Monday, March 22, 2010

The one-eyed shall be king in MCA

Crisis and opportunity, MCA in the worst of times, and paradoxically in the best of times. There is no need to write and re-write the comical, twisted events for a much jaded public and an even more exhausted community. We shall attempt to zero in on what may help put the issues in clearer perspectives.

That the once venerable party has sunk to its lowest depths is clear, one wonders what former deputy premier Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman would say today. His famous 'MCA tidak hidup tak mati' remark post-1969 would probably resonate well with the Chinese community today.

Its leaders are perceived as corrupted and self-serving, whose only ambition is to be and remain ministers. There are no clear visions or roadmaps to speak of. It has been trounced in almost every seat with a substantial Chinese majority.

It is stuck, even trapped in its own dogma, unable to attract new passionate members, unable to rebrand or reposition its relevance to an increasingly demanding and aware electorate.

Yet in this crisis there is the greatest opportunity since 1974 to reinvent the party.

The March 2008 general election debacle, the increasingly desperate hopes of the party faithful, a community no longer expecting much of the party, Barisan Nasional partners using the party as a claim to its veneer or multi racialism; this is paradoxically the best of times to bring forth radical out-of-the-box reforms that will and must re-create a new branding and identity for the party.

The party is arguably the richest political organisation in Malaysia, with sustainable recurrent income of RM60 million or more annually and assets of more than a billion ringgit. What is needed now is a great sincere transformational leadership .

As such, the first issue that should be dissected is to determine which of the three presidental candidate is most likely to bring forth that possibility .

From the best to the worst

When Ong Tee Keat took over the presidency, the conditions were already in place for transformational leadership. As a much touted maverick he brought much hope to those hoping for a revival. He was challenged by a former close friend and adviser on whether he wanted to be just another president or aspired to be the greatest MCA leader. In short, he had the free rein to reform the party then.

One and a half years on, he has been called the worst MCA president ever. His omnipresent reminders abouts his sacrifices, his tragic hero role is sounding tiresome. His declared brave war against the warlords of PKFZ contradicts his enjoyment of the warlord's private jet.

He even outdid Neo Yee Pan in sackings after sackings of perceived rivals as if the party was his private company. His fatal error in not keeping to his vow to step down should he lose the EGM last October cost him his last bragging rights - his avowed integrity or as they like to say in Chinese movies, his perceived righteousness.

As for vision and strategies to re-invent the party, all he did was nothing beyond re-shuffling the party's newspaper The Star to install his spin doctors.

The clearest indictment of his short reign is perhaps the turning away of his once close adviser and probably MCA's best strategist for the last 20 years Wong Mook Leong, who resigned in disgust from the central committee.

Tee Keat is now campaigning on allowing him to finish his agenda. Was there ever an outlined clear agenda or was it all war drums?

It would take many, many naive delegates to see his re-election indeed.

Return of old president

The surprise was of course Ong Ka Ting's return to the ring. Whatever the motivation or reason given, there is truly a need for a third and more palatable choice. Surely in the hearts and minds of many a delegate there must be a wish for a giant of a man; a proven leader of men with vision, integrity and courage who can appear and lead MCA out of the wilderness.

Contrary to popular belief, Ka Ting's presidency was not a result of the peace accord between Team A and Team B in 2003. He as former president Dr Ling Liong Sik's preferred successor was already planned by Ling and his advisers back in 1995 . Despite his obvious lack of charisma, Ling stuck to his plan and Ka Ting took over upon his mentor's resignation.

Ka Ting's leadership will forever be known for two major milestones: the introduction of the three-term limit for key leadership positions, and the 2008 general election debacle.

The three-term limit rule was the result of aggressive and continuous pressure from key reformists led by Mook Leong, and to Ka Ting's credit he supported it. However, the events and leadership or the lack of it leading to the general election debacle must be on his shoulders. Ka Ting's leadership is generally agreed as insipid and colourless.

He is certainly not the man that can revive the party. He might have a chance if he campaigns on a more believable theme, that his mission is to prepare the party for transformational leadership change come the next party elections.

The better choice?

Dr Chua Soi Lek meanwhile has certainly stunned the pundits with his comeback win as deputy president and the fact that he is a serious contender today speaks volumes of his tenacity. Compared to the other two, his not having been president is a major plus as the other two had a go and blew their chances.

Chua's strength and weakness is his derringdo, his devil may care hell for leather attitude. When he was in the Johor exco and while being the health minister, stories were abound of him stepping on numerous toes.

On top of all these, there is also the sex scandal as whatever credit one can give him for his brutal admission, his rapid decisive action to confront the issue and subsequent resignation, the questions of that scandal remain.

Surely at the back of every delegates' mind the thought will linger - can the man perform (no pun intended) at the no holds barred level of national politics?

His supporters brandish his courage and decisiveness as the very values needed to transform the party.

Chua needs to find clever ways to address the sex scandal issue. He has obviously done that to his core 40 plus percent delegates. If he can sell the same to another five percent directly or via a strategic alliance, he will win decisively.

Without the albatross of a failed presidency around his neck, and with the worst of battle scars behind him, Chua may well be paradoxically the better choice.

comments by Two Cents, who is a pseudonym of an MCA observer with inside track in the party. This is a three-part series in which he attempts to provoke the party to wake up from its deep slumber and regain its lost status. In this first part, he writes about the three candidates vying for the presidential post, tomorrow he will outline the battlelines and horse tradings that will take place before the polling on Sunday and in his final part, he will give his views and strategies on how to make MCA relevant again. Courtesy of FMT

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