THIS is the second of a two-part exclusive interview with Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi. The first part was published yesterday.

Q: You are a young leader and the demographics of Johoreans shows that 49% of them are young. Can you share with us what are the issues that will matter to them in GE15? As their MB, what have you done to listen or do for them?

A: I think there are a few. One of our priorities is providing more job opportunities. We also see sports as another uniting factor. For the first time Johor emerged champions in the recent Malaysia Games. This is a huge morale booster for Johor. Under the stewardship of Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, we have won many trophies including the FA Cup. This unites the youth here.

We are not going to stop there. We are also looking into affordable housing for the young. As such, we are presently studying policies and engaging with them.

So, these are the three main areas that we are looking into to help the youth in Johor.

Q: You are the operations director for Barisan Nasional. Many leaders from various political parties will be contesting in Johor in the upcoming polls. A large number of ministers and deputy ministers are also from Johor. What are the issues that you think voters need to be reminded of when casting their votes this election?

A: It is important for voters to be reminded in terms of which party can deliver for the next four to five years. Johoreans have tested Pakatan Harapan and they have also tested Barisan since we gained independence. They wanted change and the people gave Pakatan a chance in GE14.

If I were a fence-sitter, I would have voted for Pakatan in 2018 as they made many promises such as abolishing loan repayments for the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN), abolishing tolls, and for the prices of goods to go down when GST is abolished. These were big promises that were made, and they intrigued the young as for them, if Barisan could not deliver, why not give Pakatan a chance?

They did give them a chance in 2018, but unfortunately, Pakatan was unable to deliver and when pushed, they said that their manifesto was not a ‘kitab suci’ (holy book). All of it turned out to be lies and empty promises. I hope the young are reminded of this.

Speaking with participants of the Belia Aspirasi Kluang Sejahtera programme in Kluang.Speaking with participants of the Belia Aspirasi Kluang Sejahtera programme in Kluang.

I represent the constituency of Machap in Simpang Renggam, which is a rural area with many people relying on oil palm. In the past, palm oil was trading for a few hundred ringgit per tonne and this caused a lot of suffering to the people. Actually, Johor is the biggest producer of palm oil in Malaysia. Unfortunately, the Pakatan leadership at that time asked the kampung folk to drink a spoon of palm oil daily.

This is not the way to lead the country. You should look at the issues and find out the causes and resolve them. If there is a problem with demand from China, then go and meet the leaders there to get them to purchase more; or if there is a need to increase supply to Europe, then go and negotiate with them instead of asking people to drink a spoon of palm oil.

We have already wasted four years. Neighbouring countries such as Thailand are already moving forward, Indonesia is way ahead and Singapore is, too. Where does this leave Malaysia? Can we afford to lose another four to five years? Can we afford to experiment or risk it anymore?

The experimenting time is over. I am not saying Barisan is perfect as we too have our flaws, and all this is a blessing in disguise for Umno and Barisan to look at ourselves and improve. That is why when I was first appointed MB, I too was surprised as I did not expect it. But as a young leader, I cannot fail because if I fail, what hope is there for other young leaders? That is why I hit the ground running from day one, including carrying out spot checks to ensure things get moving.

Q: You mentioned about your leadership style and you did not expect to get the post of Mentri Besar. It has been a while – have stakeholders got used to your style as MB?

A: I do think so. For a lot of people, it’s about results. A lot of the roads in Johor Baru are now seeing improvements, including at Hospital Sultanah Aminah. This is the feedback that we are getting. Things are improving. I am not saying I have done everything, but we are we are taking it step by step to get everyone together so that we can achieve results together. It’s not a one-man show. I am not a solo fighter. I believe in teamwork, and I am glad most government agencies and executive councillors are moving together with me.

Q: How would you describe your style of management?

A: I am surely not a dictator. I believe in results via teamwork. I sincerely believe in that. At the same time, I also believe in unity. When I go around, especially to all the districts, I do not meet a particular race as we help everyone. I am colour blind.

Q: In terms of campaigning style in the upcoming GE15, what will it be like this time around? Will there be a balance of digital campaigning via Instagram or TikTok and (traditional campaigning like) ceramah, or both?

A: I think it will be a mixture of everything. As you know, Barisan’s strength is working on the ground. We have to realise that if we do not manage social media, it can backfire. We need to constantly answer the lies or accusations made by irresponsible politicians. Based on the state elections in Melaka and Johor, we have started upping the game and meeting them (the Opposition) head-on at this important battleground. These days, everyone carries a mobile phone and messages can reach people fast. We need to engage with people via social media.

Q: With regards to the manifesto, anything different this time around for the polls? Any particular seat that you are targeting?

A: We will report to the people about what we have done in the past six and a half months in terms of what we promised and delivered. At the national level, Barisan will be drawing up the manifesto.

As for seats, these days we are working hard to win Kulai as the people there deserve better. The potential for Kulai to grow is huge. We need to improve on roads, infrastructure for better connectivity for the people there. That is why it is important to have an alignment at the federal and state levels. We need an MP who understands and represent the people’s needs. In the past, some roads such as the Mersing to Kota Tinggi road were not maintained for more than two and a half years as Pakatan did not appoint anyone to maintain the road. Now, thanks to an allocation of RM140mil from the Federal Government, upgrading work is already underway.

We do not have enough funds to carry out such massive jobs and require assistance from Putrajaya. We are doing more road upgrading works, including at the Jalan Bekok to Paloh and Nyior to Chaah routes. No point having Opposition MPs here. The state’s wish list is long as the state deserves better.

Q: Do you feel the pressure of having a former mentri besar and Johor Umno chief Datuk Seri Hasni Mohammad on one side and a strong palace on the other side?

A: I do not, as firstly, the palace has been supportive of me. I am grateful to Hasni as he has been supportive and understanding about what I am going through. I have a good working relationship with him. I do not feel pressured, but actually more like relieved.