Bersatu youth lacks direction and is not attracting younger voters, said two party members who will challenge Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman for the wing’s top post.
Mohd Muzammil Ismail and Razalif Mohamad Zain, both 30, told The Malaysian Insight that Bersatu youth, also known as Armada, needs a new leader who can galvanise support from younger voters and organise activities.
Despite Syed Saddiq’s position as a minister, the 28-year-old has failed to organise programmes and training for members, and to gain the confidence of the public.
“They don’t feel any change to their lives, and this has shifted their support towards the opposition. They are also angry that the promise on the National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) has not been fulfilled.
“Starting from Tg Piai (by-election), the evidence is there for all to see that younger voters have rejected us,” said Razalif.
PH has won five and lost in five out of 10 by-elections since it won federal power in 2018.
In Tg Piai, particularly, the ruling coalition lost in almost all the polling streams for younger voters.
Razalif is Armada branch chief for Seaview Park in Bukit Bendera, Penang, while Muzammil is an exco member of the wing.
Both of them will contest in Bersatu’s first elections since the party was formed in September 2016.
Voting for the branch elections will be held from February 15 to March 29, while divisional elections will be held on April 18.
No programmes, no finances
Razalif said Armada has almost no programmes for its members, much less to attract new blood.
“There are almost no programmes held for the youth at the grassroots level due to the absence of funding,” he said.
Muzammil said the lack of activities and training had also caused a dearth of skills among youth members that a political party needs to groom its leadership.
“There are no cadetships, public speaking or organisational training programmes for youth leaders.”
Muzammil described Armada as “half-dead” and that it did not provide any financial assistance for them to hold programmes.
“The Armada leaders are like tortoises. They retract into their shells each time they see other youth members as they don’t even have RM5 or RM10 in their pockets.
“How can they take care of their followers if they can’t even manage them. This has a domino effect where their own followers also can’t take care of their charges,” Muzammil said.
He sees this as a failure of Armada’s national leaders.
“They have only started giving RM2,500 to the youth divisions when it is close to party elections.
“For the past one year and eight months, Armada leaders have had to sell their cars and re-mortgage their houses to sustain their divisions.”
Financial problems at the Bersatu grassroots level was raised by vice-president Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman during the party’s annual general meeting in 2018.
The former Election Commission chief suggested that with several Bersatu leaders in government, projects be awarded to Bersatu division and branch leaders to help them generate sufficient funds for grassroots programmes.
But Syed Saddiq had rejected the idea as political patronage and said Armada would not follow the practices of the previous government.
Muzammil said Syed Saddiq had also failed to set a direction for Armada on the issue of Malay rights and Islam.
“When Syed Saddiq suggested that Dr Zakir Naik be sent back to India, there was a lot of disagreement among the Armada members.
“People now think that Bersatu is against Malay issues and Islam.”
Syed Saddiq has said he will defend his position as youth chief.
“This is a festival of democracy and Bersatu’s first party elections. It’s for the grassroots to decide. In the two, three years of Bersatu and Armada existence we have done a fair bit, and these polls will strengthen the party,” Syed Saddiq said recently. – TMI