MCA’s long day’s journey into night

S Thayaparan
Oct 24, 2012

“Sometimes… it’s better for a man just to walk away.
But if you can’t walk away?
I guess that’s when it’s tough.” – Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman)


MCA president Chua Soi Lek may think that everyone has a role to play in this coming “war”, which is the upcoming general election, but the only role the MCA is going to play is that of cannon fodder in the ultimate showdown between Umno and their arch nemesis Anwar Ibrahim.

I get it. I really do. Malaysians are constantly being told to be grateful. Each community has been brainwashed into thinking they should be grateful for different reasons but above all their gratitude should be directed at Barisan National.

The opposition thinks that non-Malay Malaysians have woken up but the reality is that the MIC and MCA fell asleep on the job. Dereliction of duty when it came to the communal interests of the non-Malays at the expense of Umno hegemony is what has caused the downfall of these component parties. That and of course the infighting, corruption and hubris of being the only game in town.

What is really destroying the MCA is not the propaganda of the DAP but the acceptance by a large voting demographic of the Chinese community that no representation in the government is better than MCA representation.

However, in an intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible way, Malaysian Chinese should be grateful to the MCA. After all this group of plutocrats held up their end of the power sharing deal (getting rich in the process) but also protecting the rights of the Chinese community far better than their fellow BN comrades, the MIC.

Everyone was only out for his or her own for decades and MCA was the ever-willing enabler of a corrupt system that paradoxically vilified and nourished the Chinese community.

As an old DAP hand often tells me, “Thank god, the Chinese have made their stand instead of the old way of using the DAP as a counter balance to the MCA”. This was what the recently concluded AGM was really about. The realisation behind the bluster and sabre-rattling, that the Chinese have abandoned the MCA for a party that was not afraid to take on the Umno machine.

I have argued of the futility of the MCA playing the hudud card but Wanita MCA chairperson Yu Chok Tow fears of Muslim solidarity hijacking of the federal constitution is not unfounded. Long-time watchers of Malaysian Muslim politics say much the same thing.

Umno fearing a total loss of power may decide that the Muslim state option is a viable alternative to political annihilation. After all, there are more than enough examples of “Islamic” regimes where democratic front men carry on playing their corrupt games all the while cloaked in piety of their mullah handlers. Chua Soi Lek was right that most failed states have Islam (or hudud) as a commonality.

‘Agree to disagree’ position

However, he was wrong when he claimed that the DAP had managed to convince the Chinese that “hudud” would reduce crime and corruption in this country. As far as I can tell the DAP’s official policy has always been that in no way does it support the implementation of hudud although PAS continues to see this as an “agree to disagree” position.

The only people convinced that “hudud” is an effective tool against crime and corruption are the kool aid drinkers of Pakatan who are more than willing to commit to any position as long as it is in opposition to Umno.

All this Muslim baiting just goes to show how out of touch the MCA is with the shifting political and cultural attitudes in this country or more accurately in their voting base. At a time when the DAP is mocked by pro-Umno blogs for reaching out to the Muslim community through PAS, the MCA chooses to accuse the most revered Muslim leader in this country of sanctioning the rape of non-Muslim/Malay women.

At a time when a large section of the voting Chinese public are eagerly embracing the rough and tumble politics of forming consensus and making allies in a diverse political alliance, all the while being mocked as being arrogant and rude; the MCA continues to embrace the sycophantic model of engagement with Umno as evidenced by the embarrassing adulation thrown Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s way when he graced the AGM.

Didn’t the MCA public relations flacks tell Chua that donning the blue of BN further adds to the perception that the MCA is willing to sublimate Chinese identity to the dictates of Umno? This brings us to another important point. Chinese identity has evolved beyond the stereotype that the MCA has always relied on. Bread and butter issues have become more sophisticated than the usual Chinese school education and a larger slice of the economic pie.

Issues such as corruption, systemic discrimination, the erosion of religious freedoms and the dysfunction of public institutions have become important issues, which cut across class lines, but more importantly acts as common ground for a certain section of the voting public looking for an alternative – any alternative – to Umno/BN.

MCA by interpreting these issues as hate speech and by underestimating the “multicultural/racial” underpinnings of the opposition (even though it may merely be lip service) has painted itself into a corner by reducing the worth of the party as a collection of infighting groups hell bent on reclaiming populist Chinese support when the community’s definition of “populist” has changed.

