Date of publication: Dec 7, 2013
Section heading: Main Section
Page number: 019
LONDON Umno Overseas Club chairman Ikmal Hazlan Ikmal Hisham and his team is determined to galvanise greater support among Malaysian students studying abroad, especially the younger generation, for the party. The 23-year-old student from City University in London shares with the New Straits Times why it is important for Umno to continue engaging the youth.
Question: Being an Umno member at a young age, can you share with us your involvement in the party and the activities organised by the London chapter of the Umno Overseas Club?
Answer: I joined Umno at 20, which was three years ago. I am now pursuing my master's in Project Management, Finance and Risk. I was elected as London Umno Overseas Club chairman two months ago and had previously led the Leeds Umno Overseas Club. One of the biggest events we organised was the screening of Tanda Putera in London last month.
The turnout was overwhelming, with all 258 tickets being sold out. We received positive reactions from viewers at the event, despite controversies surrounding the screening of the film in Malaysia. It was much more inviting in London. We are in the midst of planning a two-day dialogue programme, dubbed the Malaysian Initiative, with a targeted audience of 500 people in London early next year.
Question: There is a perception that Malaysian students studying abroad are friendlier towards the opposition, compared with the ruling parties. What is your take on this?
Answer: I must admit that there are students supporting the opposition, but then again, it happens everywhere, including in Malaysia. That said, there is also a big number of students who support the government and Umno. Those who are anti-establishment were fed the wrong information against the government. The only way to correct this perception is to continue engaging them and providing them with facts.
For instance, the London Umno Overseas Club recently organised a forum to exchange views on the policies introduced by the government and the country's future. Half of the participants were supporters of the opposition. The topic that caused a heated debate was the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The participants inclined to the opposition were misled, when they claimed that the rakyat would have to fork out 24 per cent in GST. This is not true. This is the importance of holding discussions and forums, especially with the youth, who have access to all kinds of information. Following the positive response to the forum, we plan to organise more discussions in the future.
Question: Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak has stressed the importance of using social media, such Facebook and Twitter, to make Umno more appealing to the younger generation. How would this help Umno gain support?
Answer: Our president's call was spot on. The next general election is important for Umno, since the younger generation will be the largest decision-makers in the polls. Since young people are technology savvy, I believe our president's call is relevant and must be adhered to. Umno had, in the past, embarked on many efforts to rejuvenate the party.
I am looking forward to the setting up of Akademi Kapten Hussein, as mooted by Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin. It is a leadership academy to mold and train young people, who will lead the country in the future. It is a good move to create a reservoir of young leaders in Umno and to prepare it for the next general election.
Question: Umno initiated a major reform, where it shifted from the quota system to electoral college system, in its recent party polls. Did the transformation generate a buzz among Malaysians in London?
Answer: A salute to Umno's leadership, as the move to empower 150,000 delegates to decide the party's future was a bold decision. The transformation in the party polls awarded members at the grassroots level a greater voice. It shows that Umno recognises the contributions of its members, including the younger generation, who were given the opportunity to vote for the party's leadership.
Question: As an individual representing the aspirations of the younger generation of Malaysians abroad, what are you hopes for Umno?
Answer: I hope that Umno will continue engaging young people, especially students abroad. This is important for it to remain relevant among the younger generation. I also hope Umno and the government will provide more room for young leaders and professionals to contribute. I am confident that the government can achieve its goal to transform the country into a high-income nation sooner than the targeted year, 2020.