KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 15 – Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin is probably one of the most social media-savvy politicians in the country, gaining him popularity among youths who have affectionately nicknamed him “KJ”. Dressed in a silky blue baju Melayu and funky black-and-orange striped socks, the 39-year-old Oxford University graduate, described as “tall, dark and handsome”, talked to reporter recently on what he thought of modern day youth and freedom of speech, among others.
“The youth nowadays are more self-centred, opinionated, lacking resilience of the past. “But they are also more independent, resourceful and better informed. “They are attached to social media, which is why I am, too. “I like to have my finger on the pulse of what’s going on and how young people think.
“Twitter, Facebook and Instagram give me a quick dipstick on what the youth are thinking. “Some people say that it’s frivolous and they ask me if I’m actually doing my job, but the reality is that interacting on social media is part of my job. “Every single time I go on Twitter, I get a good idea on how they are responding on certain issues.
“I don’t have to pay millions to have people conduct surveys, studies or research, and yet I have a decent idea on what’s happening. “It also allows the youth to feel like there’s a minister they can just get hold of quickly online.” Khairy said social media had also reduced protocol and removed barriers between him and others.
“People half my age call me ‘bro’ or ‘KJ’. This is how the world has changed compared to years ago. “Sometimes, my civil service officers were surprised at how those at school level also address me as KJ, which is good as I would like for them to see me as someone that is approachable, someone they can relate to.
“But at the end of the day, I’m a minister. “I’m not your ordinary guy on the street. I’ve got a big job to do.” On the Barisan Nasional-led government’s consistency with its stand that the nation’s inherent freedom of speech comes with limitations, Khairy said that the lines were drawn as the government firmly believed that it was worth the price to curb certain unbridled freedom if it meant the nation got to retain its peace and stability.
“When it comes to certain sensitive issues, there should be some circumspect. “The public should be more measured in what they say. “That is why it is important to have certain laws that can remind Malaysians of this. “Other countries may have made the decision to allow uncontrolled and unlimited freedom.
“But in Malaysia, as far as the government is concerned, we have made the decision that there are certain things that can and cannot be said. “If you don’t like that choice, then you can change the government; you can vote for someone else. “However, we will not tolerate people going out there and making insensitive racial remarks.”
Sitting on a couch in front of shelves filled with political and leadership books, Khairy said the laws were put in place for the nation’s interests, so long as they weren’t abused. “Say you were criticising a certain government policy. Then, of course, we shouldn’t be arresting people for that.
“There should be freedom to criticise our policy. But if you cross the line in terms of race or religion and you incite hatred, then we wouldn’t have that.” Commenting on certain political leaders who appeared to have been reckless in their statements, Khairy said: “They have to face the law as well. “They have to face criticism from their leaders, from the Prime Minister and they have to correct their position if they did say something wrong.”