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Youth Issue: Nur Jazlan and Khairy’s suggestion must be seriously considered by UMNO

I welcome the call by Pulai MP Nur Jazlan Mohamed for the setting of an age cap of 40 years for the position of UMNO Youth Chief.

According to a Malaysian Insider report on 17 August 2014, the proposal is to make the UMNO Youth more attractive to young Malaysians.

This follows UMNO Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin’s suggestion that 30 percent of the ruling party’s candidates for the next General Election be under the age of 40.

All these suggestions are worthy of serious consideration by the UMNO leadership.

While age is just a number and experience should never be scorned, the fact is that young people are most effective and engaged when led by their own.

It was with this in mind that the KEADILAN Youth Wing, AMK, choose to set an age limit of 35 for our movement. This is the same with DAP Socialist Youth.

At the same time, KEADILAN and our Pakatan Rakyat allies have never shied away from fielding relatively young Malaysians in General Elections or for party positions.

It is good that UMNO is finally waking up to the need to engage younger Malaysians—however belatedly.

While any potential age limit is UMNO’s own business, I would like to humbly submit that even 40 is perhaps too old. The Malaysian Youth Council once demanded the age limit of youth lowered from 40 years old, while the UN definition places the youth age limits as from 15 to 24 years old.

For young people anywhere in the world, the difference of a few years can be decisive in terms of values, goals and outlooks.

It hence might be very difficult for say, a 38- or 40-year old to truly understand the mind-sets or needs of 20- or even 25-year olds.

This is something that leaders must take into account—not only in politics.

There have been many cases in the past of youth organizations in Malaysia being led by much older individuals.

Moreover, there have also been instances of alleged or perceived mismanagement and factionalism in such bodies.

Almost nothing has been done—at least judging by what is available on the public record—to ameliorate this state of affairs.

While Khairy has understandably been engaged with sports-related matters as of late, he cannot forget that his job title is that of “Minister of Youth and Sports.”

He hence ought to also be working to improve conditions and bring about reform in the other half of his portfolio.

There are precious few organisations and initiatives in Malaysia today that truly bring young people together as well as cater to their needs.

And if he cannot do so—UMNO leaders like Nur Jazlan—should explain why their party has not been able to support him in this.

But when all is said and done, all this talk of engaging the youth is pointless in light of the fact that Malaysian students—both at home and abroad—who show interest in public affairs and independence in thought are still being subjected to harassment and vilification.

Young Malaysians certainly deserve more than just lip service and cosmetic changes.