By Shanon Shah
KUALA LUMPUR, 14 Oct 2009: In a bold and surprising move, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin has called for his party to ditch "Malay dominance" and replace it with "Malay leadership" in order to reframe its nationalist agenda.
"We can continue with the chest-thumping rhetoric, warning other races never to challenge this or that ... But, we must ask ourselves, is this what Malaysians — Malays included — really want from Umno?" he said in his maiden policy speech as Youth chief today.
Speaking at the Youth meeting at the party's 60th general assembly, Khairy also urged Malay Malaysians to defend the rights of all Malaysians, saying this would only encourage mutual respect.
Khairy's is a departure from his predecessor Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein's speeches. Hishammuddin invited public wrath by unsheathing the keris at two consecutive Umno Youth assemblies and defending "ketuanan Melayu".
Hishammuddin later apologised to non-Malay Malaysians for making them uncomfortable with this gesture following the Barisan Nasional's bruising defeat at the March 2008 general election.
Khairy this morning, instead, called for Malay Malaysians to abandon the perception that Malay rights and privileges were constantly being challenged.
"Undeniably, we consider Article 153 [of the Federal Constitution], which guarantees the special position of Malay [Malaysians] and [bumiputera] as sacrosanct. However, if we scratch beneath the surface, we would find that it is almost impossible for Article 153 to be stripped from the [constitution], as it would require the approval of two-thirds of Parliament," he said.
Khairy went on to say that Article 153 alone could not determine the well-being and development of the Malay race. He said instead the abilities and achievements of Malay Malaysians would cement their race's prestige.
The idea was also taken up by Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek in November 2008 but Hishammuddin vilified him for it, saying Chua should just join the opposition instead. A Malay rights group also demanded that Chua apologise for "inciting" Malay Malaysians, and Chua came under fire in the Malay-language press.
Some of the same
Khairy presented this unexpected departure from the usual ultra-Malay nationalist script expected of Umno Youth in the second half of his speech. The first half was spent praising Prime Minister and party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak's 1Malaysia concept.
He also spent some time attacking the component parties of the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition.
"PAS steered away from its original core when the Islamic state ceased to be a key party agenda," he said, to raucous cheers from the more than 500-strong Youth delegation.
He accused the DAP of being mono-racial in character with "the chimera of a multi-racial platform — when it truth, DAP's priorities are unmistakably racial".
He also criticised Parti Keadilan Rakyat for being a party without an ideology, which was focused more on the personality of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
"Anwar tries to position himself as many things: the voice of the marginalised, a champion of Islam, the Malay [Malaysians] and human rights. But is this truly Anwar Ibrahim, or is his political struggle motivated solely by personal ambitions?" he said, to thunderous applause and jeers of "pungkok (backside)" and "dia cucuk dari belakang".The crowd went silent during the second half of Khairy's speech, which called for a more inclusive Umno Youth, but greeted his conclusion with a standing ovation and shouts of "Hidup Umno!".