It is difficult for political pundits to ignore claims that Khairy Jamaluddin, the Umno Youth deputy chairman and the prime minister's son-in-law, is one of the most influential youths in the country judging from the headlines he has received in all major newspapers.
His political statements and actions have been closely watched by observers both within and without the country. A number of columnists have hailed him as a future leader who is smart, articulate and confident. In contrast, some of his critics have called him arrogant, nave and overambitious. But his admirers and critics would agree that Khairy has both the influence on and access to the highest echelons of power.
Hence, when Khairy told an Umno Youth division meeting in Kedah that the Chinese Malaysian community is taking an advantage of the current Umno infighting to make demands to advance the community's interest, many Malaysians sat up and took notice of the graveness of his statement. For me, Khairy has finally emerged as an orthodox Umno politician who is willing to embrace the racialist political game to ascend the leadership ladder of his party.
What Khairy has said at that Umno Youth division meeting is not a mere political rhetoric aiming to uplift the spirit of Umno. It is but a dangerous and malicious statement which could worsen the already poor ethnic relations in the country. He is alleging that the 55 years of inter-ethnic collaboration and partnership in the Barisan Nasional has not created a positive and progressive political and social process to promote national unity.
We do not live in a dog-eats-dog world anymore. In the 21st century, forward thinking Malaysians are urging the government to help promoting inter-ethnic collaborations and partnerships to capitalise on our rich diversity in order to compete more effectively against regional competitors.
Moreover, the political dominance of Umno is already an acceptable fact to other component parties in the BN. In fact, most of the non-Malay leaders are concerned of the current spat between several top personalities in Umno which could affect political stability in the country. The ongoing spat is detrimental to our economic performance.
Khairy is correct to note that a weak and unsettled Umno is not good for the country. Most of the public policies, especially the 9th Malaysia Plan, are made solely by the Umno leadership. Hence, we need an Umno that is focused and committed to the country's growth and progress.
While a weak Umno may not be able to chart a clear path for the country's progress, we have experienced a strong Umno which destroyed some of the most pertinent democratic institutions in the country, eg, judiciary, civil society, et cetera. If I may add, we need a responsible and fair Umno and not just a strong Umno.
It is obvious that there is no immediate crisis in Umno despite the sporadic criticisms hurled by the ex-premier, Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Umno is not facing any factional feud. It appears to me that Khairy should spend some valuable time in solving his personal crisis and not drag his party and other component parties into it.
He should refrain from making any wild racial allegations to divert away attention from his own controversies. Being media savvy, he should know that making constant headlines may not always be a good thing.
Khairy is lucky and fortunate that his colleagues in the BN Youth are merely slapping him on his wrist. Many are still willing to acknowledge him as a friend. But he has to do more to convince all Malaysians that he is indeed a leader of substance and is able to lead the country in the 21st century. Being an ethno-nationalist is outdated. We have moved on to embrace globalisation and joined the international community.