Conservative Forces Now Sniping At @khairykj

(KL Chronicle) – Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (pix) may face an uphill task in defending the Umno Youth chief post in October as conservative forces within the party are seen to be undermining him.

Umno sources said former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s latest statement on the admission of youths into the party was yet another subtle attempt to discredit Khairy.

“Mahathir’s statement was directed towards Khairy, who is seen by certain quarters as being too liberal in his views concerning Malay rights,” said a source.

Mahathir warned the ruling party against youths who may have absorbed “western liberal ideas from abroad” on issues such as equality, human rights and the Western concept of justice.

“If they [liberal-minded youths] join Umno, there is a big possibility that Umno would no longer be a party that fights for race, religion and country, but will be a Western-style liberal party.

“Therefore, if we are to accept them, they need to be told of the true position of Malays,” said Mahathir, who urged youths to instead learn Malay politics, as reported by Utusan Malaysia.

Mahathir added that Umno needs new faces in its leadership to help convince people that the party has changed and shed its image that it is corrupt.

The former Umno president’s statement also came in the wake of an apparent grassroots support for first-term Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Idris Haron to throw his hat into the ring and challenge Khairy for the wing’s top post.

When contacted, Umno Youth exco member Lokman Noor Adam said he partly agrees with Mahathir’s views that there is a certain segment of youths, particularly those educated abroad, who adopts an “extremely open and liberal” attitude.

“Based on my experience in Umno Youth, there are students abroad who still possess a very strong Malay identity,” he said.

Ariff Yasir Zulkafli, a delegate representing the Umno Overseas Club from Tokyo, had caused a stir during the party’s annual general assembly last year when he broke into tears singing a song – Anak Kecil Main Api – which tells the tale of Malays allegedly sidelined on their own land due to internal strife.

While Khairy’s efforts to project a more inclusive stance is commendable, Lokman said the party as a whole must strive to consolidate its support base among the Malay community.

“We must try and use various strategies to win a war,” said Lokman in reference to outcome of the 13th general election which saw Malay votes split between Umno and opposition Pakatan Rakyat.

Lokman, who is in the running to contest for the Umno Youth deputy chief position, said Umno should not “privatise” its responsibility as spokesperson for the Malays to right-wing NGOs.

He also claimed that DAP’s meteoric rise within Pakatan was due to its ability to convince the Chinese community that it is the only party which can “champion their rights” – contrary to its multi-racial stand.

“There is now a leakage in [support for] Umno because there are Malays who have turned away and supported the opposition,” said Lokman, adding that Umno should focus on consolidating support from the Malays because there is no way it can be more “liberal” than PKR.

“Even if Umno is to veer towards the middle ground, the liberals will still support the more liberal party [PKR],” he claimed.

Asked whether he supports the rising right-wing voices within Umno, Lokman, however, stressed that upholding the rights of the Malay community is not a licence to oppress or discriminate against others.

Mahathir’s apparent dismissal of universal values such as “equality, human rights and the Western concept of justice” within Umno may be seen as slamming the door shut on moderate voices to rise through its ranks.

Umno, as captain of the ruling Barisan Nasional, has powers to steer the country towards the middle ground, or push it to the far right.

It is hoped that this reality will hit home among candidates vying for the various positions; instead of just looking to secure their own political future.