The MALINDO DEFENCE Daily

Monday, February 1, 2010

Islam’s special position

1 Feb 10 : 8.00AM
By Ding Jo-Ann
dingjoann@thenutgraph.com
(Corrected at 12:35pm, 1 Feb 2010)
THE Home Ministry's ban on the use of "Allah" by the Catholic Herald publication has once again raised the issue of Islam's position in Malaysia.

Really?
"The special position of Islam is enshrined and protected under the constitution," said senior federal counsel Mahamad Naser Disa during arguments in Herald's suit against the Home Ministry in the High Court. "Allah is the holy name and a special verse in Islam. Any deviation to the holy verse of Allah is an insult to the religion of the country and the Federal Constitution," he argued.
But does the constitution really place Islam in a "special position"? Was that the understanding of our nation's founding leaders? And if not, how are these conclusions being justified?
Special position?
Some of the Herald's critics have been lambasting the Catholic Church for suing the government over the use of "Allah". As Mahamad Naser argued, they say the Herald's insistence on the use of "Allah" diminishes Islam's "special position" as enshrined in the constitution.
Muslim Lawyers Association president Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar cites his reasons for affirming Islam's special position in the constitution:
1. Article 3(1) says Islam is the religion of the federation.
2. Islam is specifically mentioned in other parts of the constitution such as:
   a. Article 11(4) relating to the control or restriction of the propagation of other religions among Muslims; and
   b. Article 12(2) which allows the federal government to assist Islamic institutions.
3. No other religion has been specifically mentioned in the constitution except Islam.

But does the constitution actually state that Islam has a
"special position"?

4. The majority in Malaysia are Muslims.
Zainul concludes that although Article 3(1) says other religions may practise their religions in peace and harmony, due to Islam's special position, they can only do so without interfering with the peace and harmony of the practice of Islam.
The constitution
But where does it say in the constitution that Islam has a "special position"?
The correct answer is actually, nowhere.
This is unlike the "special position" of the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak which is explicitly spelt out in Article 153 of the constitution.

By that measure, Christianity and Islam would both have special positions in Malaysia
It cannot be said that as Islam is the religion of Malay Malaysians and since the Malay Malaysians have a "special position", therefore Islam also has a special position. By that measure, the religion of native Sabahans and Sarawakians, many of whom are Christians, would also have a special position.
In any case, if the constitution's architects meant Islam to have a special position beyond what was stated in Article 3(1), wouldn't they have made sure that the constitution said so?
The constitution in fact, suggests otherwise. Article 3(4) states that "nothing in [Article 3] derogates from any other provision of this constitution." This means that Islam as the religion of the federation does not diminish any other part of the constitution, including the fundamental liberties enshrined in Part II, in any way.
Historical documents
Contemporaneous documents during the drafting of the constitution also demonstrate that Islam was never meant to have a "special position" as claimed. There were in fact clear assurances that other faith communities would not be hampered in the practice of their religions.
"There was universal agreement that if any such provision [on Islam being the religion of the federation] were inserted it must be made clear that it would not in any way affect the civil rights of the non-Muslims," said a report by the Reid Commission, the drafters of the Malaysian constitution. (Corrected) The Reid Commission held extensive consultations with various interested parties, including the Alliance which preceeded the Barisan Nasional, and the Malay rulers.
Indeed, Universiti Malaya historian Joseph M Fernando cites written evidence that Umno representatives specifically assured their non-Muslim counterparts that Article 3(1) would have "symbolic" significance rather than practical effect.
Fernando quotes the remarks of former MCA president Tun Tan Siew Sin in Parliament: "[Islam as the religion of the federation] does not in any way derogate from the principle, which has always been accepted, that Malaya will be a secular state and that there will be complete freedom to practise any other religion."
Court judgment
A 1988 Supreme Court decision by former Lord President Tun Salleh Abas also clarified what "Islam as the religion of the federation" means.
After an examination of the historical facts and documents relating to the constitution, his judgment stated: "...we have to set aside our personal feelings because the law in this country is still what it is today, secular law, where morality not accepted by the law [does not enjoy] the status of law."
Honestly speaking...
So why is the senior federal counsel from the government taking a position contrary to the constitution, historical documents and a Supreme Court judgment? How could he argue against the historical documents that say that Article 3(1) was not meant to give Islam a "special position" in Malaysia and that non-Muslims are guaranteed freedom to practise their own religions?

