The MCA- Malaysian Chinese association has been working with UMNO since it's founding in 1940's. MCA was founded in 1949 by Kuomintang members. It was founded on the principles of freedom and the free man. Some of the prominent founders were HS Lee who was a colonel, Lim Chong Eu (Medical doctor and Colonel) and Leong Yew Koh (major general). In 1951, it became a partner in PERIKATAN- which was a coalition between UMNO, MCA and MIC.
In the 12th GE, MCA suffered one of its worst defeats in the party's history. It now has 15 parliamentary seats. It won 840,000 votes in the 12th GE. We assumed 90% of the votes came from Chinese voters. The other Chinese centric political party the DAP, has 28 seats in parliament (over 1 million votes) making it more representative of Chinese political interests than MCA and even GERAKAN (184,000 votes) combined.
The number of Chinese voters during the last GE was around 2.5 million. With around 760,000 purely Chinese votes (90% of 840k), this would mean, MCA managed to secure 30% of the Chinese votes with 1.7 million votes going to non MCA parties.
MCA is therefore seen as a weak partner to UMNO and BN. It has failed to deliver Chinese votes crucial to BN's victory. In the BUKIT GANTANG by-elections, Chinese votes for the BN were in fact reduced. BUKIT GANTANG more or less confirmed the perception that Chinese were abandoning MCA.
But why has MCA failed to attract Chinese voters? As senior partner to the coalition, UMNO leadership must also look into this matter. The failure of MCA is also a failure of UMNO.
MCA was also a casualty of the political tsunami.
Let's look at the issues in context. MCA was part of the casualty of the 12th GE where all ruling parties (in Peninsula) suffered setbacks. On the whole the BN secured 52% of the popular votes while the band of coalition opposition won 46% of the votes. UMNO as the most senior member of BN or Brother number One got only 2.38 million votes. That's 30% of the total votes during the GE.
Look at UMNO. It has 3 over million members and it got only 2.38 million votes? Suppose out of this 2.38 million, actual Malay votes were only 90%- that's just over 2 million votes. Even UMNO can't secure all the votes among its members. The fact was, over 1 million UMNO voters did not vote UMNO candidates. That's a most damning verdict on UMNO and its leadership.
The total Malay voters at that election were more than 5 million. That would mean that at least 3 million Malay voters did not vote UMNO which also means, more Malays didn't vote for UMNO than those who did. Given the numbers, UMNO couldn't even say it represents the Malays just as MCA couldn't claim it represents the Chinese.
Lets not have a case where the kettle says the pot is black.
I am not going into the sordid details of the performance of the other parties. MIC? Gerakan? The fact is, MCA was part of the general dressing down on the BN as a whole with the bulk of the blame attributable to UMNO. UMNO can't rehabilitate its whole without also rehabilitating its parts. And MCA is one crucial part that UMNO must pay attention to.
It isn't a wise thing to say- biar MCA mampus la! While UMNO champions Malay interests (I won't say Malay rights anymore), it is also the principal leader of the government. Malay interests must ride on the overall interests of the nation. You can't have Malay interests that are at variance with national interests. National interests call for inclusiveness rather than partisanship. By the way, I believe a right is what you fought and earned arising from your own efforts.
Given these facts, it is counterproductive for everyone to talk about a weakened MCA without also asking the reasons why it has become an incapacitated MCA. Let see these from a non MCA member.
Even as some MCA leaders deny this, people from the outside see MCA as being beset with leadership struggles. Lim Kit Siang will of course downplay the existence of MCA's internal struggles because to acknowledge their existence, would indeed validate Ong Tee Keat's claim that his leadership is under siege. Being a beleaguered party makes MCA in a less than fighting form to carry out its agenda. It is LKS's interest to say there is nothing wring with MCA so as to deprive MCA of an excuse. Lim Kit Siang's overriding interest is to portray MCA's lethargy over many pressing issues as the result of a useless MCA rather than because it is dampened by internal struggles.
The reality is, MCA is a struggling and a straggling party. A weakened MCA makes DAP appear a more robust representative of the Chinese. It follows that a reinvigorated and energized MCA will undercut DAP's claim.
