PETALING JAYA: A decade in the wilderness has done little to diminish Dr Mohd Khir Toyo’s passion for political office.
In the 10 years since he was sent to prison and his eventual release, the Umno veteran never lost sight of his determination to make a comeback.
“Politics will enable me to do something good for the nation, and if I want to do it, I must start now,” the 56-year-old former mentri besar of Selangor told theSun in a recent interview.
He wants to contest in the next general election but in keeping his cards close to his chest, and declined to reveal his choice of constituency to make his comeback.
“I will contest on my own accord and with the support that I have.”
Whether that means he will seek an Umno ticket or turn to former mentor Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is a secret he is not prepared to reveal yet.
Khir has Mahathir and former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin to thank for his initiation into politics and subsequent rise to the role of mentri besar.
“I thank them for giving me the chance to lead, and I know I did my best.”
Khir’s story is one of a quick rise in politics, of being dogged by allegations of power abuse, exposure, a hard landing and jail time.
He was already an active member of Umno Youth, serving on its executive council, when he was picked to contest the Sungai Panjang state seat in the 1999 general election. He was only 34 then, young for a political leader.
Khir took over as mentri besar in August 2000 upon the resignation of his predecessor Datuk Seri Abu Hassan Omar, who cited ill health for his departure.
His tenure as mentri besar was not without controversy. His infamous zero squatters policy led to the eviction of thousands from their homes for little or no compensation.
He was also investigated by the then Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) over the approval of a construction project that encroached into the Bukit Cahaya forest reserve. The ACA, the precursor of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, eventually declared there was no case against him.
When the Barisan Nasional lost Selangor in the 2008 general election, Khir was appointed opposition leader in the state assembly.
In 2010, allegations surfaced that he had bought a lavish mansion at a price significantly below market value. He resigned as opposition leader in December that year after he was hauled to court to face a corruption charge.
Khir was found guilty of accepting two plots of land and a bungalow at a substantial discount and was sentenced to a year in jail. He even lost his “Datuk Seri” honorary title.
Ironically, it was theSun that first unveiled details of the purchase, leading to him instructing his lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to initiate contempt proceedings against the newspaper.
Khir had alleged that the articles were meant to influence the judges hearing his case. But all is forgotten and forgiven now, he said.
“There is no reason to be ashamed of what I did. I did not take a single sen from the government. I was just guilty of buying property at a price lower than the value ascertained by the bank,” he said.
“Who does not want to get something for cheaper if he has the opportunity? I agree that I was wrong to benefit from it, but it was not corruption,” he rationalised.
Khir said he now regrets buying the mansion.
“Having to go to court and to face the turbulence of seeing myself making headlines for two years was excruciating.”
But for him, that is the past, a painful part of his life best forgotten.