KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 20): The son of Umno veteran Tan Sri Sanusi Junid, Akhramsyah Sanusi, officially announced today that he is joining the race for the Umno Youth Chief’s post in the party’s Supreme Council elections next month.
However, when asked if he was with former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's camp, he denied that he belongs to any group in the party.
"I deny that I am from any party. There are comments that I am someone's proxy. If I am proxy to anyone, I would be the proxy of the grassroots who want change," Akhramsyah said in a press conference today.
He added that this is even more important in the current party election as he needs the votes from the grassroots and not a few delegates.
Akhramsyah's father Sanusi is the staunch supporter of Mahathir and word circulating on the ground is that he belongs to the former party president’s camp.
With the slogan of 'Hidup Melayu', Akhramsyah said that he had heard many grievances from the grassroots that the Umno Youth was no longer a pressure group and was not championing the struggle for the Malay agenda.
Also, he said, many youth also complained that Umno is seen as no longer taking care of their welfare and the measures implemented by the government had missed the target and thus generated concern among the grassroots.
In light of the call for change by friends, neighbours and supporters, said Akhramsyah, "my family and I had decided to sacrifice my career to offer myself as the candidate for the Youth Chief."
"If I am chosen, my agenda will be to revive the Malay agenda as the responsibility of the Umno Youth."
Akhramsyah said that he will be going around the country to meet the grassroots. In addition, he would use his blog and the media to disseminate his ideas, he said.
"There is a wish for change, but many also want to know me more," he added.
As an Umno member for almost 20 years, he denied that Umno is a right wing nationalist party as claimed by some quarters.
He said the term right wing or middle ground is confusing to many.
"Umno is a Malay party championing the Malay rights together with the Malays based on Islam," he said, adding that Malay leadership had existed for more than a hundred years.
When commenting on the incumbent's performance, Akhramsyah cited the May 5 general election result to argued that there is a loss of youth support to the party.
"Umno had not succeeded in convincing the young voters to vote for BN and Umno. The urban Malays rejected Umno and BN. There is a risk of losing the confidence of the youth in Umno in the urban areas," he said.
He described this as the danger facing the party for the 14th general election.
Akhramsyah said that the Umno Youth led by Khairy in the past five years had become less appealing to the youth, and generated a vacuum, which was filled by many non-governmental groups.
As these NGOs did not have a political agenda, he believed that Umno Youth can work together with these groups in the future.
Although he is confident that he can win in this race, he also sees himself as an underdog.
He added that the incumbent Youth chief is a minister and holds the post for five years. However, this is not an obstacle that could not be overcame, he said.
Speaking of his strengths, Akhramsyah said that he is capable and has been involved in social activities since his student years.
He is an engineer and consultant by profession for 16 years and had experience working abroad.
When asked, he replied that his father supported his decision to contest but reminded him that he and his family must be prepared for the future challenges as a leader.
Akhramsyah said that as he needs more friends to come forward to help him, he will be listening actively to what others have to say.
Also, with the new election system in the party, which opens up the contest for grassroots to choose the top leaders, is not easy for anyone to win as nobody has experienced the election in this way before, he noted.
"No one knows how to win the party election now," said Akhramsyah.
He added that as the voters would be located in their own community during voting, as opposed to the previous practice where the delegates were brought to Kuala Lumpur and stayed for a week before polling day, the local community can influence the choice of the party’s youth chief.
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