Sunday, November 26, 2006

Khairy Rationalises

This year's UMNO General Assembly has raised a great deal of concern and controversy in ethnic relations in this country. Khairy Jamaluddin, my fellow alumnus and UMNO Youth Deputy Head, defends the "jingoistic chest thumping" ringing in the Putra World Trade Centre.

Firstly, he admits that the verbal assault made by UMNO delegates on the other communities in Malaysia did indeed hurt feelings and raise concerns about the future of race relations in Malaysia.
These issues, no doubt, channelled into a crescendo of powerful oratory, one or two of which crossed the boundaries of ethno-nationalism into jingoistic chest thumping. This has led to alarm bells of communal tension ringing, with many understandably concerned about the future of race relations in Malaysia.
He then defends the atmosphere and conduct of the General Assembly on 2 key reasons. Firstly, it is the very basis of the Barisan Nasional ethnically divided component parties to fight for the rights of its own community.
This is to be expected because the raison d’etre for individual communal parties like Umno, MCA and MIC is our "struggle" or perjuangan for our respective communities.
And secondly, he argued that this year's General Assembly is no more or no less racially and emotionally charged as previous years. And hence given that in the past, there wasn't such a furious reaction, why should there be one for the recently concluded Assembly?
When I checked with several other more experienced Umno figures if my impression that the debate this year was no more, no less emotionally charged than those in the past, they agreed based on historical perspectives that far outstretch mine...

Simply put, no matter how emotionally charged the assemblies have been in the past — whether Umno, MCA or MIC meetings — at the end of the day, the government that all the BN component parties represent has never abandoned the moderate centre in our political spectrum.
That's where Khairy's wrong on both counts.

Firstly, even if I were to agree with an ethnically divided approach to governing the country (which I don't), there's a fine but simple difference between protecting the interest of one's own community as opposed to threatening the other ethnic groups with keris and blood.

Secondly, the fact that the members of UMNO have been in the wrong year in year out without any untoward incidents to date is definitely not an excuse for the wrongs to be perpetuated indefinitely. In the past, "untoward incidents" may not have arisen purely because of limited and controlled access to the media. However, with a more educated community, better greater information access and even live telecasts via cable TV - should we wait patiently towards a national disaster?

To put it simply, just because I can evade detection beating red-lights on a daily basis is no justification for me to continue breaking the law.

Finally, Khairy attempted to exonerate all the wrongs of the assembly, by claiming the Prime Minister demonstrated leadership in the face of "a few days of charged rhetoric".
Leadership is when you let everything that needs to be said, out in the open, but have the credibility, moral authority and courage to bring everyone back to the centre, to smooth the frayed edges, to soothe raw nerves and to turn charged emotions into a positive energy with a purpose not just for Malays but for Malaysians.
Wrong. Leadership is when you demonstrate an even but firm hand on those who have crossed the line to ensure that such irresponsible acts are never repeated again. Leadership is when you demonstrate to the other communities that you not only say what you mean, but also mean what you say.

Given the nervousness of the other communities and even Malays themselves, the other Barisan Nasional component parties, are forced to go to the grassroots to explain on behalf of UMNO. Clearly, the Prime Minister has failed in his task "to smooth the frayed edges, to soothe raw nerves and to turn charged emotions into a positive energy."

Khairy has to rationalise better than that. And there's no better way to do that than to be rational himself.
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