Friday, March 19, 2010

Like Schuey, like Ka Ting

IN THE latest twist of events in the run up to the MCA polls, president aspirant Dr Chua Soi Lek challenged fellow contender Ong Ka Ting to refute that he (Ka Ting) is behind an SMS that linked him to the Umno leadership.

The SMS had purportedly claimed that Ka Ting has the blessings of Umno chief and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to join the contest.

It is uncanny, observed Chua, that the SMSes surfaced just after Ka Ting declared he would go for the No 1 in the MCA polls.

Ka Ting, of course, denies he is in the fight because Najib had asked him to.

However, many are apt to believe that the SMSes had indeed implied that he is an Umno lackey.

To other observers, however, such actions also insinuate that some MCA campaigners are already bankrupt of ideas and strategies to shore up support for their favoured candidate.

Najib and his deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin, had publicly said they will not interfere in the selection of MCA leaders but they would give their support to the choice made by the delegates.

Perhaps, this has been construed as 'giving blessing' to Ka Ting, when the former party president decided to enter the race to re-claim his former post.

Arguably, the entry of Ka Ting into the fray and his attempt to make history by becoming the first ex-party boss to fight back for the top post has made the MCA presidency the most heated political contest in recent years.

But what is new, anyway?

Leaders step down and others take over - all the time.

Just a good 'administrator'

Not all of them go away, however. They continue to stay, albeit in the guise of advisors, observers and trouble-shooters. Often, they turned out to be trouble makers.

During his term, from 2003 to 2008, Ka Ting was considered a good 'administrator' as he and deputy Chan Kong Choy had been able to keep the house in order following a tumultuous period of Team A and Team B factional quarrels.

But many wrote him off as a good 'leader' after he snubbed a Cabinet post and then refused to continue helming the party in the aftermath of the MCA's dismal showing in the 2008 general elections.

ong-ka-ting-racingHis attempt to do a Michael Schumacher now may not impress most of the current crowd who will be casting their votes in the premature polls on March 28. (The actual triennial election is only due next year.)

Shuey, as the media likes to call the racing ace, is raring to get back his pivotal place in the F1 circuit.

News portal observed that the champion that came after him, young British black driver Lewis Hamilton, was good only for the go karts during Schuey's prime.

But retirement did not seem quite right for Schuey, 41, and his fans encouraged him to return to the tracks again to show the younger ones a thing or two about what F1 is all about.

Perhaps, like Schuey, Ka Ting was inspired by the 'numerous calls' from his supporters to return to active participation in MCA politics after being just an observer for the past 18 months or so.

In Shuey's first outing at the Bahrain tracks last week, the former world champion failed to make it to the podium, coming in only sixth.

In Ka Ting's race, he will be facing two heavyweight contenders - incumbent Ong Tee Keat and Chua, a tainted deputy president who came back with a vengeance to stake his position after he was sacked.

Will Ka Ting too make it back to the podium?

Circus of villains and backstabbers

He may not find a pleasant crowd responding to him as the MCA politics had now become a circus of villains and backstabbers.

Furthermore, he had become party president only because the previous boss, Dr Ling Liong Sik had worked a truce with then deputy Lim Ah Lek to let go of their posts to resolve the Team A and Team B tussle.

While Ka Ting stepped into Ling's shoes, Lim agreed to pass the baton to Chan, the other vice-president.

mca-ong-chua-liowMany political observers believe, however, that behind the scene the hand of Umno had been at work to bring the two troublesome groups together.

Then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad approved of the new MCA president and deputy president after being advised by Ling, who was party chief for 17 years until 2003.

The central committee convened a meeting to give its nod and everyone congratulated each other over Chinese tea and local cakes.

The country, at that time, was going through a leadership transition and Mahathir, the outgoing PM, who was also leader of the Barisan Nasional coalition, had wanted a smooth shift to his anointed successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The ruling party too was preparing for an impending general election and had wanted the MCA, the second largest component of the coalition, to be as steady as a rock when the time came to face the electorate.

