Friday, October 11, 2013

Akramsyah: Proud son of NEP

'I Am The Son Of New Economic Policy And Proud Of It'

Malaysia Digest
Monday, 23 September 2013 08:20

KUALA LUMPUR: Akhramsyah Muammar Ubaidah Sanusi, the son of Umno veteran Tan Sri Sanusi Junid, along with four others who will take on Umno Youth head Khairy Jamaluddin, may be among the underdogs but has a lot to say about his candidacy.

The Bendang Baru Umno Youth chief's candidacy stood out because he was the first one to announce his intention to contest. 

Using the slogan of ‘Hidup Melayu’, Akramsyah on Friday said he wants to turn Umno Youth into the pressure group within the party again and actively fight for the Malay agenda.

Malaysian Digest catches up with Akhramsyah, 40, to find out more about the person, his vision and the issues he fights for within Umno.

We spoke to him at his office in Bangsar recently.
MD: First and foremost, people want to know, "who is this guy?" "Is he serious?" These are some of the questions people have, including party members, of you. What do you have to say about this?

AKHRAMSYAH: People will always have their perception (based on their opinion). It is easy for someone who don’t know me to say those things.

The right people to ask these questions are those who have actually worked with me, on many levels, to achieve things. These were people who was involved when we brought 20 volunteers to Japan during the tsunami and people who stuck with me during tough times.

With that (kind of experience), maybe they will have a better perception (of me). But still, some will continue to (have their opinion based on their perception).

In the end, it is their right.

MD: You do not hold any important position in the government. Whereas the normal Umno-style of thinking is that someone needs to hold an important governmental position to be the top party leaders. What do you think about this? Why should they pick you?

We should look back at the history of Umno… It is filled with people who do not hold any ministerial posts but still able to contribute to the party. My favourite example is Tun Abdul Ghafar Baba, who held the vice president post.

Although he was an MP, he did not belong to any ministry, which many thought should be prerequisite as a party vice president.

Eventually, he was chosen by then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to be his deputy. That shows the reflection of his credibility…that a person can come from within the party - even though he does not hold any (ministerial) post - as long as he can help the community.

On my part, I am contesting the Youth chief post and this is the starting point of my contribution to the party.

Over the years, I have chosen to focus on my profession. Through my profession, I helped many Malays and other Malaysians…I hope all this will be taken into account when voting starts.

The last time I offered myself was for the Youth exco member position, back in 2009. At the time, the members decided not to choose me. Still, I am grateful and respect the decision of the 164 delegates who did vote for me. At the time, I did not hold any post in party but still they voted.

At the national level, in general, many Umno members may not know me, but people in the youth movement do - some in the corporate sector knows me too - along with those who I have touched during numerous election campaigns, are familiar with me.

Akhramsyah and his supporters shouting 'Hidup Melayu' during a press conference on Friday. Pic: mDAkhramsyah and his supporters shouting 'Hidup Melayu' during a press conference on Friday. Pic: mDMD: This issue of not holding any post, does it give you more focus?

The reason for contesting is actually to ensure friendly competition within the party.

Since there was no one stepping up to the challenge, there was this perception that those to be chosen should be Khairy’s men and I feel this is sending the wrong message to the party.

I want to send a message that I am not Khairy’s man. In fact, I have known of him since the university days and we have never been at the same level of opinion.

The risk now is some may call or see it as domination or monopoly by people who were seen as the chief’s men. With my participation, I hope it will open up room for other members to bravely say that they are not the chief’s men. I openly invite anyone to contest this post.

At the moment, we don’t have a universal support and there were voices from the grassroot wanting me to contest.

We need to have this kind of competition, and in the end, it doesn’t matter who wins, as long as the person being elected is someone with credibility.

MD: What other advantages do you think you have over Khairy?

I grew up in a Malay environment, I am the son of New Economic Policy and proud of it.

I studied in MRSM and that was done on purpose. The education there has allowed me to interact with the Malay community from all walks of life. My best friend then was the son of a tobacco planter and I was glad that he finished the education with flying colours.

My education also allowed me to communicate and understand what the people are talking about, their grouses. I am open to ideas. I can speak their dialect.

By this I don’t mean ‘ayaq’ (water). Do you know what ‘keleboq’ means?

During high school I was introduced to poem. On Sept 16, while many Malaysian waits at Dataran Merdeka, I was in Pasir Salak, reading a poem I wrote at an event I have been supporting for the past few years.

I can do all that because I feel it is important to appreciate the culture and be part of the Malay psyche.

Admittedly, I don’t have much advantage but would like the network of members to take advantage of this fact… that I am THEIR candidate. I am a ‘budak Mara’, whose mentality have been imbued with the right religious teaching and spirit.

And the best thing about ‘budak Mara’ is that we are very open. Any one of us can join the opposition party if we want to but we are not dogmatic or fanatical toward our beliefs.

