Khairy banks on unity, friendship

Posted by Penarik Beca Monday, September 22, 2008

NST (21/9/08): Would Khairy Jamaluddin's Setiakawan (Friendship and Unity) campaign pitch be able to pave the way to the top seat in Umno Youth?

The concept should be a successful one, especially in the present political climate where the clamour for race-based parties to change into platforms for all Malaysians has become irresistible.

But then Umno is a party that is dyed-in-the-wool of Malay nationalism. Getting the idea down to the grassroots, where a large section still cry Ketuanan Melayu, could prove to be an exercise in futility.

There is also an unfavourable perception of the Umno Youth deputy chief -- the many controversies alleged and often manufactured against him have put off some people, including members of his own Youth wing.

Perhaps because of his talent, ambition and closeness to the prime minister, Khairy has been a target for character assassination and envy.
He will have to deal with the innuendoes and accusations wisely and without becoming distracted.

But Khairy said he was accepting this inevitability.

"I accept the need to constantly self-analyse; admittedly at times it is distressing, but this is not about my feelings, it is about what I can contribute."

Coincidentally, Khairy's slogan parallels Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah's call for a supra-ethnic Umno to help heal and renew the party, whose support among the non-Malays dived in the March 8 polls.

The 71-year-old Kelantan prince, who also happens to be the sole Umno leader aspiring to contest the Umno presidency held by Khairy's father-in-law, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, had proposed that the more multiracial stance should not compromise Umno's original aims for the Malays.

Khairy, a first-term Rembau MP, is using Setiakawan as a manifesto to win nominations to contest for the Umno Youth chief's post, which will be vacated by Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

Hishamuddin has opted to move up the party hierarchy to contest one of the three Umno vice-president's posts.

Khairy needs to get the support of at least 38 Umno Youth divisions to qualify to contest for the post, which is also being vied for by Umno Youth exco members Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir (whose father, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has been chief among Khairy's critics) and Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo, and lesser known Perlis Umno deputy chief Datuk Zahidi Zainal Abidin.

Khairy is offering himself as one who wants the multiracial youth to be heard.

"I not only hope to make Umno Youth more vibrant but want to get all youth wings in the component parties to speak in one voice.

"I am not contesting as a leader of a Malay youth movement alone but a youth leader for all Malaysians," he said at his parliamentary service centre in Rembau on Wednesday.

Each of the three aspirants has his own slogan: Mukhriz's Berani Berubah (Dare to Change), Dr Khir's Pemuda Berani (Courageous Youth) and Zahidi's Pemuda Untuk Semua (Youth for All).

Khairy may have the advantage of serving as Hishammuddin's deputy for four years and another four years as an exco member but he is still considered young.

The contest from now on is going to be very competitive. Mukhriz has his father's backing and Dr Khir has had more experience. Zahidi, who is quite well-known in Perlis, has little national exposure. However, he has been in politics for a long time.

Being the youngest in the field, the task for Khairy will not be an easy one. (Zubaidah Abu Bakar)

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