke less about corruption and wrongdoings. I focused more on what could be offered to the youth, like affordable housing, abolishment of Goods and Services Tax and scholarships because I know these are issues that affect them. Based on my observation, the youth liked what they heard. This is why I feel it was them who brought Pakatan to Putrajaya.
Q: Since the youth have chosen PH, how long will it take for the government to fulfil at least 50 per cent of the youth’s demands, including resolving the rising cost of living and unemployment issues?
A: We have to fulfil 100 per cent of the manifesto immediately or we will need to come up with a detailed explanation to the youth. The good thing is that our youths are not easily influenced by politics, so they can carefully evaluate what’s wrong and what’s right.
One of the issues is on Fully-Residential Schools (SBP), which at the moment, are only hosting students from the M40 and T20 groups, but not the B40. We need to address this.
At the same time, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has stressed on the importance of having additional scholarships to ensure that youths get to study overseas.
Another important issue that warrants immediate attention is the rising cost of living. If we fail to address this, youth who voted for us will not be happy.
I also like to stress the need to have “new politics”, where the voice of the youth will no longer be seen as irrelevant and dismissed. We must ensure that there will be more young people in the cabinet and local government councils, and becoming village heads.
Previously, the youngest village headman was 35 years old. We need to have more 25-year-olds in that position.
Age does not reflect a person’s maturity. When I was campaigning, many people said I was immature, a newbie and an empty vessel. A week before election day, (Sembrong MP) Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein called me a “kitten”.
How I responded to all these remarks secured my victory in Muar.
Q: You have been touted as the next youth and sports minister. What are your thoughts on this?
A: Talking about positions is a sensitive topic. I have witnessed politician friends who are full of ideals in the beginning, but later lost track on their ideals when they started talking more about holding positions in their parties.
So, it doesn’t matter whether it is me, Nik Nazmi (Setiawangsa MP) or other young leaders in Pakatan. I know it will not be too difficult for the top leadership to decide on this because, lucky for us, we have plenty of young faces to choose from.
Q: How can the Pakatan leadership ensure that the youth will continue to support the ruling coalition?
A: We must never belittle them. We cannot be arrogant and their voices must be represented at all levels of administration to ensure that the youth’s agenda will always be taken care of.
During Barisan Nasional’s (BN) glorious era in the 1980s and 1990s, it was due to the strong influence and dominant role of Umno Youth in fighting corruption and abuse of power that won over the young.
Q: A large portion of Pakatan leaders are former Umno leaders. How sure are you that the Umno culture will not find its way into Pakatan?
A: I like to stress the importance of us reforming the country’s democratic institutions by ensuring that there is separation of powers. When we achieve this, it doesn’t matter if the Umno culture seeps into Pakatan because then, the people already have the freedom to punish those who do wrong.
The media too, is freer now. I am so happy now, seeing how NST, BH and Utusan can report freely on the government and opposition.
This shows that the power has been returned to the people and that Malaysia is now on a “self-drive mode”. It means, after this, change of government will be a norm because it will only involve changing leadership. Matters concerning the country will run as usual. Just like Australia, they may change their prime ministers every year, but the administration continues to run without crisis or riots. This reflects a mature democracy.
Q: Speaking of mature democracy, what do you think about the idea of having a mixed cabinet, as in having ministers from across the political divide? In Malaysia, is there a possibility of having ministers from different political coalitions like Pakatan, BN and Gagasan Sejahtera working together?
A: In the future, especially in our generation, it is very much possible and I think it will happen.
But one thing I’ve learnt is if change is to happen, it must be done strategically because you do not want to risk like what happened in the United States, where it had President Barack Obama, and then in the next election, the pendulum swung the other way and it had Donald Trump.
We do not want this. The moderates must always win. We must always find the middle ground.
There is no perfection in every decision, on compromises. But there must be commitment for gradual change and in Pakatan Harapan, that’s why we announced that the leader of the opposition, which they (BN) have yet to finalise, will be given equal status as a full cabinet minister.
This means the privileges, the pay, the air time, would be of equivalent status to a full cabinet minister. I don’t think any previous government had done that.
I believe another historical milestone is about to be made.- New Straits Times