Over the years I have known him, Gerakan Youth vice-chairman S. Paranjothy was never a loose cannon. Although quite outspoken, his statements are always calculated and never exaggerated.
However, last week Paranjothy's statement caught UMNO Youth leader by his burly tail. Paranjothy has alleged that UMNO leaders' propensity to play up racial sentiments is causing other component parties to lose support from their respective non-Malay support base. Paranjothy also drew flak from Umno for criticising the government for "marginalising, oppressing and ignoring" the Indian Malaysian community which resulted in them being "fourth-class citizens".
He pointed his finger at both Khairy Jamaluddin and Hishamuddin Hussein for faning up racial issues at the the recently concluded UMNO's general assembly. Other incidences could have motivated his statement, most significantly the Hindraf demonstration and the action taken against five of the movement's leaders.
When I spoke to Paranjothy, he appeared calm and composed. Later, when asked by reporters he has chosen to stick to his statement regardless the disciplinary action to be taken against him.
Let's look at the issue objectively. Paranjothy's statement and the reaction from UMNO Youth chief are symptoms of the current political system which is race-based. In a talk I gave in London, I argued that it is timely for the BN to undergo another transformation - just like what the Alliance did in 1970 (for a period between 1970-1974 the Alliance was defunct).
The alliance model was expanded and remoded to include more communities and smaller political parties. The new BN model which was established in April 1974 focused on two key pillars e.g. national reconciliation and social restructuring. Hence, the NEP was endorsed and adopted.
However, we are now facing another bottleneck which requires a restructuring of the current BN model so that it is able to address two key objectives - global positioning and nation building. To fulfill these two objectives, it is timely for BN to emerge as a single entity representing all Malaysians.
Unfortunately, only gullible leaders in the present leadership who insisted on perpetuating the divide for decades to come knowing fully well that it is no longer the recipe for continual growth, political stability and socio-economic harmony.
Paranjothy, instead of being castigated, deserves an apology from the current BN leadership for clouding and contaminating the youths' mind with racial slurs and prejudices. It is their reluctance to change, to adjust and to accept the fact that some segments of the society have been marginalised for decades due to the racial socio-economic policy we practiced. What is obvious is the policy has been hijacked to enrich a well-connected few.
Gerakan president Dr Koh Tsu Koon has announced a possible expulsion or suspension for Paranjothy. This is most unfortunate because only weeks earlier Dr Koh had defended another Gerakan stalwart from speaking his mind. He claimed that Gerakan is a democratic party when Dr Toh Kin Woon openly said that he did not agree with the national leaders on freedom to assemble. His decision will prompt many to question him on his consistency.
Second, the expulsion of Paranjothy (which is highly possible) is lauded by UMNO Youth chief Hishamuddin but it will not win him or his party any brownie point. Instead, many will resent UMNO as a bully and a tyranny for not willing to take similar action against its members and leaders who made more serious and seditious statements.
Third, this decision puts into question the leadership capability of Dr Koh when put into a serious political challenge. Some have made comparison to Dr Lim Keng Yaik on what he would do if faced with similar situation. They expected Dr Lim to tell UMNO that was Paranjothy's own opinion and not Gerakan stand. Paranjothy, being a senior youth leader, would be told to be more careful when making a statement.
I have experienced this myself and found Dr Lim's method to be less punitive and he gave generous allowance to inexperience rookies.
Whatever the decision now, the party must learn a lesson that it cannot continue to sack its own leaders for speaking up or risks isolation and desertion from its members. In a team, the leader will go a long way to protect his members even if they were to divert from the original path. This is what made you regarded as a good leader - to take the bullet if you must for your comrades.
I HOPE good sense prevails.