KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 — It’s over. The single act which alienated many Malaysians and was responsible for driving many Chinese and Indians into the clutches of the Opposition will not be repeated. Umno Youth chief Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein today cut his losses and apologised for the keris waving act which he introduced as an opening gambit at the Umno assembly three years ago.
His colleagues in the Barisan Nasional Youth were surprised when he broached the subject of the keris during their closed-door meeting. He said that it was time he offered Malaysians an apology over the act which was criticised as a saber-rattling and threatening gesture towards non-Malays.
Otherwise, it would be difficult to move on politically, he said. Officially, he will have to get the support of the Umno Youth exco before canning the keris act but in reality that is just a formality for a politician who commands a strong grip on the wing.
Some of his party men will view his apology as a climb down in the face of external pressure but the majority of them will understand his gesture. They too have been complaining behind his back on the silliness of persisting with an act which has cost them dearly at the polls.
His friends from MCA, MIC, Gerakan and other component parties of the BN were pleased with Hishammuddin’s apology. At a press conference after the meeting, the Education Minister said that he was sorry if his keris waving action had affected non-Malays. For good measure, he also said sorry to the Malays.
"I would also like to apologise to the Malays over my failure to uphold the Malay symbol," he said. He was recently taken to task by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for spooking non-Malays in the country.
His friends say that the results of Election 2008 and the swing of the non-Malay vote to Pakatan Rakyat stunned him. His soul-searching led him to the unmistakable conclusion that his keris waving act had been a major factor in the defeat of many of his friends in BN.
This was especially so in Penang where the DAP effectively caricatured him as a chauvinist and Malay ultra. Posters of him clenching the keris were placed in strategic places around the island.
For Hishammuddin, the apology is a must if he harbours any hope of rising to the top of the political ladder. Several years ago, he was seen widely as the man who would one day become the prime minister of Malaysia. The man who would carry on the legacy of his grandfather and father – Onn Jaafar and Tun Hussein Onn, both men who were revered for their sense of fairness and belief that Malaysia belonged to all races.
In the last two years, even his Chinese businessmen friends have been wondering whether he had crossed over to the dark side and become a Malay nationalist. Today’s apology is the first step by him to try and rehabilitate his image and re-launch his political career.
About time for him to admit that he's antics had driven many minorities into anger and that is one of the factors of why Barisan Nasional was punished on March 8.
So far, it's good but there is one more thing for him to do if he wishes to say geniunely that he's sorry for it: Since he's the education minister, he has to do some serious revamping over the education policies in Malaysia. Still the results are not good: STPM is not accepted worldwide, people waste another year for A-levels, the education quota in local universities remains unacceptable to the minorities and etc. Only if he fixes that, then it completes the path of 'atonement'