Thursday, April 08, 2010

Chua’s line-up reflects political reality

Is Dr Chua Soi Lek a man in a hurry? As a seasoned professional politician, he knows that political futures can be frighteningly uncertain and that no politician is immune to anxiety.
He knows too that it is not just styles and methods that change with the times, but also allegiances and loyalties, and that nowhere is this more evident than in MCA, the party he now leads.

One of his biggest burdens is to regain the confidence of Malaysians in Barisan Nasional’s second largest component party. To accomplish that mission, he first has to restore unity and stability in MCA. And time is short.

Chua knows that he cannot afford the luxury of gliding over the reality that flexing political muscle is the only way to win—and therefore acceptable—in the modern game of party politicking.Maybe Providence is on his side. His presidential election victory over Ong Ka Ting and Ong Tee Keat was virtually predicted in the number of nominations they received. He was first, Ka Ting second and Tee Keat third. And the placing was duplicated in the election results.

Did Heaven intervene again yesterday at the inaugural meeting of the new central committee? There was a blackout and the meeting had to be held at a hotel instead of the party headquarters.

Nobody bothered to interpret the signs, probably because most were in a festive and buoyant mood, awaiting confirmation of their appointments. It was a thanksgiving meeting of sorts, with the members feeling gratified that the new president was rewarding them for their loyalty and the votes that they cast to give him his marginal victory.

Was the change of venue a kind of divine intervention, or is all this just nonsensical speculation?

Power play

Unlike previous central committee meetings, which were characterised by Mexican stand-offs, yesterday’s meeting took place in a changed environment under unforeseen circumstances. Was it a sign of a new beginning?

Perhaps not all is destiny, after all. MCA’s power play is like a football match to a team that has had a disappointing season and is desperately trying to make a comeback. The party leadership is certainly going to battle valiantly for an equaliser in the next 15 months or so of injury time.

With the party now in Chua’s hands, there is no need for any element of surprise or a wow factor in the appointment of the new leadership line-up. He simply had to get a credible team back into business.

All Chua needs is a team that has the spirit to go all the way to the final match—the next general election.

He has no option but to reward his closest aides, those who have shown constant loyalty to him and his mission and brought his political agenda to fruition.

Chua has also given due recognition to those who garnered collective votes in his support in the various states.

This was exactly as some pundits have speculated.

There is also some indication that Chua has kept to his word about ensuring that MCA under him would be an “inclusive” party. He has positioned leaders of various loyalty leanings in the party’s 14 bureaux.Firstly, his sidekicks Kong Cho Ha and Tan Chai Ho were appointed secretary-general and treasurer-general respectively. A supporter from Sabah, Edward Khoo Keok Hai, was slotted in as deputy to Chai Ho and Hou Kok Chung as Kong's deputy.

Another close Chua aide, Tee Siew Kiong, was appointed as the national organising secretary. Deputy Information and Culture Minister Heng Sai Kie, formerly aligned to Ong Tee Keat’s camp, is Tee’s deputy.

Adequate representation

Chua sized up his support following feedback from the ground and has tried to ensure that there is adequate representation from the various states in appointing the additional eight central committee members: Mah Hang Soon (Perak), Tan Chin Meng (Perak), Ei Kim Hock (Selangor), Edward Khoo (Sabah), Koay Kar Huah (Penang), Yeow Chai Thiam (Negeri Sembilan), Khoo Soo Seang (Johor) and Lau Cheek Tuan (Penang).

As for appointments to the chairmanship of the state committees, Chua made sure he would not be firing blank shots by slotting in featherweights or unpopular leaders as this would derail his effort to stabilise the party at state level.

Taking upon himself the functions of chairman for Johor and Perak, Chua fulfilled his own aspiration to make Johor his political home front and to take charge of Perak, a problematic state divided along factional camps.

For Perlis, he appointed Por Choo Chor and in Kedah, Chong Itt Chew takes charge with Chor Chee Heung as state adviser.

As for MCA Penang and Kelantan, Dr Ng Yen Yen was placed in command because two states, according to Chua, preferred to have a minister to lead them.

Donald Lim returned to his power seat in Selangor.

In Pahang, Liow Tiong Lai takes charge, and it is left to be seen whether he will use this opportunity to build his own power base instead of drawing on support from his previous political masters like Lim Ah Lek and Chan Kong Choy.

Other state chairmen are Chai Ho (Kulala Lumpur), Toh Chin Yaw (Terengganu) and Gan Tian Loo (Malacca), son of party veteran Gan Boon Leong.

Fong Chan Onn has been brought back to head the economic bureau and the party’s think-tank, INSAP.

Ka Chuan is given the religious bureau and Chew Mei Fun the crisis relief squad.

Chua himself heads the political bureau.

Other bureau chairmen are Tiong Lai (Chinese Guilds and Associations), Ng (1Malaysia consultative bureau), Donald Lim Siang Chai (SME bureau), Chor Chee Heung (international affairs), Gan Ping Sieu (cadre training), Wee Ka Siong (education), Kong Cho Ha (science and technology, Wong Koon Mun (public services and complaints) and Heng Seai Kie (information and communications).

Comments of Stanley Koh, who is a FreeMalaysiaToday contributor. By FMT

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