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Khairy returning to his keris-waving days

I refer to the comments by the Minister of Youth and Sports and UMNO Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin.

Khairy was responding to comments by KEADILAN Vice-President and Padang Serai MP N Surendran on PM Najib Razak’s recent speech on empowering the Bumiputera community.

Surendran had criticised the plan, leading Khairy to state—as per an Utusan report on 15 September 2013—that: “’Kenyataannya keterlaluan. Dia seolah-olah tidak membenarkan kewujudan agensi seperti MARA dan TEKUN. Saya kesal dengan tindakannya itu apatah lagi sebagai Naib Presiden parti. Jika begini sikap pemimpin PKR, tidak mustahil jika mereka berpeluang memerintah negara ini pasti agensi yang mengutamakan orang Melayu dan bumiputera dihapuskan demi kononnya mahu menyamaratakan dengan kaum lain.”

First of all, Surendran was not in any way criticising the idea of the need to empower the Bumiputera community, nor was he questioning the various institutions set up to bring this about—including MARA and TEKUN.

What Surendran was taking issue rather was this UMNO-BN government’s terrible approach and record in this regard.

By the PM’s own admission, the Bumiputera community has still a long way to go before they can stand on their own feet economically.

The PM in his speech too mentioned that this was “to reward” the Bumiputera community’s support for BN in the last election – a clear sign of the PM’s ignorance on constitutional government and democracy.

The frustration and dismay of all Malaysians—Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera—is understandable as the country continues to go around in circles because of this Government’s continued failures in this regard.

What Khairy, nor his colleagues in UMNO seem to fail to understand, is that it should be possible for all Malaysians to support the need for the economic empowerment of the Bumiputera and yet still be critical about how this Government—indeed any Government—has gone about it.

It should also be possible for people to call on this Government to help the poor and disadvantaged from all Malaysian communities, without being condemned as a seditionist or rabble-rouser.

Khairy’s comments are part of a larger pattern among the UMNO-BN elite which refuses to tolerate any criticism of themselves, regardless of how justified it may be.

It is also unfortunate that Khairy attempts to hide behind the Federal Constitution to justify the controversial aspects of his Government’s approach to Bumiputera empowerment—which has unfortunately seemed to have only benefitted a well-connected few.

As Surendran stated in his statement—the much talked-about Article 153 of the Constitution provides for the safeguarding of the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities.

It is a shame that on this Malaysia Day—the 50th when our country should be coming together—that UMNO continues to seek to divide our society and create hostility between the various ethnic and religious groups.

It is also very worrying that Malaysians appear to have been saddled with a Minister of Youth and Sports who is also supposedly a “liberal” and “moderate”, but who inexplicably appears to not know and understand the Federal Constitution despite accusing the others of the same.

This seems to be a reminder of Khairy’s keris-waving days.

In 2007, Anwar Ibrahim made history and moved the country’s discourse forward when he announced the Malaysian Economic Agenda. This bold vision for Malaysia combines meritocracy and non-racial affirmative action as the way forward to become a developed nation.

Najib Razak then tried to hijack the idea with his 1Malaysia and New Economic Model policies, both of which has proven to be mere spin and have failed miserably in uniting the rakyat and bringing greater prosperity to all.

Does Khairy dare to debate on which is a better policy – a race based or non-race based affirmative action?