Do we become an Islamic state everytime a prime minister
says so? (Tunku Abdul Rahman pic source:
public domain | Wiki Commons)

To be fair, Mahamad Naser may only be supporting the position of his superiors. After all, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad have all stated that Malaysia is an Islamic state. This is in direct contrast to Tunku Abdul Rahman, our first prime minister, and Tun Hussein Onn, our third, who expressly said that Malaysia is not an Islamic state.
Can the constitution's meaning be changed by prime ministerial decree or popular opinion? If the government says it long enough and loud enough, does that mean we eventually have to accept that Islam being the religion of the federation means it has a special position? And therefore the "peace and harmony" of Islam must be considered first, before the peaceful practice of other religions?
Instead of trying to read meanings into the constitution which were never there, the government should openly and honestly state its intentions. If its position is that Islam should have a special position in the constitution, it should propose constitutional amendments which can then be debated in Parliament. At least Malaysians would then be clear about the government's stand.
If the government is unwilling to attempt to amend the constitution to correctly reflect their position, it should stop manipulating the electorate to accept as fact a constitutional myth unsupported by historical evidence. favicon

Social Contract

The social contract in Malaysia refers to the agreement made by the country's founding fathers in the Constitution. The social contract usually refers to a quid pro quo trade-off through Articles 14–18 of the Constitution, pertaining to the granting of citizenship to the non- Malay people of Malaysia, and Article 153, which grants the Malays special rights and privileges. The term has also been used occasionally to refer to other portions of the Constitution, such as the Article stating that Malaysia is a secular state.
In its typical context related to race relations, the social contract has been heavily criticised by many, including politicians from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, who contend that constant harping on the non-Malays' debt to the Malays for citizenship has alienated them from the country. Such criticisms have met with opposition from the Malay media and the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the largest political party in Barisan Nasional. Many Malays, typically from UMNO, have used the social contract to defend the principle of Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy).

