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For Umno’s survival, Khairy appeals for change

 | November 30, 2011

This includes the need to shed the usual "hardline" and often hawkish skin that had so often characterised the wing in the past.

UPDATED

KUALA LUMPUR: Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin today said a shift towards a progressive mindset was key to the party’s survival amid preparations for a pivotal battle ahead in the coming polls.

Speaking before delegates at what is to be the wing’s last annual general assembly before Umno heads into elections, the Rembau MP said it was his wing’s duty to ensure Prime Minister and party chief Najib Tun Razak’s reform efforts are reflected in their struggle.

This includes the need to shed the usual “hardline” and often hawkish skin that had so often characterised the wing in the past and shift towards “transition and openness”.

“If we are slow to transform, the people will not forgive us,” he said, adding that a major factor in deciding the results of the next general election will be the group of young voters that make up 40% of the electorate.

Khairy is seen as among the few progressive Umno leaders fully backing Najib’s “liberal” reform efforts, including the supposed initiatives to improve civil liberties.

Although the sincerity of the reform pledges, including lifting bans on student politics and abolishing the Internal Security Act have been subject to opposition scrutiny, Umno’s willingness to consider introducing changes by itself suggested progress in the right wing party.

Khairy, capitalising on this, said the Najib administration’s transformation programme was a “bold step borne out of a strong leadership committed to the change agenda”.

He criticised Umno’s old strong-armed doctrine, calling for Umno members to acknowledge the need for a more just and accountable governance.

“On the question of politics, the old worldview contained a simple logic: might is right. Force and might underpinned our actions in the past. When faced with problems, our immediate response was to arrest and jail people.

“When confronted with challenges, we literally ‘banned’ them. This Cold War mentality might have served well in decades gone by but the realities of the present demand a more measured and transparent approach”.

Pakatan under attack

His reform tone, however, came amid what is seen as a regressive backdrop when Umno deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin was again perceived to have used the racial card  in a bid to raise Malay support.

In his opening speech yesterday, the deputy prime minister warned against Malays “losing power on their own soil” if they voted for Pakatan Rakyat which he claimed would sell the country’s ethnic majority off for power.

Observers say the steady decline of non-Malay support towards Umno and Barisan Nasional, despite Najib’s vigorous efforts to win multi-racial “Middle Malaysia”, have forced the Malay party to resort to racial rhetoric in an attempt to strengthen support from the ethnic majority that has helped it stay in power.

Although Khairy made no reference to this, he too attacked the opposition in his speech and said that voting Pakatan into power “would spell the destruction of the country”.


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