PETALING JAYA: Zairil Khir Johari has taken a stoic stand against the barrage of stinging remarks that have followed his recent — and unexpected — election into the DAP’s Central Executive Committee (CEC).
DAP made headlines last week after it revealed that an error in the vote tabulation during last month’s party election had placed a wrong person in the top 20 posts.
A vote recount found that Zairil, who was originally placed in the 39th position, had in fact garnered enough votes to be elected to the 20th position.
The twist of events led to Zairil replacing Vincent Wu in a move that DAP chairman, Karpal Singh, admitted to be an “embarrassing mistake that should not have happened”.
DAP’s detractors, meanwhile, accused the party of staging a political ploy to win back Malay support by including a “token Malay” into the CEC.
On Monday, a mainstream daily quoted former DAP vice-chairman, Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim, as saying that the blunder was an “obvious attempt” by DAP to position itself as a Malay-friendly party.
Zairil, who currently holds the post of assistant national publicity chief, said the DAP had anticipated this response but proceeded with the announcement nevertheless.
“We knew we would be ridiculed if we announced the error but we had no other choice,” he told fz.com.. “There was no question about hiding it.”
“It’s very unfortunate that this has happened and we are trying to right a wrong. But this has also given me faith in the party leadership because although they knew it would make them look bad, they put integrity first.”
The fact that Zairil, 30, is the youngest member of DAP’s new CEC line-up and a two-year-old party member has made him both “glad and thankful” that he had raked in enough votes to sit among the top 20.
“It is an honour,” he said.
As to remarks that he is merely a “token Malay” in the DAP, Zairil pointed out that if that were true, then he wouldn’t have been given the powers that he has, including that of press secretary to DAP secretary-general and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.
“I have been given so many tasks and responsibilities, and you don’t give that to people who are just token lah,” he said.
“You give that to people who can work and I think I have proven myself in my work through the Penang Institute and party.”
In the same manner that he brushed off the “token Malay” jibe, Zairil also refused to be provoked by the insinuation that he is not Malay by birth.
Two local dailies today referred to him as “Zairil Abdullah” in reference to old speculation that he is the stepson of former education minister, Tan Sri Mohd Khir Johari.
“That is obviously not my name,” he stated. “They are trying to malign me. That’s all that I have to say about it.”
For more stories, go to www.fz.com, the website for freedom of expression and fairness in articulation.
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on Jan 9, 2013.