AirAsia shares: 'I'll sue if you say I have any'

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin today denied he held any shares in Malaysia-based regional low-cost carrier AirAsia saying that anyone who said so risked being sued by him.

"I do not own any shares in AirAsia. Anyone that says so can see me in court," said the Umno Youth chief during a live chat session on Yahoo! Malaysia's 'Question Time' segment today.

He was asked by a chat participant to comment on his links to Tony Fernandes, AirAsia owner and Jason Lo, CEO of AirAsia subsidiary Tune Talk and his support for AirAsia's bid to obtain more route allocations.

"Jason Lo is my best friend. I have known him since we were kids. Tony is also a friend. And I support more route allocations because it's good for the country to have more tourist arrivals. Don't you want to see more people coming to Malaysia?" said Khairy.

Khairy Jamaluddin (Malaysian Insider Photo)
Khairy Jamaluddin (Malaysian Insider Photo)

To another question from participant who probed further on whether his immediate family members held shares in AirAsia, Khairy replied: "My immediate family members do not have shares in AirAsia neither do any friends or proxies. Again, I will gladly see anyone in court over this."

Khairy, who is member of Parliament for Rembau, engaged over 1,700 participants during the one-and-a-half hour live chat session. In all, over 600 comments were generated.

Popularly knows as 'KJ', Khairy also dismissed claims that being the son-in-law of former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had helped him win Umno Youth's top post two years ago.

Instead, he said, it was seen as a handicap in his bid to win the coveted position. He was answering a question which asked whether he had traded on his father-in-law's former position in order to gain popularity in the party.

'I don't know her'

Elaborating, Khairy, 34, said he won the Umno Youth position after Abdullah had announced his retirement.

"I had no advantage. In fact, it was seen as a handicap," he said, adding that the competition for the post was a tough.

In March 2009 Umno polls for the Youth wing head, Khairy obtained 304 votes to beat former Selangor mentri besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo (254 votes) and Jerlun MP and former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamamad's son, Mukhriz Mahathir, who got 232 votes.

When another chat participant asked if he was where he was today because of his father-in-law, Khairy said he would like to think that he had worked hard enough to get to where he was.

Khairy, who is BN Youth chairperson, also distanced himself from Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim's family. The question popped up when a participant cheekily asked whether he was once supposed to marry Anwar's daughter, Nurul Izzah, who is the Lembah Pantai MP.

"I don't even know her apart from seeing her in Parliament. Another lie and urban legend. People believe in anything they hear," he said.

When asked which prime minister he thought was better - Abdullah or current premier Abdul Najib Razak - he replied by saying both men had different styles and approaches and were equally committed to reforms.

Najib's weakness

He was equally non-committal when asked if MCA President Chua Soi Lek would be a liability to BN in the next general elections.

"Party members have accepted him. He has stayed out of the Cabinet - his own decision. I think he understands the issue," said Khairy.

Khairy showed his lighter side when a participant asked him on what he perceived Najib's weaknesses to be.

"He likes that song 'Nobody but you' by the Wonder Girls. That's a pretty bad weakness," joked Khairy.

Asked who his favourite singers were, he said his favourite musicians included U2, Counting Crows, the Dave Matthews Band and Faizal Tahir.

The questions put to Khairy covered a myriad of issues, to which the answers to some are outlined below.

What Khairy had to say:

On the IIPPs -

"Yes, we do need them because TNB cannot be the sole generator but we need a better system to buy power from the IPPs. Look at transparent auction systems for power in the future, not lopsided PPAs like those signed early on in the 90s. Those were unfair to the gov't and ultimately the people."

On the upcoming Bersih 2.0 Demo -

"People have the right to assembly. The police should facilitate and make it easy and peaceful so that it can be complete in a few hours. BN will not join because we feel electoral reforms can be discussed through dialogue and that the rally is a political statement even though done by an NGO. I welcome the opportunity to discuss with Bersih if they are willing to see me."

On whether he thinks Wawasan 2020 will be achieved -

"Tough. Income/GDP target in the present global economic environment will be a challenge. Plus you have to ask a fundamental economic question: If we push GDP growth, will that come at the expense of income inequality? Empirical data is alarming. So maybe we need to review the targets. Not just GDP but also socio-economic justice."

On the New Economic Policy -

"Good intentions but poor execution. We need reforms to NEP-type policies."

On the empowerment of women -

"I have long supported the empowerment of women but didn't believe in quotas for leadership positions because that would not measure merit. But since its so difficult to get women in positions of political leadership, maybe we can reveisit quotas for MPs etc to be women."

On what he would change first if he ever becomes PM -

"The Education system. Massive revamp.

On the '1Malaysia' e-mail project -

"I don't think it's necessary. It has attracted a lot of criticism and the benefits from this project are not enough to justify its approval." 

On whether BN would lose the federal government to Pakatan Rakyat if it does not change -

"It's for BN to prove that we are better. We can't just tell young people to be thankful, syukur, and support BN. That is outdated but I still hear older gen politicos saying that. Come on man, times have changed.

"We need to show people what we're doing now, not just recount our 'jasa' from the past. I am working hard to affect this change, so is the PM. I hope people will give DS Najib a strong mandate to carry out that change."

On DAP's Tony Pua -

"I am a realist. I understand that the federal budget has a limit and that we have to plan for the future. Tony and I agree on many things. But I think he believes the government's coffers are bottomless and likes to indulge in Anwar-style promises of giving everything free. But otherwise he's OK. I think he went to a decent university."

PAS's Nasrudin the best?

Yahoo! Malaysia also ran polls during the 'Question Time' segment with interesting results. The first poll was on whom readers thought was the best youth leader in the country.

Khairy, with 30% of the vote, was bumped into second place by Nasrudin Hassan of PAS who grabbed 38%. Khairy's Umno Youth deputy Mukhriz Mahathir was third with 20% while PKR's Shamsul Iskandar Akin, MCA's Wee Ka Siong and MIC's T Mohan garnered 7%, 3% and 2% of the votes respectively.

Asked if they thought BN had improved its online presence and engagement since the last elections, a whopping 53% of participants said 'no'. Only a quarter thought that BN has improved since 2008, while the rest either said they didn't know or didn't care.

Khairy was the second personality to be interviewed on Yahoo! Malaysia's 'Question Time'. The first was Anwar, who engaged over 26,000 Yahoo! users in mid-May.

The full transcript of Khairy's chat session can be read here.