MD: What is happening within Umno Youth and your plans for it, if you are accepted by the members?

Three things I feel are important to look at should I be accepted as the new chief.

First, there is a need to address this feeling among members that the welfare of the Malays, including the Youth and party members, are not being taken care of.

It is not because the party is not doing anything but many feel that there is a gap between the party’s plan, aspiration and what the members received on the ground.

They hear a lot of noises but are not feeling it on the ground. This, I think can be improved upon.

For instance, the programme to help Malaysians buy affordable houses and low cost housing: the problem here is not about the policy. The policy is good. It is also not about the delivery system.

The problem is that, the delivery process is taking longer (than liked) and members do not know how things being circulated. This in turn causes frustration, especially when those who received the aid are (seen to be) not eligible.

Secondly, there is a gap between leaders on top and leaders at the bottom. Many feel the leaderships did not interact with them. There is a lack of a two-way exchange of views and communication.

What went wrong? Was there an element of bias or did the messages not go down far enough?

We need to find out more about it.

With the new voting system in place, leaders will have no choice but to interact with everyone.

Thirdly, there is a perception that Umno Youth have either lost or forgotten its 'soul'. The crux of the matter is that the Youth movement had always been about bringing the Malay agenda forward and (upholding) Islam as the moral code.

The wing seems to have forgotten that before Merdeka, it was the youth movement (which had a role) equivalent to Umno Youth (and it) had sparked the debate and challenged the status quo. If Umno Youth is not the driving force, it could lead to the downfall of the party.

When we strive, we must know our core. In the end, we are Malays and have to champion the Malay rights.

That is also why I took up the slogan ‘Hidup Melayu’ (Long Live The Malays) and hope the slogan will remind everyone that we are here to champion the Malays.

Pic: mDPic: mDMD: What do you think about members who have been found guilty of money politics? Should they be allowed to re-contest?

To be allowed to re-contest after one had been punished or found guilty…this is something we have to accept. The worrying part is that voters kept on choosing those with bad records.

It is really the choice of the electorates. That the electorates are seriously considering it, this is where the problem lies. If members want Umno to be clean and fair, then they will have to start rejecting and punishing them, including those who had been found guilty but not punished.

MD: By championing the Malay rights and asking members to look back in history seems like you are romanticising or glorifying the past, whereas Khairy is being seen as someone who is going in the opposite direction and aiming towards the future and a more open movement.

Let us not confused being liberal with being open now shall we. I have to admit, I am a romantic. We Malays are romantic lot. (chuckles)

The Malay rock music is one good example of what the Malays are (about). (For example) during the Pasir Salak event, we have Nash singing and all of us around our 40s, were tempted to raise our hand to the tune.

One can choose to be appreciative of history and learn from it and at the same time still be open to new ideas.

Our challenge (as youth) is not about finding fault of our past leaders. Our challenge is bringing the youth forward in the manner that maintains our core values, the Islamic teachings and Malay culture.

In 2020, what sort of Malays do we want to see? Would you like to see your grandchildren as someone who embraces modernity but (still) recognisable (as a Malay) on the inside or are you willing to see something alien looking back?

MD: What do you think of your chances in the race, as it is now a five-cornered fight for those eyeing the Youth chief post?

I consider myself as the underdog because Khairy is the incumbent and a minister. However, each candidate has to face the same challenge to get as many votes (as they can) from the delegates.

I also find this question hard to answer because in the last five years there was little prominence given to the exco line-up. Whether this was because of the lack of performance, visibility or opportunity, we just don’t know.

It is thus the responsibility of the leader to ensure that that team grows and get the credit they deserve. I will not see myself as an island and should I be accepted, I will see to it that opportunities are given to the team to grow.

How many children do you have and where do they go to school?

I have five children, the sixth is due in November. I believe that the government school system is still the best way to achieve a holistic education. You cannot educate your children to live in a society if they are not exposed to it. Thus, I am hopeful about the new education plan.

To me, instead of sending the children to private schools, we (as a family, should) supplement (school) with tuition classes and encourage them to read a lot. We want our children to learn what they need to live in a diverse society in Malaysia.

(My children) are expected to represent Malaysia in the SEA Games and will play the Myanmar traditional chess. The contingent is still being finalised but they feel very excited about it.

Akhramsyah addressing the press. Pic: mDAkhramsyah addressing the press. Pic: mDMD: If you are not contesting, can you name three party members who you feel are able to lead the wing?

There is no such thing as a perfect leader and I feel the machinery needs to be fixed to churn out more capable ones.

One name I can think of now is Datuk Mohammed Suffian Awang – political secretary of the prime minister but he will not be contesting because he is with the PM.

Another is Datuk Muhd Khairun Aseh... and maybe even Datuk Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim.
-          Malaysian Digest

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