PETALING JAYA: Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam finds the Umno Youth election results refreshing, saying the re-election of Khairy Jamaluddin as the movement’s chief signifies progress among the youth.
The Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) director said Khairy’s re-election reflects a “lively democracy” in Umno which will lead to a more “progressive, enlightened policies and an assurance of more effective leadership”.
“I am impressed with his choice because he is not an extremist Umno type. He is a moderate and he is more Malaysian in his outlook than many other senior Umno leaders.
“It’s a good sign; it augurs well for the future because it shows that the youth favour a moderate, balanced and intellectual leader who is not a nationalist Malay or bumiputera,” he said when contacted by fz.com yesterday.
“And that is the kind of leadership and culture we need at the moment — more Malaysian than race-based,” Navaratnam, who is also the chairman of Asli’s Centre for Public Policy Studies, said.
However, Navaratnam’s impression of Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil’s re-election as Wanita Umno chief was more along the lines of “lesser of two evils”.
“If there were no scandals (among Umno leaders) then she would be in trouble. But there are so many scandals and financial mismanagement which the Auditor General’s Report highlighted recently.
“So, a lot of delegates would ask, ‘what else is new’?” Navaratnam said when asked to comment on Shahrizat’s victory despite the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) skeleton lying in her closet.
“Most of them are the same and some, worse than others. So, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. They (some Umno leaders) are seen to be corrupt and not in non-compliance with good governance, so it is a matter of degree between who is better and who is worse.
“That’s why she hasn’t paid her price. But if everyone was clean and she stands out then she would have lost. But as she herself has said: ‘Allegations of impropriety against me, what about others?’
“So she was proven right. When it comes to politics, the choice is always a lesser of two evils,” Navaratnam said.
He further pointed out that the problem stems from the grassroot voters who are not trained or exposed to better governance at the local government level, thus, they do not exercise their power to vote responsibly due to lack of experience.
“Choices like this always relate to the overall environment, that’s why we need local government elections. Otherwise you will have competitive choices but not the best choices,” he said.
Wanita PKR chief Zuraida Kamaruddin also questioned the Umno women wing’s choice of leader, wondering whether they are aware of the implications of their decision.
She was unapologetically scathing in her remarks, pointing out that Shahrizat should have apologised to the public over the NFC fiasco involving the latter’s husband, Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail.
“How is it possible for a wife whose family members are directors in a public-funded company to be ignorant about large amounts being channelled into her family as personal assets without her knowledge?
“Her husband is the chairman of NFC while their three children hold executive positions in the company,” said Zuraida.
However, a close friend of Shahrizat and senior Wanita Umno member said the final decision still rested with the delegates.
“You may think that they are just makcik-makcik (aunts) from the kampung (village or rural areas). From the last count I heard that Datuk Seri (Shahrizat) had won by a landslide of more than 170 votes.
“We cannot force the delegates to choose Datuk Seri. This shows that they trust Datuk Seri and believe in her work. If they didn’t want her, they would have kicked her out,” said the senior member who requested anonymity.
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This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 14, 2013.