Sept 2007: Merdeka Special: NEP is here to stay but you cannot do it Robin Hood-style
'The NEP [New Economic Policy] is going to be here for another 50 years or more. Don’t be idealistic." That was the closing quote from Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah at the end of his 90-minute interview with The Edge.
The prince from Kelantan who charted Umno's path into the corporate world remains very much a strong advocate of affimative policies and believes that going forward, the country needs the NEP to keep the people together. But he says the present policies need some refining and have to be implemented fairly.
“You cannot go Robin Hood-style taking from some and giving to others. That is unfair and we cannot be unfair," says Tengku Razaleigh, who was the architect behind Umno's foray into the media and banking sectors. Although his views now are not often reported widely, that was not the case in the 1970s. Back then, his house in Jalan Langgak Golf, Ampang, was a hive of activity, bursting with Umno supporters.
For a good 25 years, he was seen as the prince destined to be the prime minister. He played a key role in Umno — breaking into the corporate world — and was credited with the training of bumiputeras in the fields of banking, and oil and gas. Tengku Razaleigh almost became prime minister in 1987. During Umno party elections that year, he lost to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad by a mere 43 votes. When Mahathir sacked his deputy Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Razaleigh was again touted as the man likely to be the next prime minister. But it did not happen, although no one dares to say today that it will never happen, considering that the 70-year-old wily Razaleigh still commands a fair share of Umno grassroots support. But the chances have very much diminished.
In the late-1960s and 1970s, Tengku Razaleigh was considered the most powerful person within Umno after the prime minister. He was close to Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak, Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn. He was instrumental in setting up Bank Bumiputra, and in Perbadanan Nasional Bhd (Pernas) taking control of Malayan Banking, Sime Darby and London Tin, which is now MMC Corp Bhd. Apart from these companies, Tengku Razaleigh, as the finance minister from 1976 to 1984, saw through the acrimonious takeover of Kumpulan Guthrie and Highlands & Lowlands.
More importantly, he was among the prime movers in establishing Petronas and ensuring that mineral resources, which were controlled by foreign oil majors, were in the hands of the government. If Tengku Razaleigh had wanted, he could have been the deputy prime minister in his mid-30s. When Hussein took over after Razak passed away, he was offered the No 2 job in the government. T
he only reservation that Hussein had about Razaleigh then was that he was a bachelor. But Razaleigh opted to stay single and instead told Hussein to offer the job to Mahathir. That was the beginning of the end of his tenure in the government. Tengku Razaleigh and Mahathir could not see eye-to-eye on government fiscal policies and in 1984, he was replaced by Tun Daim Zainuddin. '
Three years later, Razaleigh challenged Mahathir, lost and drifted further away from the prime ministership. In an extensive interview with M Shanmugam and P Gunasegaram , Tengku Razaleigh reminisces about the past, how he worked with former prime ministers and why the New Economic Policy is still needed.