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UMNO Youth chief Khairy Ja­malud­din de­bunks the per­cep­tion about the move­ment not be­ing youth-friendly, say­ing the wing is where fu­ture lead­ers are moulded. The youth and sports min­is­ter also talks about how the younger gen­er­a­tion are more dis­cern­ing with the ad­vent of so­cial me­dia and the need for more ef­fec­tive en­gage­ment to com­bat “fake news”. In con­junc­tion with the 71st Umno An­niver­sary, Khairy tells the New Straits Times what he thinks of the wing he leads and what’s next for the party.

Ques­tion: What is Umno Youth’s role in pre­par­ing for the party’s fu­ture and sus­tain­abil­ity?

An­swer: Umno Youth is the step­ping stone for many mem­bers be­fore tak­ing up lead­er­ship posts in the par­ent body.

The un­der­stand­ing of the party’s cul­ture, iden­tity and ethos is shaped when one is in Umno Youth, and it is where one proves his met­tle.

Umno Youth acts as a con­veyor belt of peo­ple who will take on lead­er­ship po­si­tions in the party and move on to be­come party el­ders.

It is im­por­tant that we in­stil the right DNA — in­clu­sive­ness and pol­i­tics of ser­vice — in them.

To ensure the party’s sur­vival, we must be seen as re­cep­tive to change and re­ju­ve­na­tion, and not a di­nosaur party with Juras­sic means and ideals.

That is why we are mak­ing our­selves re­lat­able to the younger gen­er­a­tion, one that is more dis­cern­ing, has more ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion and mis­in­for­ma­tion, and go straight to matters which con­cern them the most — jobs, health­care, wel­fare, econ­omy, cost of liv­ing and hous­ing.

If peo­ple can see that Umno is the only choice that takes to heart ac­tual is­sues, peo­ple will con­tinue to sup­port us.

Q: What is the wing’s main strength when it comes to woo­ing the youth?

A: An evo­lu­tion from the time when Umno Youth was merely a pres­sure group, I think we have rein­vented our­selves as an or­gan­i­sa­tion that can pro­vide real so­lu­tions with peo­ple-cen­tric pro­grammes.

We have al­ways come up with new pro­grammes and ideas that are fresh for our tar­get group. For ex­am­ple, we’ve in­tro­duced BN Youth Job Fair in the past, which is still be­ing or­gan­ised. Through this ini­tia­tive, thou­sands of youths with dif­fer­ent back­grounds have se­cured jobs.

We also pushed through the idea of how the gov­ern­ment should help the younger gen­er­a­tion, es­pe­cially young cou­ples, own a house. As a re­sult, the gov­ern­ment came up with schemes such as Tran­sit Homes and PR1MA.

Umno Youth is al­ways ahead of the curve, and we are look­ing to­wards the dig­i­tal fu­ture and we have in­tro­duced a new ini­tia­tive, Jom Be­la­jar Kod­ing, which gives lessons on the ba­sics of cod­ing to peo­ple who oth­er­wise would not want to go for classes for it.

Umno Youth is a big um­brella of peo­ple with var­i­ous back­grounds — the re­li­gious con­ser­va­tives, lib­er­als, mod­er­ates, na­tion­al­ists — who want to see im­prove­ment in their com­mu­ni­ties.

Q: What are the ma­jor is­sues that would hold back the wing from be­ing rel­e­vant to the younger gen­er­a­tion in the next few years and in decades to come?

A: Sen­ti­ment and per­cep­tion that Umno is not a youth-friendly party.

So, the party must ad­dress this and find ways to re­ju­ve­nate it­self. To over­come this, we have a slew of won­der­ful pro­grammes which need to be ef­fec­tively com­mu­ni­cated to the youth.

I have al­ways be­lieved in “cadreris­ing” young lead­ers so that there is a steady stream of peo­ple who can lead the party and the wing at any stage of the elec­tion cy­cle or a po­lit­i­cal term.

Q: As a party wing rep­re­sent­ing youth, do you think the chal­lenges are go­ing to be greater in fu­ture?

A: Yes. Young peo­ple are be­com­ing more self-aware, out­spo­ken, well read and are quick to be­lieve what­ever they see on so­cial me­dia.

We have our own mech­a­nism to counter fake news, but it is im­por­tant that the peo­ple see us as an ef­fec­tive party in pro­vid­ing ser­vice to the peo­ple.

I have al­ways stressed the pol­i­tics of ser­vice in­stead of be­ing mere pres­sure groups. I don’t see any point in chest-thump­ing if we are un­able to as­sist Malays in ar­eas that they need help the most, such as jobs, the econ­omy and the ris­ing cost of liv­ing. We need to pre­serve our cul­tural iden­tity, but Umno Youth can­not be de­fined by this alone.

Q: The prime min­is­ter has launched the Barisan Na­sional ma­chin­ery, Jali­nan Rakyat Plus (JR Plus), last month. What is the role of Umno Youth in this? A: Umno Youth is a part of JR Plus, which al­lows for bet­ter syn­ergy and co­op­er­a­tion as BN reaches out di­rectly to vot­ers.

Un­der this lat­est co­op­er­a­tion model, Umno Youth has to reach out bet­ter to the youth.

We must ensure that we are able to gar­ner sup­port from this seg­ment.

Khairy Ja­malud­din

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