KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 18 — With less than two months before the departure of Prime Minister and Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi, his son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin said Tuesday night the transition of power to Datuk Seri Najib Razak scheduled for early April must be followed by promised reforms.
His opponents in the race for the coveted Umno Youth chief position, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir and Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo, also spoke on the need for reforms to Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) in a nationally televised debate Tuesday night.
But all three contenders agreed that the country's affirmative action policies favouring the Malays would have to be continued because they felt the community was still lagging behind economically.
“Do not think that the transition of power will solve everything. The transition is just like laying the foundation. Without reform, the transition will be meaningless,” said Khairy.
The Rembau MP was responding to a question from the host, Dr Agus Yusof on the reason why Umno performed badly in the general election last year, to which Khairy replied that the Malay nationalist party still managed to retain most of its support base.
The three candidates were subjected to a series of tough questions including one on which they were asked to comment on Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's Ketuanan Rakyat slogan.
“I am concerned that this Ketuanan Rakyat means Malays and other races, Islam and other religions will be placed on a level footing. The fact is Malays have a special position while Islam is the constitutional religion,” Dr Mohd Khir said, in what appeared to be an attempt to appeal to the more conservative Malay ground.
“The social contract is not unfair. I challenge those who do not agree to get into Parliament and change the Constitution then.”
Khairy said Umno's failure to maintain the support level it enjoyed in the 2004 election was because the party has failed to deliver on the promises of change it had made.
“We must return to the message of hope in 2004. In 2008 we failed because we failed to manage our biggest victory ever,” said Khairy.
Mukhriz promised to emulate the leadership qualities of his father Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who ruled Malaysia for 22 years, while Khir said Umno needs to return to the foundation which it was formed which is defending the Malay rights and Islam.
The Selangor Opposition Leader attributed the party's poor performance in the last election to its failuare to defend Islam and the Malays.
“When we are seen not to be fighting for religion, those who are religious would support Pas,” said Khir.
He added that the scheduled transition must emulate the similar hand over of power that took place after 1969 when the then Alliance lost its two-thirds majority in the Parliament.
“The renewal led to Pas joining the Barisan Nasional,” said Khir.
Both Mukhriz and Khir also expressed their disappointment at the government for not invoking the Internal Security Act when dealing with street protestors.
The Jerlun MP said the high number of protests led to BN losing the two by-elections.
Khir said that ISA would stop the proliferation of street protest.
“In the case of Karpal Singh, where more than 100 reports have been lodged, but no action has been taken. This is the root of people's disappointment leading to street demonstration,” said Khir referring to the treason allegation against the DAP chairman.