“Yes, in 2001 I had applied to Guthrie for some business. But I was (initially) rejected. I then went to the management to negotiate, but I never met Khalid; (I met) someone else,” Faekah told Malaysiakini in an exclusive interview at her office on Wednesday.
In the end, she said, all that she received from Guthrie was a contract for legal work for some 60 units of houses, no more.
“Is it so easy for someone to be labelled a Khalid crony?” she asked, implying that the meagre business she got from Guthrie fell short of a lion's share a crony would be expected to get.
“I only knew him in 2005, that was when he started to get involved in politics. I was already in Keadilan then,” the former lawyer said.
Even then, Faekah said, she did not get her current job because she knew Khalid but because of her problem-solving skills acquired from more than 20 years' experience as a lawyer.
“He did not offer me (the post)... he appealed to me. If it was an offer, there (would be) considerations, but he needed someone to assist him in the administration. He said that it was my national service.”
Gave up a successful legal practice
And as part of her "national service", Faekah said that she had to give up her successful legal practice and forgo the comfortable life she had before, for the unlucrative salary of a civil servant.
Asked how she coped with the transition, she said she had her savings and several houses to her name that she could liquidate, having already sold off one of her two luxury cars.
“But money is not the object. Khalid himself could have made RM1.5 million a year working in the private sector, but he is here doing his national service, and I am doing mine,” she said, with a steady gaze.
Faekah described her role as more of an efficiency expert helping to solve problems in the state administration.
“This is what the public wants, to see their problems solved,” she stressed.
She related that most of her time now was devoted to ironing out wrinkles in the state's administration by working directly with the public and assisting them with their issues.
“An senior citizen would come to me with his problem with so and so. I will call the state official in question, explain the issue and look at what solutions can be found and get the official to assign an officer to help the person,” she explained.
Faekah said the job was a gruelling one with a punishing schedule, especially in keeping up with a workaholic like Khalid, who stayed up nights to think and read.
“He would call me in the wee hours and ask me a question or assign me to find out something. I will then have to call the relevant party to follow up on the matter.
“That is why I carry this book with me - this phone directory - everywhere I go so that I can get in touch with the state officers when I need to,” said Faekah, pointing to her faithful contacts list.
However, she sees no problem with her new job as she has been used to a similar pace while practising law.
“I don't even take long breaks during Raya, there's one day before for preparations and one day after for visits. I asked Khalid and he said it was the same (for him). I sometimes work until 10 at night,” she said.
Faekah has no regret entering public office, for she sees her role as crucial in increasing the state government's efficiency and correcting the perception that there is a rift between the ruling Pakatan Rakyat and civil servants in the state.
“There is this perception in the party that the civil servants are sabotaging the state government. But now, I am also a civil servant. How can you say that I want to sabotage the party?”
“That is the message I want to send to the party,” she said.
The political secretary admitted that there were a few budak hitam(black sheep) causing problems in the civil service, but the rest were not guilty.
“We should focus on dealing with the (problematic) few, not accuse the civil servants en masse.
“Some of the civil servants too are tired of the old Barisan Nasional government and their antics. And I believe that without their help we would not have won in the last election,” she said.
Faekah believes the party must recognise this, and put a stop to the unfair blame-game on the civil service.
Faekah sees it as her role to bridge the gap from the civil service side as she believes that many civil servants were wary of Pakatan due to constant accusations of sabotage.
“We need to show that we trust them as much as demonstrate that they can trust us. It is to be understood that they have been serving under the BN government for a long time.”
Therefore, her first task on the job was to visit all the senior civil servants to build or kindle rapport with them.
On one hand, Faekah said, she wanted to remind them that her authority emanated from the MB. On the other, she wants to earn their trust by showing them that like them, she is also a civil servant.
She stressed that party representatives appointed to state-owned companies should adopt the same attitude toward their roles.
“Their role must be to reform the state GLCs and not to enrich themselves,” said Faekah
Performance now, not popularity
In this respect she is highly favourable to divorcing the party from the state administration, pointing to the case of Khalid who had relinquished his duties as state PKR chief to Gombak MP Azmin Ali.
“This is true separation of powers, this is the way to go,” she declared.
Asked how Khalid could ensure he had the clout to be re-elected if he had no political influence, Faekah said she did not see any problem.
“That is not an issue. If the people see that Khalid is doing his job, they will vote him back in. If the people in Bandar Tun Razak and Ijok vote him in, you know that in their eyes, he has performed.”
Performance, she stressed, was more important than popularity.