Just look at the MCA leadership. MCA's internal intrigues couldn't be more aptly represented than having an odd couple at the leadership of MCA. Ong Tee Keat is the president while his deputy is Chua Soil Lek- the man who simply refused to fade away. The MCA is thus divided into two formidable camps reminiscent of the teams A and B some years ago.
UMNO must throw its weight behind the leader of MCA. Whether it likes it or not,,UMNO must speak to MCA in a unified voice and deals with Ong Tee Keat. It can't do multiple dealings with several MCA leaders. That would only give legitimacy and embolden rivals to OTK which would only further weaken MCA. The claim by the UMNO secgen that UMNO does not interfere with MCA affairs should be taken with a pinch of salt. It is no secret that some senior UMNO members are cultivating Chua Soi Lek probably in view of contingencies or probably mirroring UMNO's own internal politics.
A weakened MCA is not good for UMNO. Recently I heard disturbing news that MCA will self implode and that there were even rumors that MCA will exit the BN. I talked to a few UMNO supporters, who responded by saying, if MCA does so, it will be good for UMNO. It will just a case of The BN carrying out some bloodletting to relive pressure.
I find such response equally alarming as it ignores the fact that UMNO needs strong partners if the BN wants to offer itself as a credible government forming party. Unless UMNO wants to become an opposition party, assigning itself the role of struggling for purely ethnic interests, then such a response, which is representative of the feelings of the Malay masses it is claimed, is ill conceived.
The value of MCA to UMNO is the former's openness to engage UMNO. MCA is the Chinese voice of reason. Reasonableness is the bonding element between parties with competing interests. It is in the interest of UMNO to have a strong MCA. A strong MCA can only emerge if it can regain credibility lost. It has lost credibility as a result of several causes.
MCA can become strong again if it can recapture its credibility. It can only do this, if UMNO gives it space for MCA to be MCA. To become MCA, the MCA leadership must:-
- Just as UMNO must reinvent itself, MCA needs to do the same. UMNO must recognize this and thus must lend unequivocal support to the MCA leadership.
- Regain the trust of the Chinese community. That is a party in sync with the new environment of change.
- MCA is given space to fight for Chinese interests.
- MCA must have application.
Just as UMNO is undergoing its re-invention phase, MCA is travelling the same road. It is now engaged in its most radical reformation in the party's history. The man behind this is the MCA MCA's brother number 1- Ong Tee Keat. He is committed to getting rid of the most baneful contaminating agents that are ravaging the MCA body politic; vested business interests ensconced under the guise of politics and MCA being the voice not of the Chinese people but organised crime. MCA watchers are calling these the towkay and the taikor elements.
Is there an opportunity for MCA to strike a fatal blow at these two elements? I see such an opportunity in the government's handling of the PKFZ issue. Since MCA is seen to be the party most associated with the PKFZ issue and its leader now committed to sort out this mess, the UMNO led government must join hands with MCA to clear this mess. In doing so, it brings back credibility to the MCA leadership. Such support will underscore MCA's effort to return ti its roots of fighting for ideals just as when it was formed in 1949 by Kuomintang members.
UMNO must stand solidly behind the MCA leadership in sorting out this mother of all financial scandals. UMNO must steal the thunder from Lim Kit Siang's offer to provide Ong Tee Keat 100% support to the MCA leader in his efforts to expose the PKFZ mother of all scandals. From 1 to 4 to 12 billion costs overruns. It is not LKS but UMNO that must rush forward to say, it is unequivocally behind OTK.
The PKFZ scandal is the single most fatally damaging issue that is facing MCA. The financial mess with which PKFZ finds itself mired in was and is presided by all MCA transport ministers. All the previous Transport Ministers are MCA leaders. The PKA was also headed by MCA stalwarts (Ting Chew Peh, Yap Pian Hon, Chor Chee Heung and Lee Hwa Beng). The previous transport minister, Chan Kon Choy appeared before the PAC behaving like a defendant with a lawyer and others and bringing with him a bagful of documents.
This PKFZ will be sorted out with a heavy toll for those responsible for the mess. If MCA leaders were involved in this biggest financial scandal, the government must not be seen to be unwilling to go the distance. The current MCA president is willing to untangle this mess even if it means, striking at MCA members. The government needs to lend full weight to the MCA president.
Its hesitation will indeed relegate MCA to a manservant to UMNO. Ong Tee Keat is running the gauntlet. Let him not run alone.