Sunday, March 21, 2010

What's eating away at MCA?

In the last few weeks, despite our efforts to concentrate on the important issues related to the New Economic Model (NEM), a lot of energy and time have been devoted to the latest political sensation: the self-cannibalism of the MCA.

ong tee keatong ka ting 02All the candidates say that they are fighting for justice or some “ideal”. Ong Ka Ting (right) is coming out of retirement to help “save” the party. Ong Tee Keat (left) is defending his presidency against forces that are resisting his brand of reform.

Dr Chua Soi Lek is spearheading the renewal of the party. Then there are the second-liners, all saying that they belong to no faction and thinking they can fool the public.

But what are they all really fighting for? If there are forces resisting “reform” or impeding its renewal, who might these forces be? What more if the party is now imperilled and needs to be “saved”? The reality is that MCA is fighting its own shadow. It is a struggle for power, for domination over vast amounts of money and patronage.

As each camp assassinates its rival, it is the MCA that is hurt. There are so many factions that it would be a miracle if the party can stay together after the upcoming annual general meeting. Stranger still, the new leader's mandate will only be for a year.

Next year, the MCA will hold another AGM. Thus the winner will have the unenviable task of uniting the party whilst tackling the PKFZ scandal, clarify the party's role within the BN and provide inspiring leadership now that the NEM is being debated and shaped.

Those interested in seeing the emergence of a strong two-coalition system in Malaysia also wish to see the MCA emerge as a reforming force within the BN. Although Gerakan had the best chance to channel the BN towards a more non-racial ground, it has not been able to exert such influence.

mca agm 070310 crowd 01If the MCA is able to get its act together, its new leadership might wish to heed the call for a less race-based Malaysia.

In the near future, a Chinese political party based narrowly on race politics will be like a fish swimming in shallow waters. The MCA risks becoming stranded in a vicious cycle of ever decreasing political significance.

As the size of the Chinese electorate decreases owing to low birth rate and outward migration, the MCA has to seriously think about establishing a new ideological platform that will benefit all Malaysians.

Connect with the living

The MCA's present struggle is not just about finding a new leader, but a leader with the vision and tenacity to adapt to a much-changed political landscape.

Party leaders are still unable to catch up with the Malaysian electorate, especially the Chinese middle-class living in towns and cities that are increasingly multi-ethnic, and where urban problems are as significant as racial ones.

NONENot too long ago, several MCA leaders paid their respects to their founder-president and his son, Malaysia's last Chinese finance minister. Clearly, even after genuflecting at the graves of Tan Cheng Lock (left) and Tan Siew Sin, the MCA is still rudderless.

Why these leaders decided to pray to the dead for advice is quite mind-boggling when they should seek out their living second president Lim Chong Eu and find out his vision for Malaysia, which is far more relevant for the MCA in its changed circumstances.

As long as the MCA is unable to connect with the living especially the Malaysian mainstream living in towns and cities, it will not be able to win back lost seats. If there are any lessons to be learned these last 12 months, it is that clinging longingly to the past and all the tactics associated with it, will not save the party.

For too long, the MCA, like other political parties, has ignored the reality that the public is far more educated and informed than it can possibly imagine.

All the 'drama' associated with each faction's quest to save the party from the other is seen plainly as a struggle for power. If in-fighting continues, the party risks being jettisoned like the MIC within the BN itself.

Some say this is the MCA's 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms' moment, that the party will emerge stronger and more united.

But it remains to be seen if the MCA has leaders who can live up to the values associated with the 'Romance' and especially with General Guang Gong who is famed for courage, honesty, idealism, brotherhood and morality.

comments by NEIL KHOR, who has recently completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge. He is co-author of 'Non-Sectarian Politics in Malaysia: The Case of Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia' (2008). Courtesy of Malaysiakini

No comments: