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Friday, February 12, 2010

Embattled Khairy safe for now

Analysis by JOCELINE TAN

Khairy Jamaluddin’s position as Umno Youth chief is not in danger despite Internet chatter that he is about to be dislodged.

REPORTERS covering the Umno Youth exco meeting recently were surprised to see Khairy Jamaluddin wearing a songkok with a white band.

He apparently wanted to show his respect for the late Johor Sultan although he is from Negri Sembilan. It was, as one of his exco members said later, the politically correct thing to do.

Under the spotlight: Khairy (right) speaking at a recent press conference after chairing an exco meeting at the Putra World Trade Centre. Looking on is Umno Youth deputy chief and Muar MP Datuk Razali Ibrahim.

These are challenging times for Khairy and he has been trying to do the right thing as the leader of Umno Youth.  But, evidently, some feel he is not doing enough and several Umno-affiliated bloggers have been going about on alleged moves to undermine him and even to force him from his post.

It was largely a cyberspace debate until Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad joined the fray.

The former premier pointed out that it was not the first time that the Youth chief had faced opposition.
He added that there had been specific requests that Khairy not campaign during various by-elections.
He even questioned why it had taken seven hours to count and verify 700 votes in the Umno Youth elections last year.

Despite all this, Khairy’s position is not in danger at all. There is no way that his exco members will resign to force his hand. The party leadership would not allow that.

Besides, the discussion at the Umno Youth exco meeting was not as reported in cyberspace.

The exco meeting had proceeded smoothly till towards the end, when Hishammuddin Yahaya, who is Putrajaya Youth vice-head, spoke about what he saw as the slow progress in the wing.  Hishammuddin, also known as Yeop among his buddies, got rather carried away and said something to the effect that if the Youth leader was not liked, then he should resign, and that the same would apply to the other exco members including himself.
Several others jumped in to claim that they had been sidelined because they were not aligned to Khairy and one of them even blamed him for the lack of media coverage for an event.
There was also unhappiness that Khairy made statements on various controversial issues without prior discussion and that it was difficult for them to justify it with the grassroots.
Another point raised was that after almost a year as Youth chief, Khairy had yet to bring the exco for a courtesy call on the Prime Minister.

It was all quite spontaneous and civil but it did reflect the frustration in the ranks about the state of affairs in Umno Youth. Khairy’s style has been quite different from his predecessor.
He has embraced the new media and is trying to bury his keris-waving image by occupying the moderate ground on issues, and he can be bold when the occasion calls for it.
His chief hurdle seems to be that many in Umno do not perceive him to be the leadership’s preference for Youth chief.

A great deal of politics is about perception and he has been unable to manage the perception to his advantage.

His kinship and political ties with the previous leadership have also turned from a plus to a minus factor now that Umno’s political centre of gravity has shifted to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.  In the meantime, the Youth exco members have been tight-lipped about what happened.
“We were voicing our concerns through the proper channels and I really regret the leak of information to the blogs,” said exco member Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz.  Khairy has, meanwhile, acted quickly by securing Hishammuddin’s cooperation.
He asked Hishammuddin to go on an assignment to Labuan during which they had a man-to-man talk. The matter is settled. I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” said Hisham-muddin when contacted.
The Youth exco delegation is also scheduled to call on the Prime Minister on Feb 17.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s choice for Youth chief was widely perceived to be Datuk Mukhriz Tun Mahathir but he has since been circumspect in his opinion of the wing.  The same cannot be said for Dr Mahathir. There is no love lost between Dr Mahathir and Khairy who are at least two generations apart.
But their problem has nothing to do with a generation gap and everything to do with politics. Dr Mahathir had been critical when Khairy came in as deputy Umno Youth chief without a contest in 2004.
He had described the win as a “one horse race” which was won not because Khairy was the better candidate but because the feet of the other horses or would-be candidates were tied.

Some think the elder statesman is being rather unfair to the younger man. Khairy is, after all, the choice of the Umno Youth delegates.

But others say that Dr Mahathir is merely looking to the survival of Umno which hinges on how young Malays perceive the party and that is why his campaign against Khairy is unlikely to end soon.//

* This article is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The blog owner does not endorse the view unless specified.

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