It’s the eve of nomination day (Feb 23). Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin, 32, and his campaign team have descended on Rembau, Negeri Sembilan, to prepare for nomination and to press the flesh. The Barisan Nasional Youth deputy chairman and Rembau Umno Youth chief will be contesting for the parliamentary seat here. Danny Lim tags along to observe how the first-time general election candidate touches base with local folk. He managed to get a quick exclusive interview during a kenduri at Khairy’s family home in Kampung Gadong, Rembau, today. The following is an excerpt from that interview (more to come later).
What kind of issues would you like to push if you win the election and become a parliamentarian?
I’d like to have a clear discussion on inter-ethnic relations and where we’re going in the future… talk about places of worship for non-Muslims, talk about the whole issue of how non-Muslims feel. It will take some time, we need to convince non-Muslims we’re sincere about this and we have to convince the Malays, especially in Umno, that this doesn’t threaten them.
How do you propose to do that?
We have to be able to strengthen ourselves first to make people believe us. Sometimes it’s how you sequence it. Sometimes people see what I do and they don’t understand it. But we must strengthen ourselves to our base first, and then they’ll go with us where we want to take them. But if you don’t strengthen your base, and you suddenly give them all these ideas which are alien to them… nobody’s going to follow you.
At heart I think I’m a moderate Malaysian politician. My views are not urban, they’re not liberal, they’re modern and perhaps progressive. They are borne of somebody who lives in urban areas, but after nine years in politics, it’s been tempered by what I’ve seen in the countryside and rural areas, it’s been tempered by certain realities of politics on the ground. And while the idealism remains, I’ve had to look beyond the three square miles that is Bangsar and Coffee Bean. For a lot of armchair writers and critics, that is their world. That isn’t my world. My world is from Padang Besar, straight down to Pontian all the way to Kota Belut in Sabah.
We need greater empathy. Just as much as Umno needs to empathise more with non-Muslims who feel threatened today by what they perceive as encroaching Islamism and all that, at the same time, the Chinese community has to empathise also with the Malay community who still has a hang-up about economic achievement, who still needs assistance, who still cherishes the NEP (New Economic Policy).
After all this, I hope to sit down and write something about empathy and that is the greatest value or virtue that Malaysians need going forward.