Judging by his latest statements, UMNO Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin has dropped all pretence of being a “moderate” or “liberal” and shown the world that he is not immune to the arrogance and racialism that is plaguing his party.

The job of leaders is to lead. Leading, in turn, means moving your people forward. It means educating and elevating them, rather than pandering to their imaginary fears and resentments.

UMNO, judging by the recent statements and actions of their leaders like Najib Razak and Khairy, prefers do to the latter.

It would appear that they want to see Malaysians, especially the Malay community, afraid rather than confident and outward-looking.

They would rather have division between the various groups in our society than unity and cohesiveness.

In reneging the promised repeal of the Sedition Act, they have shown that they do not trust the people to think for themselves.

The era of “government knows best” is alive and well in Malaysia today, with the once-trumpeted promises of “reform” as well as “transformation” nothing but a cruel joke.

There is nothing—as many UMNO leaders have said—wrong with talking about the Malay community’s problems and needs.

But it is also wrong to frame these issues in terms of “us vs. them.”

It is dangerous and downright irresponsible—as many UMNO leaders have also done—to depict the many ills, whether political socio-economic or religious affecting the Malays today are—as the fault of other communities.

At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own destinies.

And it is dead wrong to believe that moving the Malays forward can only be done by intimidating or relegating our fellow Malaysians to second-class status.

This sort of thinking is outdated and does us no credit as Malays or Muslims.

The Malays have a choice. On the one hand, we can retreat even further from our fellow Malaysians and global trends.

The other involves us embracing the reality that our country as well as the world we live in is changing and that we must change too, with all its difficulties and contradictions.

And to do so involves journeying together with our fellow Malaysians of all races and religions.

I believe the first approach will lead us to stagnation and decline. The other, though hard, will guarantee our future.

In a time when our country and our people need leadership in making such choices, it would appear that the UMNO elite would prefer to have us divided along the same tired old lines.

They seem more interested in putting their own political fortunes first over that of the interests of the community and the country.

Malaysians certainly deserve better than this.

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