KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 - Outgoing Umno Youth chief Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein will tempt fate on Wednesday when he reprises the controversial keris act.
The main difference this time is that he will not unsheathe the keris or brandish it in a threatening fashion.
He will lift up a covered keris as part of the opening ceremony of the youth assembly.By keeping the keris as part of the opening ceremony for the Umno Youth assembly he is taking into account the sentiment of party delegates who felt that Umno should not be cowed into doing away with its tradition just because non-Malays felt threatened by it.
The keris act became a major talking point in the run-up to Election 2008 with the Opposition using the imagery of Hishammuddin holding up the keris as a symbol of Umno's arrogance and insensitivity to non-Malays.
Non-Malays equate brandishing an unsheath keris as a show of power by the Malays.
After non-Malays voted with their feet and Barisan Nasional suffered significant losses in the general elections, Hishammuddin apologised for the keris act, saying he never meant to upset Chinese or Indians.
But his apology did not go down well with Umno members, who viewed it as a sign of weakness.
The cynics may argue that with him trailing Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Datuk Shafie Apdal and Datuk Khaled Nordin in the race for the three vice-president's slots, the keris act may be his last hope of proving his Malay credentials and persuading delegates that he is worthy of their support.
An Umno Youth official told the Malaysian Insider: "The keris is something dear to Umno. It has never been about threatening anyone."