FEBRUARY 21 — While many characterise Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman’s Youth Armada bid with the recent blackshirt rally in Muar, Johor — it is interesting to see the vehicle that he has been using to promote his campaign in general.
It was reported on the 14 February 2020, that Syed Saddiq had dropped a visit during a community health screening at our medical outreach programme, organised in collaboration with Langkawi Youth Power Club (YPC).
This of course was not the only event that Youth Power Club was involved in, with the organization taking centrestage in this year’s Tour De Langkawi.
While this is entirely in the right of Syed Saddiq to attend such events given that YPC is ostensibly under his Ministry, putting the organization under greater scrutiny raises more red flags that simply shouldn’t be there under the “reformer” youth minister.
Take for example the fact that the organization is largely led by a small coterie of young elites from a singular source: namely PPBM. The organsation is led by Rafiq Hakim Razali, who coincidentally who also serves as the PPBM Youth Treasurer by Syed Saddiq.
Also coincidentally, the organisation entered a flurry of activity as Syed Saddiq began his campaign bid as the incumbent leader of PPBM Youth or Armada.
This is concerning development given that the announcement of YPC’s founding was mired in controversy to begin with.
The Youth Power initiative announced on 15 May 2019 by the Ministry of Youth and Sports — meant to be a vehicle to champion the youth by spurring new initiatives — has raised many questions.
Over RM150 million has been allocated by the PakatanHarapan government to develop its youth agenda for the period of 2019 — 2020, with RM50 million allocated specifically for the Youth Power initiative. Of the RM50 million, RM7.4 million will be used to set up Youth Power Clubs (YPC) nationwide in 222 constituencies.
During the launch of the National Youth Day 2019, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed said that aid-registered youth organisations would be able to apply for grants under the initiative — including youth organisations that did not receive any government assistance before.
The grants will be allocated in coordination with the states’ Youth and Sport Departments to District and State Youth Councils. This was much to the chagrin of existing youth organizations as seen with the objections raised by The Johor Youth Council (JYC) in July 2019.
The proposed scale of the YPC itself is staggering, across 222 constituencies all over Malaysia, backed by an impressive initial budget. On the contrary, the MYC is just that — a council.
There has also been a worrying lack of transparency on part of KBS on how the money channelled to YPC will be done. How will the funds be allocated? Will there be a hierarchy of which kinds of organisations that will be given more attention by KBS?
Given the planned integration of the YPC into the current MYC framework, and the sheer scale and lack of transparency of the YPC, is it possible that the YPC simply serves vehicle for Syed Saddiq to shore up support for his party, and his position as the head of its youth wind Armada?
After all, the access to 222 constituencies across Malaysia would be helpful for him to distribute money to win the necessary support not only to retain his position, but the relevance of his party as well.
Patronage politics have always been in the fabric of the Malaysian political scene. Grassroots fundings were always masked through extensive network of shell companies and organisations — a defining feature from the Umno era that all of us thought are over with the election of the Pakatan Harapan government.
However, it seems that many of our opinions on Bersatu having the exact same make-up of the old patronage Umno come to life as the days go by since May 9. The planned Youth Power Clubs reek of the same old stench of patronage politics.
For someone who often touted that the youth of the nation should be empowered, and often came down hard on corruption cases of the previous regime, Syed Saddiq’s lack of commitment to communicate his ministry’s plan is utterly disappointing. If he really wants to empower the youth, he should start by empowering existing organisations and mechanisms instead of opaquely running his own show in the background.
Saddiq has proven to us that he has great potential in fostering civic participation from the youths of Malaysia through his championing of Undi18, something we have not seen in a while. But is the ambition to continue being the head of Bersatu’s youth wing worth it?
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.