Khairy snub sets tongues wagging

(The Straits Times) – The decision by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to leave out Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin from the Cabinet has become fodder for debate on the Internet as well as by news commentators.

Khairy, son-in-law of former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, received a double blow. Not only was his political rival Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir appointed a deputy minister, but Khairy's deputy in the Youth wing was also rewarded with a top post.

The chief of Umno Youth, a post won by Khairy in party polls two weeks ago, is traditionally given a full minister's post.

But Khairy's victory came with a black mark because he was found guilty of vote-buying by Umno's disciplinary committee. Unlike several other leaders though, he was allowed to contest for the post against Mukhriz and another candidate.

Khairy won, and Mukhriz came in last.

Yet Mukhriz, the youngest son of former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was made Deputy International Trade Minister.

Khairy's No. 2 in the Youth wing, Razali Ibrahim, was made Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports.

Khairy himself was bypassed by Najib.

The Cabinet members were yesterday sworn into office in front of the King at Istana Negara.

Analysts and bloggers said Najib might have been concerned about a fallout from appointing Khairy.

Mass-selling newspaper Sin Chew Daily concluded in a column that the key reason was Khairy was implicated in money politics and “has yet to be able to clear his name”.

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng warned that cutting out Khairy “will create unease among some Umno Youth members, Abdullah's faction and Khairy's faction”.

But Khairy, 32, seemed to have taken the snub in his stride, saying Najib had called him and told him to focus on strengthening Umno Youth.

“Based on the dip in the young voters' support for Umno, we both agreed that the responsibilities and groundwork to win them over is a huge responsibility and a full-time commitment,” he said in his blog.

The appointment of Mukhriz also raised a lot of comments.

Some said it was Najib's way of saying “thank you” to Dr Mahathir.

The former premier had backed Najib for his post of deputy premier under Abdullah, who had wanted to appoint another leader.

And Dr Mahathir later said openly that he would support Najib's administration.

But several top bloggers were not so kind, saying the rise of Mukhriz showed that the government is now run by “Mahajib”, a combination of Dr Mahathir's and Najib's names.

Opposition veteran and MP Lim Kit Siang said Mukhriz's appointment “reinforces public perception that Najib is under the thumb” of Dr Mahathir.