Contractual terms

The Constitution does not explicitly refer to a "social contract" (in terms of citizenship rights and privileges), and no act of law or document has ever fully set out the social contract's terms. Its defenders often refer to the Constitution as setting out the social contract, and the Malaysian founding fathers having agreed to it, although no reference to a "social contract" appears in the Constitution. Instead, the social contract is typically taken to mean an agreement that provides the non-Malay and other non-indigenous peoples of Malaysia (mostly the Chinese Malaysians and Indian Malaysians) with citizenship, in return for their granting special privileges to the Malays and indigenous people of Malaysia, collectively referred to as the Bumiputra (sons of the soil). A higher education Malaysian studies textbook conforming to the government syllabus states: "Since the Malay leaders agreed to relax the conditions for citizenship, the leaders of the Chinese and Indian communities accepted the special position of the Malays as indigenous people of Malaya. With the establishment of Malaysia, the special position status was extended to include the indigenous communities of Sabah and Sarawak." Another description of the social contract declares it to be an agreement that "Malay entitlement to political and administrative authority should be accepted unchallenged, at least for the time being, in return for non-interference in Chinese control of the economy".
The Constitution explicitly grants the Bumiputra reservations of land, quotas in the civil service, public scholarships and public education, quotas for trade licences, and the permission to monopolise certain industries if the government permits. In reality, however, especially after the advent of the Malaysian New Economic Policy (NEP) due to the racial riots of the May 13 Incident which occurred in 1969 when Malays held only 4% of the Malaysian economy, Bumiputra privileges have extended to other areas; quotas are set for Bumiputra equity in publicly traded corporations, and discounts for them on automobiles and real estate ranging from 5% to 15% are mandated.
The Constitution also included elements of Malay tradition as part of the Malaysian national identity. The Malay rulers were preserved, with the head of state, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, drawn from their ranks. Islam would be the national religion, and the Malay language would be the national language. These provisions, along with the economic privileges accorded by Article 153 of the Constitution, made up one half of the bargain, and have been referred to as the Malay Agenda.
Some suggest that this bias towards Malays in education and politics is, in part, a response to the ability of the Chinese Malaysians to secure most of the country's wealth. The Indian Malaysians, as with the Indian Singaporeans, can make a case for being those that lose out the most, although this may be disputed.
The government did roll back the quota system for entry to public universities in 2003 and introduced a policy of " meritocracy". However, this new system was widely criticised by the non-Bumiputras as benefiting the Bumiputras by streaming them into a matriculation programme that featured relatively easy coursework while the non-Bumiputras were forced to sit for the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM, or Malaysia Higher School Certificate). Although in theory non-Bumiputras may enter the matriculation stream, and Bumiputras may sit for the STPM, this rarely occurs in reality. Meritocracy was also criticised by some quarters in UMNO as being discriminatory, as it caused the rural and less-prepared Malays to fall behind in university entrance rates.
The Reid Commission which prepared the framework for the Constitution stated in its report that Article 153, the backbone of the social contract, would be temporary only, and recommended that it be reviewed 15 years after independence. The Commission also said that the article and its provisions would only be necessary to avoid sudden unfair disadvantage to the Malays in competing with other members of Malaysian society, and that the privileges accorded the Malays by the article should be gradually reduced and eventually eliminated. Due to the May 13 Incident, after which a state of emergency was declared, however, 1972, the year that Article 153 was due to be reviewed, passed without incident.
According to the social contract's proponents, in return for the enactment of these originally temporary provisions, non-Malay Malaysians are accorded citizenship under Chapter 1 of Part III of the Constitution. Except for the Bumiputra privileges, non-Bumiputras are otherwise generally regarded as equal to their Bumiputra counterparts, and are accorded all the rights of citizenship as under Part II of the Constitution. In recent years, some have sought to provide Malay citizens with more political rights as per the ketuanan Melayu philosophy. However, most of these ketuanan Melayu proponents argue that their additional rights are already written as law and thus only seek to "defend" them from their opponents.
When he assumed the Presidency of UMNO, Tunku Abdul Rahman (later the first Prime Minister of Malaysia) stated that "...when we (the Malays) fought against the Malayan Union (which upset the position of the Malays' rights) the others took no part in it because they said this is purely a Malay concern, and not theirs. They also indicate that they owe their loyalty to their countries of origin, and for that reason they oppose the Barnes Report to make Malay the national language. If we were to hand over the Malays to these so-called Malayans when their nationality has not been defined there will be a lot of problems ahead of us." However, he continued that "For those who love and feel they owe undivided loyalty to this country, we will welcome them as Malayans. They must truly be Malayans, and they will have the same rights and privileges as the Malays."

Early criticism

Article 153, and thus by extension the social contract, has been a source of controversy since the early days of Malaysia. Singaporean politician Lee Kuan Yew (later the first Prime Minister of Singapore) of the People's Action Party (PAP; its Malaysian branch would later become the Democratic Action Party or DAP) publicly questioned the need for Article 153 in Parliament, and called for a " Malaysian Malaysia". Questioning the social contract, Lee stated: "According to history, Malays began to migrate to Malaysia in noticeable numbers only about 700 years ago. Of the 39 percent Malays in Malaysia today, about one-third are comparatively new immigrants like the secretary-general of UMNO, Dato' Syed Ja'afar Albar, who came to Malaya from Indonesia just before the war at the age of more than thirty. Therefore it is wrong and illogical for a particular racial group to think that they are more justified to be called Malaysians and that the others can become Malaysian only through their favour."
Lee criticised the government's policies by stating that "[t]hey, the Malay, have the right as Malaysian citizens to go up to the level of training and education that the more competitive societies, the non-Malay society, has produced. That is what must be done, isn't it? Not to feed them with this obscurantist doctrine that all they have got to do is to get Malay rights for the few special Malays and their problem has been resolved." He also lamented, "Malaysia — to whom does it belong? To Malaysians. But who are Malaysians? I hope I am, Mr Speaker, Sir. But sometimes, sitting in this chamber, I doubt whether I am allowed to be a Malaysian."
Lee's statements upset many, especially politicians from the Alliance, Barisan Nasional's predecessor. Then Finance Minister Tan Siew Sin of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) called Lee the "greatest, disruptive force in the entire history of Malaysia and Malaya." Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, considered Lee to be too extremist in his views, while other UMNO politicians thought Lee was simply taking advantage of the situation to pander to the Malaysian Chinese.
PAP-UMNO relations were chilled further by the PAP running several candidates in elections on the Malay peninsula, with UMNO retaliating by trying to run candidates on its ticket in Singapore. Eventually, the Tunku decided to ask Singapore, through Lee and some of his closest confidantes, to secede from Malaysia. Eventually, Lee agreed to do so, and Singapore became an independent nation in 1965. The Constitution of Singapore contains an article, Article 152, that names the Malays as "indigenous people" of Singapore and therefore requiring special safeguarding of their rights and privileges as such. However, the article specifies no policies for such safeguarding, and no reference to a "social contract" has ever been made by the political establishment in Singapore.

