(May 4): Barisan Nasional’s (BN) biggest mistake was failing to address the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal when it surfaced, according to former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin.

The government should have just admitted that 1MDB was a big mistake, Daim told Nanyang Siang Pau in a recent interview.

“BN’s biggest problem is to explain 1MDB to urban voters. The rakyat will eventually forgive, but what they can’t forgive is when the government is abusing the law and hides its wrongdoing,” he said.

Daim said the sacking of then deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and a senior minister did not solve the problem, but may have had the opposite effect.

“It is now an international scandal involving so many countries. We have no control over other countries nor their media. These days, we get instant news. The government and ministers can deny it but these denials make the educated and urbanites very angry, and they distrust the government. Whatever good the government does is being negated by the 1MDB scandal. How can one deny the DoJ’s (US Department of Justice) report when there was a mention of MO1 (Malaysian Official 1). And a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department confirmed to BBC that only idiots do not know MO1 is Najib. This is a major scandal which the government needs to address in order to regain trust from the rakyat, but yet in Parliament, this subject cannot be raised,” he said.

“We have three former cabinet ministers who had made known their views on certain issues. Two were immediately condemned. Instead of replying point by point to matters raised, they were accused of having ulterior motives or revenge. People think this country has reached a stage where supporters of the government have become irrational, intolerable and have no ability to rebut logically,” he added.

In the rural areas, Daim said, the people are blaming the government for the high cost of living.

“The opposition puts the blame on the goods and services tax (GST) and tells the people that the government is forced to introduce the GST because they have to repay the loan for 1MDB. The government has so far failed to explain why the cost of living has gone up. Mere denials by saying things here are cheaper than in Singapore are just silly and lame. They are being ridiculed by the opposition. The opposition on the other hand has promised to abolish the GST. 1MDB and the GST are the two factors that are very difficult for the government to answer,” he said.

Daim also said the opposition Pakatan Harapan does not need a so-called Malay tsunami to take over Putrajaya as voters’ accessibility to news and information increases over time, particularly for young voters.

“Pakatan does not really need a Malay tsunami to win the election. A swing of around 10% is sufficient. The urban areas traditionally vote for the opposition. Now with smartphones and advanced technology, even semi-urban areas get instant news. This will become a danger to BN,” he said.

“What is left are the rural areas. News about Felda (Federal Land Development Authority), [Lembaga] Tabung Haji and other agencies is widely spread. If the rural people who traditionally support Umno receive these news, support for Umno will be affected and eroded. I am told second-generation settlers are very angry with the government. I remember I cautioned the government about the impact of the listing of Felda, but when you are no longer in government, who will listen to you? Tabung Haji depositors are not happy too,” he said.

Hence, Daim believes that DAP is predicting a Malay tsunami based on these factors.

“But do you need a Malay tsunami to get to Putrajaya? l don’t think so,” he said.

While certain quarters are predicting a hung Parliament after the 14th general election (GE14), Daim does not think this will happen.

“l don’t see that, although PAS plans to be the kingmaker. My view is whoever wins more rural seats, especially in Felda, and gains support from the youth will form the next government. You don’t need a tsunami for that. I don’t think anyone knows for sure the answer on who is going to win. I can only say this is the most important election since independence. It is about the future direction of the country,” he said.

Nonetheless, he stressed that he is not in the business of predicting election outcomes, and his observations are based on the people he met and research reports he has read.

“The opposition, according to many, is the strongest ever. They have managed to put their differences aside and put up a united front, which is very rare in Malaysian politics. Imagine a common logo and DAP sacrificing its rocket [logo]. This is the best evidence of a sacrifice for a common cause. This is the biggest news for the rakyat. They have one main agenda, that is to topple BN. Hence, the attack is mainly concentrated on Najib given that he is seemingly their Achilles heel,” he said.

However, as BN is the incumbent government, Daim said the coalition has many advantages.

“The recent redelineation of constituencies and the anti-fake news law are signs of fear but of great advantage to the incumbent. BN is trying to take advantage of these two recent measures to win the election. lf these work then together with the uncertainty of the postal votes by civil servants, BN will win and maybe win big. The foreign media have been highlighting this as stealing. lf voters are angry and believe the government is stealing the election, they will vote against BN, and this will ultimately be its downfall. This will create history. For those who believe and support a genuine practice of democracy, this is cause for celebration,” he said.

In view of this, Daim called on  Malaysian youth to exercise their right to vote in GE14.

“The youth might not realise it, but the EC (Election Commission) statistics show the 21 to 29 age bracket account for 17% of the electorate, while those in the 30 to 39 age group comprise 23.9%. These two age groups encompass nearly 41% of eligible voters and seemingly tend to be anti-establishment,” he pointed out.

Daim said he believes that the youth have a major role in determining the outcome of this general election.

“They can’t be fence sitters or observers. They must exercise their duty and responsibilities as concerned citizens. They are the ones who must decide the country’s future, their future and their children’s future. The youth must not abdicate their role to decide the future of our beloved Malaysia. I have faith and confidence in our youth. They are smart enough to make the right choice for the best of this country,” he said.

“Democracy will die if citizens and especially the youth think they are powerless. This thinking is wrong. Voters have the power. In fact, voters are the power. Exercise it. Real democracy gives voters the choice. Plato said ‘the price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men’ and he was right. We hear some believe that cash is king. The truth is your vote is king,” he added.