First up, here are the headlines that are addressing Khairy’s so-called fall-from-grace as the “voice of reason” in Malaysian politics:
And of course, there’s been a lot of disappointment and I-told-you-so opinions going around in the media and the Facebooks.
We’re going to put this out there right now – this writer always been in awe of Khairy Jamaluddin for his intelligence, liberal views, and dapper fashion sense so news following the 2014 UMNO General Assembly came as a bit of a shock as news portals and blogs are reporting that he’s gone against his principles to please the party and further his political career. These are not CILISOS’s words, by the way, which is why we put links to the articles. Don’t sedition us!
But did he actually? Well, since this writer’s admitting to being a sortakinda fan of Khairy, he’ll also admit to this – he initially set out to write an article on how Khairy’s speech has contradicted himself from his previous statements. But guess what?
He didn’t. Can we justify this? Yes we can.
We’re using transcripts from his speech.
Khairy himself has since claimed that his statements “acknowledging vernacular schools and accepting other races as Malaysian citizens were not reported, showing an agenda to paint UMNO as racist.” Because we could only find video snippets of his speech, we instead turned to good ol’ text. The English transcript is from Khairy’s personal webpage while the BM one is from Berita Harian Online. We also compared the text to videos of his speech, so as far as we can tell, they’re (almost) word-for-word. Be prepared for some large attention-grabbing links after this.
Do note that the question at hand isn’t whether or not we agree with his statements – it’s whether or not they’ve been consistent with what he’s actually said. Also, the numbers in (brackets) correspond to the relevant point in his speech so you can read them for yourself. We’re also going with the english transcript.
1. “Khairy is now supporting the sedition act!”
What some news publications are saying:
What some people are saying:
What Khairy said (32-34):
“What we need now is a shield– not just for the Malays – but all Malaysians. … These provisions serve as protection not just for the Malays, but all the other races. If there are those who would cross the line and insult the national language or the Malay rulers, UMNO Youth will urge for swift prosecution. At the same time, if there are those who scorn or insult other races, UMNO Youth should also be the first in demanding that action be taken against them! To the leadership in Government, UMNO Youth urges that no matter what happens to the Sedition Act … we want the powers vested in this law to be retained in some ways as a shield for all. Without it to protect us, the nation would be in ruins.”
Oh yeah, forgot to mention… all the quotes are going to be TLDR because we don’t want to shorten them too much and risk misrepresenting him in some sort of *ahem* agenda.
We aren’t actually sure why so many people are choosing to focus on this point, tbh. Khairy had never opposed the sedition act. In fact, he’s been fairly vocal in support of it. In the Alvivi bak kut teh case for example, he urged that they be punished for offending the sensitivities of Muslims; but also adding that the same approach also be applied to insults against all religions and not just Islam.
He was less vocal in the sedition charge against Azmi Sharom, only applauding the UM students who supported their lecturer while at the same time urging them to not participate in the boycott of classes for the sake of their education. This has also prompted a challenge from assistant PKR Youth leader Dr. Afif Bahardin to clarify his stand against Azmi Sharom’s sedition charges.
2. “Khairy is trying to stop sekolah jenis kebangsaan!”
What the news publications are saying:
What Khairy said (28, 29, 36, 37)
“[A]lthough there are fringe voices questioning the existence of the vernacular schools, the UMNO leadership has long accepted this system of education. It is already forged in the laws of the land and not even the Minister of Education can change the fate of the vernacular schools. … [W]e agreed to give citizenship rights to the non-Malays and for them to retain their mother tongue language while at the same time the non-Malays will accept the Malay special privileges, Bahasa Melayu as the national language and the sovereignty of the Malay rulers. The Malay people accepted and they have never questioned the agreement that we all have come to. …
[R]eports from National Service statistics showed that there are still many who are unable to converse in the National Language. But many are still unable to converse in the Malay Language, many from those who undergo vernacular schools. Vernacular schools should be continued but we have to do something to strengthen national unity in this country. Everyone should be part of this process of integration, and not remain in their silos.”
The part of the social contract Khairy referred to is in pertaining to non-Malay rights to an education in their mother tongue (vernacular schools). While he says that vernacular schools should be continued as part of the social contract, he also points out that national unity has to be strengthened – and one of the ways he thinks this can be achieved is through having more focus on the national language – even in vernacular schools.
Oh and by the way, while the article uses a picture of Khairy, he’s only mentioned in two sentences. Go figure.
3. “Khairy pretends to be liberal but he’s the same as the rest of UMNO”
So here’s another one that he’s been getting quite a bit of flack for, even being labelled as “racist.” This is due to a couple of things he covered in his speech:
1. The changing of the road signs to names of Agongs
2. The question of Malay rights by non-Malays
Let’s tackle the road sign thing first. We don’t have the transcript for this one yet as it was part of his wrap-up speech at the end, but here’s the video:
So very simply, this is a reiteration of his point of mutual respect for the social contract; in this case the sovereignty of the Malay rulers. He addressed this issue in his closing speech after he happened to read tweets of Malaysians questioning the contributions of the Agongs to have roads renamed in their honor, and that at least the late Karpal Singh had contributed to the nation.
This brings us to point no. 2, which is that if Malays honored their side of the social contract, so should the non-Malays – and neither side should dispute it.
So to put it in context, he said that there were Malaysians who did not honor the social contract in his opening speech, saw the tweets with people questioning the contributions/sovereignty of the Sultans, and reiterated the honoring of the social contract again during his closing speech.
What Khairy said (30)
“However, why are there still those who do not respect this agreement? If the Malays can accept it by not raising the matter of citizenship and acknowledging that we cannot shut down vernacular schools, why are there those among non-malays who refuse to honour what they have previously agreed upon? Why are there those who ask for the Malay special privileges to be stopped, those who dispute the position of the Malay rulers and even those who cannot speak a word of the national language. If the Malay people are steadfast in their principles of upholding the agreement, we want to demand that they uphold their end of the bargain. Never again dispute what has been agreed upon. We are not demanding that they give up what they already have, but merely to keep to what we all have agreed together. “
“I had such high hopes for Khairy”
Before we tell you what we think, has reading this article changed your opinion on Khairy?
Looking through his speech, we noticed that he offers basic points without too much detail and avoids hardline approaches or solutions. Also, it’s almost as if he makes it a point to offer some sort of consolation or explanation to the non-Malays as if they were part of his listening audiece. From this, we arrive at two possible conclusions:
Khairy remains true to his liberal-progressive stance but has to say things that don’t go too far out of line with party views. Also, he has to address the common issues of his party members since he’s a leader himself.
But when there is an assembly of Malays, we cannot talk about Malay issues? Where else can we talk about Malay issues? Where else can we talk about the future of Malays? – As quoted in The Star
Khairy is a political chameleon, changing his stances depending on the sentiments of the crowd around him at the time in order to get support. His points are intentionally general and open to interpretation, and he veers more towards the middle ground so he makes his delegates happy while having an escape route in case stuff like this happens.
Either way, what we find very hard to dispute is the fact that Khairy Jamaluddin is one smart cookie.