The Suave, Competent, Shrewd, Ambitious, Enigmatic Khairy Jamaluddin

November 22, 2016

The Suave, Competent, Shrewd, Ambitious, Enigmatic Khairy Jamaluddin

by Joceline Tan

Face of Umno’s future: Khairy may be ambitious but he does not want to be perceived as over-ambitious.

Oxford-Educated Khairy Jamaluddin

Once touted as the ‘most powerful 28-year-old’, the Khairy Jamaluddin of today is more grounded, focused and disciplined and the UMNO Youth wing has grown along with him.

KHAIRY Jamaluddin turned 40 in January. His hair is starting to turn a little salt and pepper, his eyes are still as droopy as ever but Khairy has been Malaysia’s most happening Youth and Sports Minister.

It has been a tremendous year for him and Khairy will face the UMNO Youth assembly next week riding a crest of popularity. He has emerged as the face of UMNO’s future and some are hoping that he will use his policy speech this year to articulate some sort of vision for the youth cohort.

He has probably done some thinking in this area but those familiar with him say that he does not want to be perceived as being over-ambitious. Ambitions are normal in politics but being over-ambitious, that is something else.


Regardless of whether he decides to do the vision speech, his policy speeches have always been well-researched, informative, relatively low on rhetoric, easy to absorb and, on one or two occasions, quite inspiring.

This is Khairy’s second term as UMNO Youth chief and his third year as a minister. For many UMNO politicians, the government post defines the party post and the Youth and Sports portfolio has helped define his leadership of UMNO Youth.

“His first term in the Youth wing was largely about earning his street creds and laying the foundation. His appointment to the Cabinet in his second term allowed him to showcase what he can bring as a Minister,” said Amir Fareed Rahim, a political risk analyst for the KRA Group.

Malaysia’s success in the Olympics and Paralympics has been a high point of his ministership. His predecessor laid the groundwork for Rio but Khairy handled the expectations, the highs and lows experienced by our athletes with maturity and savvy.

He has 1.6 million followers on Twitter and his tweets soared when the medals came in. When the medals fell short, he tackled it with the right touch of encouraging and comforting words.

The Ministry’s Fit Malaysia programme has caught on with the millennials in a big way. He has been able to connect with them by how he uses social media, the way he talks and dresses and, most of all, by the fact that he seems able to play any kind of sport.

Image result for Khairy Jamaluddin Malaysia's Polo Player

Minister Khairy Jamaluddin–Malaysia’s Polo Player

He is part of the online generation and has adapted much better than his senior colleagues to the challenge of the Internet era. “His portfolio allows him to do the things that millennials identify with – fun things like sports, Snapchat, contemporary thinking. Moreover, he looks the part,” said Amir.

Football has always been his big love but he also runs, jumps, cycles and he may be on the Malaysian polo squad in the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur next year.

Image result for Khairy Jamaluddin the Extremist

The Enigmatic Khairy Jamaluddin

Next week is likely to be Khairy’s last time addressing the UMNO Youth wing as the Youth chief. He told The Star in an interview that this will be his last term as UMNO Youth Chief although he stopped short at confirming that he will go for one of the three UMNO Vice-President posts.

He has spent four terms in the wing, the first as a committee member, the second as the deputy chief and the last two terms as the Youth chief. It is time to make way and move on to the big league.

But, as recent history has shown, UMNO President Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak calls the shots on this. If he does not give the green light, you are unlikely to make it.

The relationship between Khairy and his president hit a rough patch last year. Najib was disappointed that the younger man detached himself and did not come out in a big way to defend him at the height of the 1MDB issue. There was even talk that Khairy was being courted by the other side.

However, the Prime Minister’s appointment of Khairy as the dialogue initiator for the vision plan, TN50 or Transformasi Nasional 2050 has changed a lot of things for Khairy. The horizon has suddenly broadened for him.

