KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 19 ― Penang DAP vice-chairman Zairil Khir Johari stood up for his party today amid a persistent campaign to racialise it as anti-Malay, saying he found it to be open to diversity and provided him the platform to fight for social economic justice for all regardless of their ethnicity.
The Tanjung Bunga assemblyman took special aim at Umno veteran Tengku Tan Sri Razaleigh Hamzah, noting the latter’s recent remarks advising Malay youths not to be deceived into joining DAP purportedly because it is predominantly Chinese and has an agenda to control “Tanah Melayu”.
“It is precisely the willingness of the party to embrace diversity, rather than manipulate it for narrow parochial gains, that has provided a platform for me and many others like myself ― young idealistic Malaysians who yearn for socio-economic justice and a country that fairly provides for every one of its citizens,” the DAP assistant national publicity secretary said in a statement.
Zairil, the son of Umno statesman the late Tan Sri Khir Johari, reminded Tengku Razaleigh that he joined the DAP based on the Kelantan prince’s advice a decade ago.
He recalled the unexpected advice given by Tengku Razaleigh whom he affectionately called Ku Li that Umno was no longer the same party as his father’s generation and that a “young man with big ideas would likely find it very difficult to break through the hierarchy”.
“In the end, he suggested something that was unexpected. ‘Perhaps you should consider joining Opposition parties as they are more prepared to give young people a chance’,” Zairil claimed of Tengku Razaleigh.
Zairil said he had personally witnessed DAP’s evolution towards inclusivity of Malays and youths in leadership positions.
“From having no elected Malay representative for 18 years from 1995, DAP produced two Malay MPs and one state assemblyman in the 2013 general election.
“This result was tripled in 2018 with nine Malay DAP representatives being elected (one MP and eight assemblymen, four of whom were appointed state executive councillors). More interestingly, six out of the nine were under the age of 40,” the 37-year-old Penang lawmaker said.
He added that in addition to the influx of new young Malay leaders in the party, DAP also broke new ground by fielding indigenous candidates in both Sabah and Sarawak who went on to win in the 2018 general election.
Zairil said Tengku Razaleigh was right in telling him that he would find greater acceptance in DAP.
“While I appreciate Ku Li’s advice, and indeed have benefited from it in the past, I think it would not be amiss for me to remind him that this is Malaysia, and there is no other place for Malaysians to go,” he said.
Tengku Razaleigh was yesterday reported by The Malaysian Insight to have advised Malay youths not to be deceived into joining DAP and “let themselves be used by the party in order to control this country”.