Present debate

In 2005, the social contract was brought up by Lim Keng Yaik of the Gerakan party in Barisan Nasional. Lim, a Minister in the government, asked for a re-examination of the social contract so that a " Bangsa Malaysia" (literally Malay for a Malaysian race or Malaysian nation) could be achieved. Lim was severely criticised by many Malay politicians, including Khairy Jamaluddin who is Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's son-in-law and Deputy Chairman of the UMNO Youth wing, and Ahmad Shabery Cheek, a prominent Malay Member of Parliament from the state of Terengganu. The Malay press (most of which is owned by UMNO) also ran articles condemning the questioning of the social contract. Lim was adamant, asking in an interview "How do you expect non-Malays to pour their hearts and souls into the country, and to one day die for it if you keep harping on this? Flag-waving and singing the Negaraku (the national anthem) are rituals, while true love for the nation lies in the heart."
A year earlier, Abdullah had given a speech where he mentioned the most "significant aspect" of the social contract as "the agreement by the indigenous peoples to grant citizenship to the immigrant Chinese and Indians". However, Abdullah went on to state that "the character of the nation" changed to "one that Chinese and Indian citizens could also call their own". However, the speech went largely unremarked.
In the end, Lim stated that the Malay press had blown his comments out of proportion and misquoted him. The issue ended with UMNO Youth chief and Education Minister Hishamuddin Hussein warning people not to "bring up the issue again as it has been agreed upon, appreciated, understood and endorsed by the Constitution."
Earlier that year, Hishamuddin had waved the keris (traditional Malay dagger) at the UMNO Annual General Meeting, warning non-Malays not to threaten "Malay rights" and to question the social contract. This was applauded by the UMNO delegates, but widely ridiculed in the Malaysian blogosphere.
Other politicians, mostly from opposition parties, have also criticised the NEP and its provisions, but refrained from directly criticising the social contract or Article 153 of the Constitution. Former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) promised he would roll back the NEP if he ever gained power, and many from the Democratic Action Party (DAP) have also spoken out against the NEP. They criticised the NEP as benefiting only a small portion of Malays, mostly well-connected and urban, while ignoring the rural and poor Malays, and noted that the NEP's avowed goal was to give the Malays a 30% share in the country's economic equity, regardless of whether only a few or many Malays held this share. The DAP has been particular in arguing it does not question Article 153 or the social contract, but merely seeks to abolish inequitable policies such as the NEP.
Article 10 (4) of the Constitution permits the government to ban the questioning of Article 153, and thus the social contract; indeed, the Sedition Act does illegalise such questioning. The Internal Security Act (ISA) also permits the government to detain anybody it desires for practically an infinite period of time, and many, including politicians from the DAP such as Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh have been held under the ISA; it is widely believed this was because of their vehement criticism of Malay privileges.
More recently, some commentators have remarked on younger Malaysians chafing at the terms of the social contract. One wrote that "half a century on, younger non-Malays especially feel they were not parties to deals and contracts (at the time of independence) and should not be beholden to them." In 2006, several non-Malay parties in the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition called for a reexamination of the social contract; Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's refusal to do so reportedly triggered "much consternation". Abdullah was quoted in the Malay media as saying: "If we change this balance and if we are forced to meet all over again on the rights of every group, it will not be the same as now. It would be far from satisfactory. Whatever the new formula, it will not succeed because the old formula is enough, is already maximum. As everyone had agreed to this before, why do we want to disturb this and meet again?"
That year, at the UMNO General Assembly, several delegates criticised other members of the government coalition for criticising the social contract and ketuanan Melayu. One stated that "If they question our rights, then we should question theirs. So far we have not heard the Malays questioning their right to citizenship when they came in droves from other countries." Others argued that the Bumiputra communities continued to lag behind the rest of the country economically, and called for stronger measures in line with the social contract. One delegate, Hashim Suboh, made headlines when he asked Hishammuddin, who had brandished the kris again, " Datuk Hisham has unsheathed his keris, waved his keris, kissed his keris. We want to ask Datuk Hisham when is he going to use it?" Hashim said that "force must be used against those who refused to abide by the social contract", provoking criticism from the DAP, which accused him of sedition.

