HE said he is not a hero but along his campaign trail Ong Tee Keat has come to be called 'the Transformer' because he had ceaselessly told party members he wants to change the party into a progessive movement that can ride through all storms and weather.
If you still do not know them, the Transformers is a popular toyline centered on two factions of warring alien robots in its 25-year-old history.
The toyline has expanded to encompass comic books, cartoons, movies and every other kind of merchandise, including attire and costume jewellery.
The Transformers are depicted as mechanical beings that can reconstruct their outside appearance through scanning or touching a mechanical object of relative size to each Transformer's body.
The characters include Autobots Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Bulkhead, Prowl, Ratchet; Decepticons Megatron, Starscream, Blitzwing, Lugnut and human characters Prof Sumdac and Sari Sumdac.
As in the MCA election where 101 candidates are vying for the 31 posts at stake in the leadership line, there are probably as many characters trying to get to the key positions in the Transformers' Cybertron world.
What he has been fighting for
Whatever may be said about him, Tee Keat said had repeatedly stressed he will stick to his guns - which is the commitment in the transormation of the MCA.
It was something he had been fighting for since the party plunged into its lowest ebb at the March 2008 general election.
It was a grand and exciting plan that fueled the enthusiasm of his party members, who elected him to be the president in October of the same year.
Now, in the sequel of that first round of transformation, it looks like Tee Keat has taken the role of the Autobots' leader to fight the Deceptron factions, led by his former deputy Dr Chua Soi Lek and the MCA's immidiate past president Ong Ka Ting.
"We need to undergo the ‘transformational pain’, to change ourself before other people change us.
"The choice is in the hands of the delegates” Tee Keat told journalists from the English media on Thursday.
his means that the MCA could continue business as usual by reverting back to the old ways before the last election or move ahead with a more progressive style for the betterment of the members and for Malaysians in general.
'I make tough decisions'
"I dont see myself as a hero because I don't believe I am one.
"Sometimes, however, I have to make tough decisions. That word - hero - has never crossed my mind," he said, giving the example of the infamous PKFZ debacle.
"I did it (expose the discrepancies) to clear the Government in the name of transparency and accountability.
“Maybe, I am too hasty to make changes. But we have to change and transform fast before the next general election.
"MCA has to move forward and be more sensitive to accepting changes.
About the fresh poll
Although the party's next election is due next year, Chua and 21 central committee members resigned early this month to force the party to have fresh polls to select an interim leadership until the 2011 general assembly.
Tee Keat, who intends to finish his full three-year term, said: "For me, the message is clear. If you can betray your comrades, how can the rakyat be sure that you will not betray them?"
He said after the party's October 2008 election he had tossed the idea of fresh polls since the party was still divided in different camps.
"I mooted for fresh polls and was vehemently rejected by the same people whop later pushed for new party elections.
"Whatever happens is a collective decision. It is unjust to put the blame on me alone. MCA has never worked in that manner. The president does not have the ultimate power.
Tee Keat , who also mooted the idea of a 'Greater Unity Plan' that had Chua's support before the former deputy turned his back on the president, said the GUP was not merely a 'peace plan' to appease the warring factions in the MCA.
"It is a plan to to provide party leaders a platform to work togetherwith the grassroots.
"For the GUP to succeed MCA members, especially the leaders, need to have the commitment, understanding and selflessness.
"If the party leaders do not follow it, it will be a thing of the past."
Reaching out to the young
Tee Keat's transformation process for the party are contained in five key result areas (KRAs) that include direct presidential election that will allow MCA members - from the branches to the national level - to pick their leader.
Currently the selection for the president and the rest of the party's central committee members are made by the more than 2,000 delegates who are eligible to attend the party's general assembly.
Tee Keat has also opened the doors of the MCA to non-governmental organisations and other interest groups via a consultative council, for the party to gain first-hand information and feedback from the ground on all aspects of the country's socio-economic landscape.
"The MCA has to reach out to a wider audience and not just to the 'usual' NGOs," he said, adding that the party has had dialogues with the inter-faith council, various youth centres, social movements and entrepreneur associations.
"I am planning more engagement with the NGOs and it will not be just dialogue sessions.
Competitiveness in education
A pet project of Tee Keat is grooming young talents to fill leadership posts in the MCA in future and he believes this can be achieved by encouraging better education and training prospects even for school or college drop-outs.
That is why, he said there is the HOPE programme which helps students to get into local private colleges with subsidised rates and the TRAIN programme for school or college leavers to pursue vocational training that include entrepreneuship and skills.
In the primary level, he said there were now direct government grants to the schools and "rather than lobby for more schools, it is time to show that the schools are worth the money spent on theFor the chinese primary schools i believe that it is a necessity to use the grant located by the government to enhance the capacity rather that lobbying for more schools.
“ Now the fund are given directly to the school board. They should used i wisely for the school, since all this while they are complaining about the birocracy. Now it is the time to show that the schools are money worth spent.
Though he is the incumbent president, the word was spreading that in the presidency race he is the underdog - a tag that amuses him.
"It is a ploy to confuse my supporters and the make me pull out of the race.
"I remain focussed since the (underdog) spin is far from the truth," he adding that he met Ka Ting before the former president said he was going into the contest.
"Ka Ting, like a gentleman, came and told me he will be running for the presidency. It is not true that he wants me to pull out of the race and paave the way for him.
"People can say anything about our meeting. But I prefer the truth.
"I am bewildered why a certain party - some crafty people - are wooing my supporters by telling them I am the underdog.
"That shows they are not confident and shaky in the polls,"
No running mate
Regarding the conspicuous absence of a running mate, Tee Keat said the MCA constitution does not provide anything like the United States and Singapore.
"We don't have teams and I run the race individually.
"At the end of the day, whether we have a good team or not would depend on what the party members and thepublic decide.
"It's not a problem to me whether Kong Cho Ha or Liow Tiong Lai (the two deputy aspirants) become the deputy president. Both are my colleagues in the Cabient.
"These two leaders have a good working rapport with me. I dont see why I cannot get along with them if I have the mandate.
"The delegates will decide who are the best people to represent the community. Then, when it comes to the general election, the public will determine our relevancy.— Malaysian Mirror