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Khairy pans 'PN media stereotype'

The once rising star in Umno says the opposition coalition has made substantial arguments but that the media is only interested in issues of race and religion.

Staff Writers
3 minute read
Former Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.
Former Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.

Former Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin has disagreed with the belief that Perikatan Nasional (PN) is only geared towards the narrative of race and religion in its role as the opposition, adding however that the coalition should do more to promote the leaders in its shadow cabinet announced last month.

Khairy said the claim that PN MPs were only interested in "narrow racial issues" was a stereotype enforced by the media's selectiveness in highlighting debates in the Dewan Rakyat.

On the contrary, he said, PN had many capable leaders who had been bringing up subtantial topics and fact-based arguments.

"I believe that on both the PN and the PH (Pakatan Harapan) side, there must be serious and constructive debate which does not receive publicity as it does not touch on sensitive issues," Khairy, who was expelled from Umno for criticising its president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, said in the latest espisode of "Keluar Sekejap". 

"So when PN as the opposition raises issues related to the Malays and Islam, that becomes the headline because that's something newsworthy." 

Khairy said his own observation of parlimentary debates had found that many PN MPs raised serious issues such as investments and economic strategies.

He was responding to his co-host, former Umno man Shahril Hamdan, who suggested that PN MPs were more interested in championing Malay issues.

"I think you are being a bit hard. It's easy to stereotype that this is PN, so they will talk about religion and race and nothing else. 

"But if we look more in depth, I think they have MPs of calibre who have done their homework on other issues as well," he said. 

Khairy added however that PN had much to improve in terms of branding, saying little had been done to ride on its shadow cabinet, which he described as a first for Malaysia.

The shadow cabinet was unveiled last month by PN chairman Muhyiddin Yassin, who said it wanted to keep checks and balances in order to be an effective opposition.

It included Putrajaya MP Radzi Jidin, in charge of the finance and economy portfolio, Kota Bharu MP Takiyuddin Hassan for home affairs, and Indera Mahkota MP Saifuddin Abdullah for education.

All three served as ministers during PN's time in two federal governments before the general election last year. 

Khairy said PH and Barisan Nasional had formed committees when they were in the opposition. 

But he said that PN's shadow cabinet was the closest to the system in place in the UK, where individuals are clearly identified as shadow ministers.

"If I were in PN, I would boost the image of these shadow ministers so that the people know who they are," he said. 

He added that the Prime Minister's Question Time in the Dewan Rakyat should be fully utilised by the opposition to show what it can offer as an alternative government.

Khairy also disagreed with Shahril's remarks that PN had been reactionary in its role, citing the attacks on the government over political appointments, as well as Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's failure to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his recent official visit to Saudi Arabia.

He said PN's strategy of attacking the government over issues was an effective way of providing checks and balances. 

"I think for now, it is enough for the role of checks and balances, to attack issues and return to their experience, because many in the shadow cabinet are former ministers," he said. 

"(They) say that the promises made have not been fulfilled. For example, Tuan Ibrahim has frequently raised the issue of flood mitigation in Parliament, and Takiyuddin has brought up issues of governance in the home ministry, laws, and so on."

Non-Malay support

Khairy meanwhile agreed that the lack of non-Malay support for PN could pose a problem in the formation of a federal government, adding however that it would hold the fort in several states and perhaps capture more. 

Describing PN's non-Malay component Gerakan as "very minimal", Khairy said PN should find ways to attract a party from the outside with a track record of championing races other than the Malays.

He added however that the same argument could be used against PH.

"As long as PH does not get more than 20% of Malay support, it can form the government but a very fragile one.

"And it cannot form the government on its own. That's the counterargument," he said.