13th May 1969

The collaboration of the MCA and the MIC in these policies weakened their hold on the Chinese and Indian electorates. At the same time, the effects of the government’s affirmative action policies of the 1950s and ‘60s had been to create a discontented class of educated but underemployed Malays. This was a dangerous combination, and led to the formation of a new party, the Malaysian People’s Movement (Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia) in 1968. Gerakan was a deliberately non-communal party, bringing in Malay trade unionists and intellectuals as well as Chinese and Indian leaders. At the same time, an Islamist party, the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) and a Chinese socialist party, the Democratic Action Party (DAP), gained increasing support, at the expense of UMNO and the MCA respectively.
At the May 1969 federal elections, the UMNO-MCA-MIC Alliance polled only 48 percent of the vote, although it retained a majority in the legislature. The MCA lost most of the Chinese-majority seats to Gerakan or DAP candidates. The victorious opposition celebrated by holding a motorcade on the main streets of Kuala Lumpur with supporters holding up brooms as a signal of its intention to make sweeping changes. Fear of what the changes might mean for them (as much of the country's businesses were Chinese owned), a Malay backlash resulted, leading rapidly to riots and inter-communal violence in which about 6,000 Chinese homes and businesses were burned and at least 184 people were killed. The government declared a state of emergency, and a National Operations Council, headed by the Deputy Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, took power from the government of Tunku Abdul Rahman, who in September 1970 was forced to retire in favour of Abdul Razak.
Using the Emergency-era Internal Security Act (ISA), the new government suspended Parliament and political parties, imposed press censorship and placed severe restrictions on political activity. The ISA gave the government power to intern any person indefinitely without trial. These powers were widely used to silence the government’s critics, and have never been repealed. The Constitution was changed to make illegal any criticism, even in Parliament, of the Malaysian monarchy, the special position of Malays in the country, or the status of Malay as the national language.
In 1971 Parliament reconvened, and a new government coalition, the National Front (Barisan Nasional), took office. This included UMNO, the MCA, the MIC, the much weakened Gerakan, and regional parties in Sabah and Sarawak. The DAP was left outside as the only significant opposition party. The PAS also joined the Front but was expelled in 1977. Abdul Razak held office until his death in 1976. He was succeeded by Datuk Hussein Onn, the son of UMNO’s founder Onn Jaafar, and then by Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, who had been Education Minister since 1981, and who held power for 22 years. During these years policies were put in place which led to the rapid transformation of Malaysia’s economy and society.

Article 153 of the Malaysian Constitution and article 10 para 4.4

Article 153 grants the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, or King of Malaysia, responsibility for safeguarding the special position of the Malay and other indigenous peoples of Malaysia, collectively referred to as Bumiputra and the legitimate interests of all the other communities. The article specifies how the King may protect the interest of these groups by establishing quotas for entry into the civil service, public scholarships and public education.
Originally there was no reference made to other indigenous peoples of Malaysia (then Malaya) such as the Orang Asli, but with the union of Malaya with Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak in 1963, the Constitution was amended so as to provide similar privileges for the indigenous peoples of East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak), grouping them with the Malays as Bumiputra.
The scope of Article 153 is limited by Article 136, which requires that civil servants be treated impartially regardless of race. Clause 5 of article 153 specifically reaffirms article 136 of the constitution which states: All persons of whatever race in the same grade in the service of the Federation shall, subject to the terms and conditions of their employment, be treated impartially.
Clause 9 of article 153 states Nothing in this Article shall empower Parliament to restrict business or trade solely for the purpose of reservations for Malays.
The Reid Commission suggested that these provisions would be temporary in nature and be revisited in 15 years, and that a report should be presented to the appropriate legislature (currently the Parliament of Malaysia) and that the "legislature should then determine either to retain or to reduce any quota or to discontinue it entirely."
Under Article 153, and due to the 13th May 1969 riots, the New Economic Policy was introduced. The NEP aimed to eradicate poverty irrespective of race by expanding the economic pie so that the Chinese share of the economy would not be reduced in absolute terms but only relatively. The aim was for the Malays to have a 30% equity share of the economy, as opposed to the 4% they held in 1970. Foreigners and Chinese held much of the rest.[10]
The NEP appeared to be derived from Article 153 and could be viewed as being in line with its wording. Although Article 153 would have been up for review in 1972, fifteen years after Malaysia's independence in 1957, due to the May 13 Incident it remained unreviewed. A new expiration date of 1991 for the NEP was set, twenty years after its implementation.[11]
However, the NEP was said to have failed to have met its targets and was continued under a new policy called the National Development Policy.

