On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Give KJ a chance to show what he can do

I was a guest on the political talkshow, representing the media. The show, coordinated by KJ and aired by NTV7, was different in many ways. It was in English and the producers invited opposition figures such as Tian Chua and R. Sivarasa to express their views.

Dateline Malaysia enjoyed a following with young political analysts like me believing that Malaysian voters should be allowed to listen to arguments from both sides before they cast their ballots.

I felt that if the speakers representing the Government could not convince the audience, then the votes should go to the Opposition. Barisan Nasional leaders should not shy away from debate – it was as simple as that.

But some ministers, I was given to understand later, did not like the idea of giving opposition figures access to primetime TV. It was also expensive to produce the show because advertisers shied away from sponsorship. In the end, the show was axed, and since then there has been no such programme.

I was struck by Khairy's intelligence, wit and analytical mind. His openness and ability to express his thoughts was refreshing to me, especially when many of us have to deal with graduates who struggle with English.

Khairy gave me a tough time during the interview. When the show was over, we laughed about it. With no age barrier between us, we got along quite well.

He was then not yet the son-in-law of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and certainly no one in Umno took notice of him, except maybe those who watched the talkshow. The Bahasa Malaysia version was conducted by Azalina Othman Said, now the Youth and Sports Minister.

When KJ joined the Prime Minister's Office, he called me about his appointment. I was happy for personal and business reasons: I now had a powerful contact there.

Not long afterwards, I learnt that love was in the air between Nori and Khairy. For a while, I did not broach the matter with him as I respected his private life but soon the couple began going out for dinner with my wife and me.

Thanks also to Dr Vincent Lim, the political secretary to the Prime Minister, who introduced Khairy to Nori. Dr Lim used to work at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies where Nori is now employed. The rest, as they say, is history.

I have stayed away from the debate over the ambitions of the 28-year-old KJ. Some have implied a schism between those with family connections and those without.

His detractors admit that Khairy is very clever but being an Oxford graduate does not necessarily make him future prime minister material. Fair enough.

Last week, an editor of an Internet news website wrote about favoured sons and sons-in-law inheriting positions in Umno. In short, nepotism was prevalent in the party.

I felt it was terribly unfair simply because no one has pointed out that in Parti Keadilan Rakyat, DAP and PAS, we find the immediate family members of these party leaders holding positions and contesting in elections. We do not have to name names but no one bats an eye simply because they are in the opposition.

Despite knowing Khairy for only a short time, we have talked about our concerns for the nation, including corruption, bureaucracy, lack of racial interaction, increasing crime rate and religious intolerance.

Irrespective of our political affiliation, Malaysians, I believe, share the same anxieties over what we see around us. The country needs politicians who are idealistic and committed to fighting the scourge of corruption.

It does not matter whether they are young, inexperienced or are family members of political leaders. What is important is that they are prepared to walk the talk instead of just talking for political expediency.

At a Christmas open house of a journalist friend in Petaling Jaya last year, Khairy pulled me aside and asked whether I had a Christmas wish. I nodded and told him that I would like to see a clean and reformed police force.

He smiled. Not too long later, Abdullah announced the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the role and responsibility of the police force in maintaining law and order, including in areas like work ethics, abuses, the welfare of policemen and women victims of violence.

I do not know the part about Khairy being the most powerful 28-year-old in the country but Malaysians do not want him to let them down.

He has asked for three years. No one can begrudge him that, since he has won a key political post that will allow him to do something for the country. He should be given that chance.