Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak recently sat down for a 60-minute dialogue session and spoke about his life and the ups and downs of being a leader
The 60-minute dialogue session with student leaders was held during the launch of Kembara Mahasiswa Nasional on 18 August.
PM Najib Razak was asked various questions on his experiences as a politician, criticisms from the public, future plans, and his daily practices.
1. "Politics is like a roller coaster."
When asked about his early entry to the local political scene and his thoughts on it, PM Najib explained that it has always been a sink or swim situation.
"There are only two options when you're pushed into a swimming pool; you either sink or you swim. So, when you are in that survival mode, you'll eventually adjust yourself to the situation you're thrown at accordingly."
"One of my biggest advice about politics is that, it is not linear. Politics is like a roller coaster," said Najib.
2. "Haters are people who no matter what we do, they won’t like us."
PM Najib Razak has become one of the most criticised political figures in the country, with unresolved scandals and issues like 1MDB and the growing clampdown on freedom of speech and expression.
To this, Najib says that there are three categories of people usually. The first are the fans, the second the haters and the third group consists of misinformed people.
"As for the haters, no matter what you do, they won't like us anyway. White people usually say, 'there's nothing you can do', so just don't. Don't lose any sleep over this group.
"The second group is just influenced by false information, so we need to do something to ensure that they get the right information, we have to engage and communicate this to them. We have to "correct" this group, but most importantly we just have to do our best and make sure our conscience is clear," added the country's sixth prime minister.
3. "I do read the comments on social media, sometimes it’s hurtful. Makes me mad. When it’s hurtful, I stop reading."
Najib explained that no matter how hurtful these comments can be, he wouldn't block these users.
"Can't really entertain these people. So, what I'd usually do is to just tell the truth and my side of the story on these social media channels," said Najib.
4. "There are so many things I can do after I retire. I can do gardening, watch Manchester play football, travel, write a book. So, why would I disturb my successor?"
On being compared to former premier, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Najib says that it is only common for people to do so, comparing him to his predecessors and their reign.
"But my philosophy as a prime minister is to not look back. I just focus and hope that I am bringing my country to greater heights, especially from the time I took over as the prime minister.
"... and when I retire, I'll just retire and will not disturb my successor," said Najib, adding that he hopes the next prime minister will make the country even better.
5. "I'll never openly criticise my successor. That is not the right thing to do."
Tun Dr Mahathir has been very vocal of late about Najib and has even asked for his resignation, especially over the unexplained 1MDB scandals.
"If my successor invites me for a cup of coffee or dinner, I'll go. I'll tell him what I think and even advise him, if the situation calls for it but I won't openly criticise him."
"We must understand that as prime ministers, we belong to a select club, meaning we have to help each other out. Then only will other people respect our country and leaders. This doesn't even happen in America, Bush doesn't critisize Obama or his band of leaders," opined Najib.
6. "I like playing golf. When I partnered with Obama, (I realised) he was pretty good, but my standards were also more or less like his."
During the December 2014 flood season in Malaysia, Najib was holidaying in Hawaii and managed to play golf with President Barack Obama. The move was heavily criticised by most Malaysians as the east coast floods were one of the worst the country has ever seen.
7. "Actually my late father didn't want me to be a politician."
When asked to share a unforgettable moment with his father, the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, Najib spoke about how his father had very different plans about his career path.
"My father wanted me to be an accountant, because he wanted me to be part of the new breed of Bumiputera corporate people. So if it wasn't accounting, I would have probably been part of the corporate world.
Najib's late father, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein was Malaysia's second prime minister and served from 1970 till his untimely death on 14 January 1976.
8. "I was sent to a boarding school overseas, just so that I can grow up without the "special treatments" that came with being the prime minister's son."
Najib said that his father wanted him to grow up without all the frills that came with being a politician's son.
"That's why he sent me to a boarding school, because he wanted me to grow up in an environment where I would have to compete with with other kids without any special treatment given to me.
"Father was also very particular about my spending. During my schooling days, I would only get 20 sen or 30 sen a day, it's not like I went to school with a pocket full of money. He wanted me to know the value of money and not like I was born with a golden spoon," added Najib.
9. "My biggest contribution to the country is probably the transformation programs I initiated like ETP and GTP."
In his efforts to lift Malaysia from it's "middle income trap", Najib introduced several transformation programs in 2009, including the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) that are aimed to improve the country's economy the people's livelihood.
10. "I knew introducing GST was an unpopular decision, but I did it anyways to improve Malaysia's economy."
Najib spoke about how a leader needs to make the right decision based on the people's needs and the greater good, even if it is an unpopular one.
"I know that the person who introduces the GST won't be popular, but without it Malaysia's economy will fall. When the oil prices dropped, we lost almost RM40 billion. So, GST is crucial to strengthen the country's economy.
"The university fees are more expensive, the number of civil servants need to be reduced, but that's the thing, these are unpopular decisions that need to be made," explained Najib.
11. "I love music but I can't really sing. My wife is the talented singer."
Najib also shared about his love for music, especially Motown and the Bee Gees, calling them "evergreen".
12. "When I'm really busy and I have speeches to finish, I'm forced to go to bed at 1 or 2am."
Najib also mentioned that he sometimes stays later than that if he's up watching badminton or football matches.
The candid dialogue session ended with Najib reminding the local youths on the importance of having passion in life and career
The 63-year-old prime minister explained how everyone needs to have mission in their respective industries and career paths.
"Say, you want to be a politician, we must be passionate about it and there needs to be a calling from within you. What is the satisfaction that you get from doing a particular job? As a politician, I think it lies with helping the needy and these things are important.
Before delving into advising local youths, Najib also jokingly said those who aspired to be a politician in the future should consider being an UMNO and BN politician.
PM Najib Razak has recently been harshly criticised for his alleged involvement in the 1MDB scandal. Read all about the issue here: