Monday, 8 March, 2004

Malaysia politician denies dyed-on gravitas

By Jonathan Kent
BBC correspondent in Kuala Lumpur

A Malaysian politician is denying he dyed his hair to look older - and increase his appeal with the electorate.
The chief minister of the state of Selangor, Mohamad Khir Toyo, rejected allegations that he had coloured his hair grey to give himself a wiser air.
In the West, politicians have been known to dye their hair - or even go under the knife to make themselves look younger.
Mr Berlusconi had cosmetic surgery to remove eye wrinkles
The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, recently admitted to having cosmetic surgery to remove wrinkles around his eyes.
But Malaysian attitudes to age are rather different.
All the major parties have youth wings for members under 40 and last year the Head of the Association of Malaysian Youth Clubs recommended raising their membership age limit to 50.
So at the age of 38 Mr Khir is a mere stripling by the standards of Malaysian politics.
However he denied that he had dyed his hair grey and started speaking in low, coarse tones to reach out to older voters in rural areas.
Instead, the youthful chief minister blamed his grey hair on the stress of his job - and his gravelly voice on giving too many speeches.
His opponents have said - rather unkindly - that it would take more than grey hair to make Mr Khir appear wise.
Since taking office he has tried to ban condom sales and advertisements for beer - and he has tried to force some local politicians to wear traditional costume.
The public will be able to deliver its verdict when the country votes in its general election on 21 March.

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"