Najib understands that the young generation of today will lead the country 30 years or so down the road and as the youngest member of the Cabinet,

“It distinguishes Khairy from the rest of the pack. It is a vote of confidence in Khairy’s ability to work and handle complicated issues,” said Amir.

The Prime Minister’s move is also seen as a sort of acknowledgement of the steadfast support he has received from Khairy’s father-in-law Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Image result for Khairy and Badawi

When Khairy started out as an officer in Abdullah’s administration, he was cocky, impatient and, like offsprings of famous families, there was this sense of entitlement.

There have been tough knocks along the way and he spent time on the backbench. He has remade himself from the early days and the Khairy of today is more mature and less full of himself. He is also disciplined, focused and he stands out from the rest.

Khairy was once known as the “most powerful 28-year-old” and some of the crazier blogs had claimed he wanted to be Prime Minister by the age of 40. Politicians dream of being the Prime Minister but going up in UMNO is like climbing a greasy pole.

He has hit the big four-0, but is still a long way from the other target. He needs to ensure that UMNO and the ruling coalition survives if he wishes to reach the other target.

This year has been major for him and next year will be even bigger. Malaysia will be hosting the SEA Games which may find the minister taking part as a competitor.

But more than that, his ideas for the dialogue on the TN50 project will showcase his ability to look ahead and think out of the box. If he pulls it off, he will be the face of the future.

13 thoughts on “The Suave, Competent, Shrewd, Ambitious, Enigmatic Khairy Jamaluddin

  1. This is groundwork being laid to make him a top rank minister even talk to Deputy PM. His next contest definitely one of three VP spot of UMNO if not even the Deputy President? There is two open spot for VP in UMNO but Deputy President is too big a leap. He will make it to VP but DP.

    Given what Najib has done to UMNO, its not possible for KJ to make it to Deputy President – he does not have enough money..This makes him JUST AN EXCUSE OF MODERATION FOR UMNO. HE WILL NEVER MAKE IT TO PRESIDENT UNLESS NAJIB MAKES HIM and NAJIB GOT TOO MUCH PROBLEM OF HIS OWN..

  2. Rafizi Ramli & KJ are two great potentials in the kingdom of the Melayus, who must nurture and get prepared for themselves , to take up future Leadership….

    KJ works from inside , whilst Rafizi from the so-called outside, but both have to be ingenious and extra careful …..because they will find themselves swimming literally amidst sharks and wolves , nay amongst crocs and beastly predators who can be ruthless and ambitious getting ready for the ‘kill’ in the next GE….best of luck !

  3. I wrote this on another blog awhile back about KJ, Rafizi and Kam Raslan.

    “KJ and Rafizi Ramli (henceforth the Cherub) are what I like to call post Mahathir Malay Elites. Both are contenders in a Malay political system predicated on retaining power through a complex system of patronage. Both are beneficiaries of an affirmative system that created a class of Malay elites of who our dear Karim Raslan is the pied piper of that class’s anomie.

    Both have to contend with issues of Malay identity, which is what happens when you are cut off from the vox populi of the ethnic group you claim to represent.

    While KJ immersed himself in the swamp of UMNO politics leveraging his unMalay mystique and his father in law’s benign neglect to amass influence and money, the Cherub rode on a way of populist sentiment fuelled by Non Malay frustration but harnessed by Malay realpolitik to emerge as the face of the “acceptable forward thinking Malay” much beloved by Pakatan partisans.”

    I do not have much a problem with Josie Tan’s spinjob but KJ is not really as smart as he thinks he is . The limits of his ambition is dictated by self preservation, something that most power mongers shed when they gun for the top spot. All of them have a recklessness that makes them truly dangerous or great, and it is the slow and steady plodders who are the Badawis of UMNO.

  4. KJ has the look. But, I still prefer @BraveNewWorld. @BraveNewWorld has the right heart and mind, not just mention a rather decent look also. KJ, just the look. Perhaps, that is what the land of Layu-sian want. 1PM, watch out for 1KJ.

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