Article 10 (4) states that Parliament may pass law prohibiting the questioning of any matter, right, status, position, privilege, sovereignty or prerogative established or protected by the provisions of Part III, article 152, 153 or 181 of the constitution.
Several acts of law regulate the freedoms granted by Article 10, such as the Official Secrets Act, which makes it a crime to disseminate information classified as an official secret.
The Sedition Act 1948 makes it an offence to engage in acts with a "seditious tendency", including but not limited to the spoken word and publications; conviction may result in a sentence of a fine up to RM5,000, three years in jail, or both.
The Public Order (Preservation) Ordinance 1958 allows the Police to declare certain areas "restricted", and to regulate processions or meetings of five persons or more. The maximum sentence for the violation of a restricted area order is imprisonment of 10 years and whipping.[7]
Other laws curtailing the freedoms of Article 10 are the Police Act 1967, which criminalises the gathering of three or more people in a public place without a licence, and the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, which grants the Home Affairs Minister "absolute discretion" in the granting and revoking of publishing permits, and also makes it a criminal offense to possess a printing press without a licence.[8]
The Sedition Act in particular has been widely commented upon by jurists for the bounds it places on freedom of speech. Justice Raja Azlan Shah (later the Yang di-Pertuan Agong) once said:
The right to free speech ceases at the point where it comes within the mischief of the Sedition Act.[9]

An UMNO nobody.... what a pity....

Question: What happens to an Umno Youth chief without a position in the administration and without the ability to deliver patronage to the troops on the ground?
The answer: Rumblings among his exco members about the “lack of direction” and his “leadership” skills grows louder by the day.
Question: What happens to an Umno Youth chief who suffers from the perception that he does not have a direct line to the Prime Minister?
Answer: Exco members aligned to his rivals push the view that he is incapable of furthering the interest of the movement.
Question: What happens to an Umno Youth chief who cannot match the right-wing rhetoric and posturing of more hardline Malay leaders in the party or non-governmental organisations?
Answer: He finds his fitness and ability to lead the wing being questioned by his enemies or their agents.
This is where Khairy Jamaluddin finds himself today. Several blogs and websites have reported that he is in danger of becoming a casualty of a mutiny by Umno exco members or is under seige from exco members unhappy with his leadership.
The Malaysian Insider understands that several exco members asked Khairy some tough questions over the past few days, several linked to his lukewarm ties with Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and several about his inability to deliver the goods for wing members.
At this stage, there is little possibility of Khairy being forced out as youth chief. The reasons: he also has his supporters in the exco and the party does not have the appetite for another election.
But there is little doubt that this is an uncomfortable time for the son-in-law of former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. His statements condemning attacks on places of worship and his more moderate stance has put him at odds with the hawks in Umno.
Perhaps more disadvantageous for Khairy has been his inability to dish out contracts or largesse to his hungry men. His supporters have always felt that without a position in the administration and the absence of a protector in the shape of Najib, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin or other senior Umno officials, Khairy would be hard pressed to satisfy exco members and youth wing members who need cash payments or contracts to oil their operations.
An Umno Youth official told The Malaysian Insider: “A lot of exco members are hurting. They have spent funds on their political careers and need help financially. In such a situation, they expect their leader to be the benefactor.”
In Umno as in other political parties, only those with power are feared and revered. Unfortunately for Khairy, he is suffering from the perception that since he does have the ear of Najib or Muhyiddin, he is a leader without power. This perception has emboldened several of his exco members to take pot-shots at him and discredit his leadership publicly.
The attacks are likely to cease after Najib meets the Umno Youth exco next month. But this will only come as respite for the youth leader who does not have what his members respect: the power and the ability to dish out largesse.
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