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Malaysia's young voters to play key role in election
UMNO's youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin speaks to Jim Middleton about the key issues for young voters in Malaysia.

Official statistics show that nearly half the Malaysian population is now aged under 40.

Khairy Jamaluddin is leader of the youth divisions Barisan Nasional and of the largest governing party, UMNO (United Malays National Organisation)

Khairy Jamaluddin, it's very good to be talking to you.
KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN, LEADER, BN/UMNO YOUTH: We believe that the momentum is growing daily for us, and we are optimistic that we will win the election. How big the margin is, I think that is going to be determined over the next two days, the last two days of campaigning. How hard we work, how we get our strong core supporters out on polling day itself. But I have every reason to believe that we will score a decent and good win.

JIM MIDDLETON: So are you saying that while BN was surprised by the opposition's performance at the last election in 2008, you're not going to be caught napping twice?

KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN: I think 2008 was a wake-up call for us. I don't think that we will be caught unawares this time around. The state of readiness and preparation has been far more meticulous.

And I think as far as the issues are concerned, we've tried to manage as best as possible key national issues which affect a large segment of the electorate. And this time around I think what we have on offer, the transformation story, as far as the economy is concerned, as far as government is concerned, is extremely convincing. So I hope that will mitigate the support for the opposition.

JIM MIDDLETON: I have seen polling suggesting that the opposition has been making inroads in Sabah, Sarawak, and Johor, all government strong holds; does that accord with what you're hearing? Are you worried at all about the way the campaign has been going in those crucial areas?

KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN: Those three states have traditionally been strong fortresses for Barisan Nasional, our coalition. Although they've poured in a lot of resource, a lot of time and effort in Johor and Sabah and Sarawak I have a lot of faith that the electorate in Sabah and Sarawak in particular will continue to return a strong Barisan Nasional government.

Johor has been a flash point this time around, especially southern Johor. The next couple of day s will really determine which way that goes. But again Johor has been a bastion for us and I have no reason to believe that that is going to change.

JIM MIDDLETON: Credibility is important in any election; voters do have to have faith in the results. Why is it that as this campaign winds down people associated with Barisan Nasional finding it necessary to organise plane loads of voters, suspect voters, to be shifted from Sabah into sensitive areas on the mainland on the Malay peninsula?

KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN: These aren't dubious voters. These are voters who are on the ...

JIM MIDDLETON: So can you categorically guarantee that these are not migrants who are being enticed on to these planes with the offer of either work permits or citizenship, if they vote for BN?

KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN: I can absolutely categorically assert that these voters who have been offered transport arrangements to return to vote, whether it's from the peninsula ...

JIM MIDDLETON: Well there were 40,000 people from the Malay peninsula in Sabah.

KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN: Well of course, of course. Actually there are more the other way around. There are a lot of Sabahans, for instance, who work in Johor, in the industrial areas in Johor, and these amount to tens of thousands. And we've made arrangements, not via coercion, but we have asked them if they wanted to go home to vote in Sabah. And they've said, yes, they would like to have those arrangements.

JIM MIDDLETON: The Prime minister's office has denied any involvement in this but I have seen emails, which I can quote from if you like, "we need November 30,000 people in and out over a three-day period. I need to revert to PMOs office tomorrow by the end of the day." Another one which I have seen also refers to: "I've got to go to PM office by noon." And these are communications with airlines.

KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN: I think the most important thing to stress, again, is that these are Malaysian citizens wants to go home to their home state to vote, not foreign nationals. There's nothing wrong with that.

JIM MIDDLETON: But what about the question of whether the prime minister's office is involved or not? These documents seem to suggest that the prime minister's office is, despite the denials that have come from his people.

KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN: Well, I can't comment on emails which have just been produced by the opposition parties. All I can say...

JIM MIDDLETON: Not just the opposition.

KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN: All I can say again is that these are, as far as I know, these are Malaysian voters. And, if at all there was any involvement from the prime minister, it must have been just as - in his capacity as the leader of the coalition making arrangements, as we normally do, to assist voters to go home, especially our supporters. I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

JIM MIDDLETON: Young voters are a difficulty for incumbents everywhere in the world and I am sure that Malaysia is no different, except for the fact that you do have very, very many young voters, I think close to the 50 per cent of the population is under the age of 40.


JIM MIDDLETON: What are you doing? Why do you think you are going to be able to stop them voting for the opposition, seeing them as agents of change whereas you are the party of the past?

KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN: Sure. Firstly of course coming back to the transformation story, I think we have started two years, three years prior to the election demonstrating to the people that again this change comes from the prime minister, from our party. And that has excited young people, not all of them of course it's very competitive demographic we are talking about. And the other thing is I think we have addressed key issues as far as they are concerned.

JIM MIDDLETON: What specifically are they been concerned about and how have you dealt with them?

KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN: They are concerned with economic issues, job creation, livelihood issues. I think we have dealt with that by saying 'look, if we win we commit to creating more jobs than the opposition', the opposition just commits to 1 million. We're committing to 3.3 million jobs over the next five years.

JIM MIDDLETON: Promises are one thing. Reality is another.

KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN: Promises are one thing, but this is based on strong job creation over the last two or three years; so we're projecting based on empirical evidence of the last few years. We're promising more affordable housing, especially for young people, more than the opposition. We're promising - we've already institute add minimum wage to ensure that there is a floor as far as wages are concerned, hoping this will rise throughout the job force. And these are things that young people I think are looking at.

JIM MIDDLETON: Khairy Jamaluddin, we had better leave it there. Thank you very much for talking to us.

KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN: Thank you very much.

JIM MIDDLETON : Khairy Jamaluddin, leader of the youth division of Malaysia's ruling coalition Barisan Nasional and of its largest party UMNO.
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