For the casual political observer, Federal Territories Umno Youth chief Razlan Rafii would fit the stereotype of a Malay supremacist thug.
This image would have likely been burned into most minds after he threatened to torch DAP's headquarters last year, in a fiery response to RSN Rayer’s ‘Umno celaka’ remark.
But dig deeper, and he becomes almost a poster child of the modern Umno dilemma, where one must uphold and live in a multiracial society, while defending the notion that Malays deserve more privileges than others.
For starters, while many would assume Razlan would feel most at home in a 100 percent Malay environment, his vision of Utopia is quite different.
Speaking over KFC in FT Umno Youth’s small office in Sungei Besi, Razlan’s vision of Malaysia is something like Taman Tun Dr Ismail, an upscale urban township, where people of all races co-exist in a united, mostly English-speaking community.
There, the father of four said, all are free to practise their own religions, and truly love thy neighbours.
Razlan himself grew up in a multicultural environment in the mostly working class Indian enclave of Sentul and then in the predominantly Chinese Salak Jaya.
The 41-year-old also lived in a squatter village right across the street from where Umno's headquarters is today, in what was known as Kampung Maxwell. His father was the local Umno division chief.
The bona fide city boy now mourns what he believes is a slow death of multiculturalism in Kuala Lumpur.
"But now we don't have that. The Malays live with the Malays, the Chinese with the Chinese, the Indians with the Indians.”
His own children, he laments, do not spend time with non-Malay friends.
‘Malays less advanced’
Growing up in a diverse community has built in Razlan a somewhat begrudging admiration for non-Malays, especially the Chinese.
The Chinese, he said, are careful with their money and take advantage of government offerings like affordable homes.
Malays, he said, are more wasteful and are generally less competitive.
Razlan’s take is that Malays have not matured as a civilisation compared to the Chinese, whom he said brought with them hundreds of years of advanced culture when they came to the Malay archipelago.
“The Malays have only gone through one cycle of life, but the Chinese have already gone through several.”
It is perhaps this belief that the Malays are less advanced that grounds Razlan’s belief the community must continue to be sheltered and assisted.
Protection of Malay interests, as per the federal constitution, must remain and with it, affirmative action including keeping non-bumiputera students out of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), he said.
“It’s not that we are denying education to the non-Malays other public universities are open to them,” he said, calmly.
Likewise, he said, the Chinese and Indians are free to learn their mother tongue, and that single-stream schools are proposed as a reaction to the lack of racial unity.
“Single stream schools would not have been brought up if everyone understood racial tolerance when politicking,” Razlan said.
Specifically, he blames the DAP for stirring up racial sentiments among the Chinese for their own political mileage.
For example, he said DAP played up the rising cost of living to incite the urban Chinese in the Klang Valley against the government.
“But the reality is, without playing up their emotions, the Chinese should be thankful to the government because everything the government does for the capital, like the LRT and the MRT, benefits them the most.”
So great is Razlan’s disdain for DAP that he said it would be impossible for the two parties to ever work together.
“I can see PAS working with Umno, or all the Muslim MPs including from PKR working together but not DAP with Umno.
“When DAP accepts our constitutional monarchy, and takes up the Rukun Negara as their struggle then we can sit together. (But) they have to abandon their Malaysian Malaysia plan,” he said.
Razlan's words are strong but when he is not throwing crumpled memoranda at DAP leaders or threatening arson in a fit of rage, he is confoundingly the quintessential Malay gentleman - soft spoken and polite.
“I don’t usually shout at people. But at that time, I felt that (Rayer’s remarks) could not be overlooked.
“We can’t let people like Rayer (photo), Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng insult other people, not just Malays, but insult other people.
“And if you look back at what I said to Ong Kian Ming, I only said that their leader insulted us, I didn’t curse at him,” he said, defensively.
Others at the scene to wtness the fiery affair which saw a crumpled memorandum thrown to DAP MP Ong Kian Ming's face may beg to differ.
No one should be insulted
In May last year, Rayer called several Penang Umno assemblypersons ‘celaka’ (damned) in the state assembly, angering Umno.
Razlan led an angry rally in front of DAPs headquarters in Kuala Lumpur which turned into a fracas when DAP's Ong came down to accept the group’s memorandum.
This forced Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin to apologise for the damage to the DAP signboard.
True to the duality of being a urban Umno man, Razlan said he would have done the same if Rayer called anyone else ‘celaka’.
“If someone insults another race, insulted my friends, say for example if Rayer said ‘celaka Cina’, I would have defended them, too,” he said.
His outbursts have painted him as a firebrand element from the other side of Umno Youth - the one that does not quite gel with Khairy’s (photo) moderate drive.
And yet, Razlan is quick to admit that the radical days of Umno Youth are over, and for good reason.
Despite his reputation, Razlan said he supports Khairy’s moderate approach because this is how one wins hearts and minds.
“Things are different now. People used to say that all Umno Youth does, is demonstrate.
“We will do protests, but now we are more focused on being a bridge to the youth, and figuring how to move forward,” he said.
But like Khairy, Razlan who joined Umno when he was 20, will soon have to leave the small Federal Territories Umno Youth office, and the Umno Youth wing itself.
He will have to transition into the big boys' league where he will have to refine his image in a bid to rise up the ranks to be a national leader.
There are several veterans he could take cues from.
One example is Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor (photo) who plays to a multiracial tune, and like Razlan, believes that there should be a mix of all races in housing areas.
Then there are the more conservative leaders like Rural and Regional Development Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who panders to hardcore Malay sentiments.
Or he could just be both, like the top dog himself, Umno president Najib Abdul Razak, who can don a suit and preach moderation on the global stage, then change into baju Melayu to make fiery speeches at silat events in support of a racially-charged rally on the home front.
Razlan’s closing remarks after the lengthy afternoon interview gives a hint of who he may become.
“I want to see Malaysians have an open mind,” he said.
But then he adds: “Without rejecting the core agreements that Malaysia is founded on.”
Source : Malaysiakini