By Kee Thuan Chye
Chua Soi Lek is being extremely unreasonable in telling his deputy, Liow Tiong Lai, to quit the leadership of the MCA before he himself will step down. And his push for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to overturn the party’s resolution not to take up government positions in light of its poor performance at the last general election (GE13) is a betrayal of his pre-GE13 promise.
On these two issues alone, he has lost all dignity and should just slink into a corner and disappear. He should not be blustering like he is doing in order to try and get things his way. It only makes him appear more and more like a dictator, and an irrational one, to boot.
No wonder there are groups within the party campaigning to bring about his downfall. Like the Save Party Committee 3.0 and the ABC (Anything But Chua) movement. The latter was initiated by newly-elected central delegate Lee Hwa Beng, who was summarily sacked from the party last week at a meeting chaired by Chua, clearly to get rid of the latter’s opponents.
If Chua can’t see the writing on the wall, he must be blind or thick-headedly stubborn. If people want him to go, he should go gracefully, rather than place conditions for others to go as well. He shouldn’t be saying, “I am willing to go but Liow must leave with me because he is not the right man to lead the MCA in this challenging political situation.”
Why should Liow step down just because Chua wants him to? Liow has every right to contest for the presidency during the upcoming party elections in December. Who is Chua to tell him he should not?
The reasons Chua cites to support his contention that Liow is “not the right man” are idiosyncratic. Metaphorically speaking, they won’t hold up in a court of law. They reflect his personal opinion, which of course is vulnerable to challenge.
The reasons are that Liow is weak and indecisive, that he is not a fighter, and that he is easily influenced by people outside the party. Others – for example, Liow’s supporters – might say the opposite of him, and who’s to say which side is right?
When it comes to this, the best option then is to let the party delegates decide. It is not for Chua to assume the role of Big Brother and say who should and should not contest, who is fit or not fit to be leader. He can of course express an opinion, but he should not dictate terms.
He contends that the party should be led by younger people. But can he be absolutely sure that these people will not be as unfit as Liow? If he can’t be, then he has no business making assumptions with the hope that they will turn out true.
Obviously, Chua is pursuing a personal vendetta against Liow. He can’t stand it that Liow has stood up to him, this same Liow that he calls weak and indecisive. The resolutions of the EGM he is pushing for which will be held on October 20 include one to censure Liow for failing in his duty as chairman of the GE13 preparatory committee.
Liow, however, denies this. Instead, he argues, “The reason for our massive defeat was because we have a morally tainted president.” Might he be referring to more than just the sex scandal Chua was involved in about six years ago?
But why should the MCA censure only Liow? Chua as the head of the party should also be censured for the party’s poor performance. As the president, he should take full responsibility, instead of passing the blame solely to his deputy.
After all, didn’t the electorate reject the MCA because it was seen as being a weak partner in Barisan Nasional (BN)? So weak that it allowed Umno to overshadow it and call all the shots? So weak that it could no longer effectively represent the Chinese community which it claims to champion?
And who should be the person responsible for allowing the MCA to become like that?
Certainly, Chua cannot be blamed entirely for the state the MCA is in because his predecessors are also culpable for giving in to Umno. But after he became president, did he manage to win more respect for the MCA?
In 2010, when he called for the gradual removal of the 30 per cent Bumiputera equity, and Umno leaders like Muhyiddin Yassin whacked him hard, and groups like Perkasa and the Malay Consultative Council demanded he be detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA), how did he respond? Did he come out defiant and fighting back? No, he denied questioning the New Economic Policy (NEP) and tamely said he was merely suggesting how to improve the country’s competitiveness. And after that, he hardly said anything contentious again.
That’s not .. ahem … being a fighter, is it?
So when Chua asks how Liow can “handle the more aggressive DAP, PAS, PKR and some Umno leaders”, he also needs to ask whether he himself has proven that he can.
As for the EGM resolutions to revoke the party’s stand forbidding party members from taking Cabinet, government and state positions, Chua had pledged before GE13 that the party would not take up these positions if it did not get sufficient support at the elections. It was instead interpreted as a ploy, to persuade the Chinese to support the party. But the ploy didn’t work anyway, and the party was badly beaten at GE13.
Now, only four months after GE13, Chua is attempting to reverse that stand. But it looks bad for him and the party. If the EGM results in the party’s rescinding the original stand, it will be seen to be dishonourable. It will not be keeping its word.
It may be that Chua is banking on a turnaround to boost his own prospect of defending his presidency although he has said on May 6, the day after GE13, that he would not seek re-election. If that’s the case, it will do him more harm than good. His word will be worth as much as a bag of gas.
By right, he should stick to what he said on May 6 and leave the politicking for positions to other contenders. By right, he should not be party to an EGM calling for a revocation of the party’s pre-GE13 stand. By right, he should just step down and salvage some dignity for himself.
But then he has this illusion that he is a fighter. And if he doesn’t watch out, his illusion will destroy him. Being a fighter is good, but being a fighter of dishonourable causes is downright disgraceful.
* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the new book The Elections Bullshit, now available in bookstores.