Mahathir brought both sides to agree to the 'peace plan' till the next MCA general assembly in 2005, i.e. when all current division, state and national leaders would be re-elected by default.

Having sealed the truce in the MCA and taking care of other problematic Barisan components, Mahathir went ahead with his retirement and Abdullah took the ruling coalition to its biggest win ever in the 2004 general election.

Does Umno has to intervene?

But has things really changed in the MCA?

Does it need another intervention by Umno to resolve its problems - since party members are torn between three corners about who, among them, can put the party back on track?

najib_6If indeed Najib has his personal 'preference' of MCA leaders, it is not likely that a person of his stature - being PM, Barisan Nasional chief and Umno president - would stoop so low as to spin SMS tales.

Maybe there are quarters who would beg to differ but surely they would also consider that Najib has better things to do, like running the country?

The old saying goes that 'one gets what he deserves.' So, if there is an Umno interference in the MCA affairs, it is only because the MCA has not shown itself competent enough to stop its in-fighting.

The party had been in shambles after Ka Ting and Chan stepped down in the aftermath of the March 2008 general election, without naming successors.

Chua, who was elected to the No 2 slot and then sacked by the presidential council early last year, had been one of those who had vocally asked for an extraordinary general meeting to resolve the party crisis.

However, the comic EGM held on October 10 last year refused to reinstate him and also gave a vote of no-confidence against incumbent president Ong Tee Keat.

Enter vice-president Liow Tiong Lai, leading a third faction that harped on fresh polls to, again, "resolve the party crisis."

Ironically, since the decision by the party to have new elections later this month, Liow had been as quiet as a mouse.

Likewise, Chua had also not sounded out whether he would stick with Tee Keat and their 'great unity plan' or align himself to other emerging factions in the elections.

For the over 2,000 delegates who would be casting their votes, the decision would hinge on whether they need to change the linen in the house.

Soiled and stinking linen, no doubt, has to be discarded. That, however, is for the MCA people themselves to figure out. The power is in the ballot paper they hold.

Tee Keat had said he would defend his post to carry out his 'unfinished reforms' while Ka Ting had heroically declared he was duty bound to...yet again..."resolve the party crisis."

Liow has, somehow, faded away into the background but it is speculated that he will go for the No 2 and probably be the running mate to Ka Ting.

Like a political novice

With such uncertainties and the 'not interested' stance that has begun to seep in the party, is it any wonder that Umno would want to gatecrash into the MCA affairs?

The MCA is not a young party. Not like the PKR which is just about 10 years old. The MCA is more than 60 years old.

It is supposed to know the ropes yet it seems to be working like a novice in the political field.

It should be grooming leaders with a passion to help the downtrodden, yet it is only churning out half-baked custodians who are just interested in short-term gains and cheap self-interests.

Nevertheless, being a political entity with its own charter and rules, a leader - or any semblance of a leader has to be elected.

Except for former vice-president Chua Jui Meng, who has fled to the PKR, the delegates attending the upcoming assembly are likely to choose among the same candidates who stood in the party polls in October 2008.

It is expected to be an emotional-packed and dramatic polls, as the delegates would have to painfully strain their hearts and minds to choose leaders that can work towards a strong cohesion in the MCA family.

In his time, Ka Ting already earned many honours and these accolades were topped by a 'Tan Sri' title from the Yang di Pertuan Agong.

What was he thinking when he decided to re-claim the presidency? Was it his own decision or was he asked to do it as a 'national service'?

Whatever...for Najib and Umno, it is important that MCA pulls itself together. The Barisan is preparing for two major elections; the Sarawak state polls, due next year, and the 13th general election scheduled to be held in 2013.

Whether it is right or wrong for Umno to put its foot into the MCA's house, which appears to be at the edge of a cliff, it cannot allow it to topple over to the sea below.

Thus, the problems in the MCA is, by extension, a problem of the Barisan. It's a different race from the one that Shuey is driving in. - Malaysian Mirror

written by SHAH A DADAMEAH is senior editor with the Malaysian Mirror.

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