By Malaysiakini

Dian Lee, the daughter of property tycoon Lee Kim Yew, has been a recent high-profile addition to MUDA, the newly-formed youth-based political party that seeks to be significantly different from the old guards.

This involvement of a member of a well-connected tycoon family has sparked a debate on social media, where MUDA has a strong following, on whether it is a boon or bane for a party seeking to break from the past.

Others, however, argued that Lee (above) should be judged by her deeds rather than the family she is born into.

The debate was enough to prompt a response from MUDA Secretary-General Amira Aisya Abd Aziz, who defended Lee.

“With all due respect, I often praise those who are capable in MUDA, regardless of their backgrounds.

“Dian, Dr Thanussha, Afiqah Zulkifli, Beatrice Chin, Cikgu Ayu and so many more capable women are in MUDA. I’m proud to stand alongside them,” Amira said.

This was after a netizen accused MUDA of only highlighting Lee due to her family background.

MUDA Secretary-General Amira Aisya Abd Aziz

Lee has been speculated as a potential MUDA candidate in the Johor state election.

Critics raised concerns on whether MUDA will become too elitist and asked if it will be able to empathise with the working class and stand up for them when it came to issues such as minimum wage and progressive taxation.

On the flip side, other netizens argued that it was premature to judge Lee.

They pointed out that Lee, like other MUDA members, has done much grassroots work and should only be called out if she does indeed engage in cronyism.

Lee, in an interview with The Star, had maintained that her family won’t be roped in to fund MUDA.

“My father and my circle of friends won’t be asked to donate. We plan to use crowd-funding because we believe the people will support our cause,” she was quoted as saying.

The mother of three acknowledged that she was nervous about getting involved in active politics, but she supports MUDA’s offer of new perspectives and faces.

Dian Lee in a shopping area, wearing a Muda T-shirt

MUDA counts youths from a diverse background in its leadership, including doctors, engineers, lawyers, and activists.

While most political parties have their own youth wings, they are still subjected to the direction of their central leadership, made up of much older persons, and some count grandfathers and even great grandfathers among them.

MUDA sees a relatively young leadership line-up calling the shots instead of being a mere wing.

The party is set to formally launch tomorrow after a lengthy court battle that ended in their favour. The Home Ministry previously refused to register the party.

MUDA will make its debut in the Johor polls. The snap polls coincide with the implementation of the new voting age of 18, down from 21, and also the automatic voter registration system.

However, race-based and patronage politics remain deeply entrenched among the electorate and MUDA faces an uphill battle to overcome a decades-long political culture.