A good example of this is the anti-hudud posturing of the MCA does not translate to a pro-Christian stance. Whereas Pakatan has a pro-religion – as in every religion is vigorously “defended” – dialectic going on, MCA has to continue to play the appeasement game with the hard liners in Umno at the expense of a valuable new awakened Christian voting bloc.

Whereas the DAP has been actively seeking the Christian vote and in the process reminding them of their constitutional rights, the MCA has been chastising these efforts as another example of the DAP disrupting the Umno peace with “hate”. Did the MCA forget that in this changed political climate the Chinese vote and Christian vote is not necessarily mutually exclusive?

Delegate Tiew Geok Siew unintentionally lets the cat out of the bag when she claimed that the “poorly educated” join the DAP. As I said, the MCA has always been a party of plutocrats who remained relevant as long as the Chinese community was willing to scramble over each other to gain the favours of the party’s warlords.

Finer points of crony capitalism

This was not a political party as such but rather a business club where members learnt the finer points of crony capitalism. In addition, to say nothing of the fact that political parties think that “education” is a necessary tool for indoctrination of students to prostrate themselves before their political betters.

The class tensions within the Chinese community which were never addressed by anyone except the DAP have proved to be a boon for the opposition party.

While post-2008 tsunami, the MCA has been struggling to find relevance, the DAP together with her partners have managed to turn racial issues into populist class issues. This is why the MCA and other BN component parties have been vilified as “racists” merely because they doggedly stick to the original “power sharing formula” game plan.

If you are a mainstream political party and you are no threat to Umno, then the conventional thinking goes, you are no use to anyone. This is the most important lesson of “change” that the MCA has failed to learn.


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Thursday, 25 October 2012 - 6:53 am

    ///Delegate Tiew Geok Siew unintentionally lets the cat out of the bag when she claimed that the “poorly educated” join the DAP.///

    Tiew Geok Siew should apologize for making such offensive statement. Where in the Constitution prohibits the “poorly educated” to join a certain political party?

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 25 October 2012 - 8:08 am

    The BN’s idea of strategy is for UMNO to compete with PAS on religiosity (which includes Jamil Khir Baharom’s cue on implementing Hudud) and yet have MCA try to win back Chinese support by warning -and creating fear- against it’s implementation by DAP/PAS collusion under PR. It’s a harebrained idea at the outset. Its like the boss giving on, one hand the signal, lets implement this program and then telling his kerani to disparage it at the same time. Instead of endearing opposing audiences for and against Hudud one ends up alienating both! It would be ordinary to think that or a political message by the shepherd to be effective propaganda for his sheep it has to be pithy, concise, unambiguous and easily and simplistically digestible. This particular message is fraught with ambiguity and conflicting signals, and will likely backfire against than promote the cause!

  3. #3 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 25 October 2012 - 8:28 am

    Honestly while a lot of critics of MCA going down in flames is accurate, many misses the main point especially MCA itself – the numbers don’t add up for the kind of negative campaign they are working with…

    A big part of the Chinese constituency are tertiary educated and connected to the internet. Negative campaign only works for the close-minded and ignorant – it works better in Sarawak and Sabah than it does where MCA operates. MCA also operates in mix-constituency where the Malays are often the majority. Whatever marginal votes it can get from minority Chinese that will be influenced which itself is negated in part by the UMNO/Perkasa rhetorics, it can’t make it up with the loss of the Malay votes. The best it can do, and its doubtful, is a tie in any case..

    Honestly, its reflective of the PM’s strategy, and understandbly so given MCA lop-sided dependency on the position for decades now for their relevance – fighting a losing battle and yet refuse to see the facts because he can’t understand why – that he had no choice but to do real reform and rip into the heart of the system if he is survive. If he did not intend to do so, he should not have taken the job in the first place. If he intended to do so but convinced himself he need to suffer, he deluded himself.

    And that really is the point. Najib is likely have no clue now what he is really doing having committed to his strategy too late to change. It was the predicted prodigal child outcome from the start coming into reality..

    The vitriols going out is going to be louder and louder. More and more ridiculous. Everyday you hear Mahathir trying to add his brand of malicious politics into the failing system to hold on to it. You can’t keep shouting and then run away when people come talk to you. No one will take you seriously. So it is that Najib can’t run away from a debate with Anwar and he has to.

    Tanya Najib, mengapa tidak debat Anwar,
    Jawab Najib, nanti Putrajaya di bawanya..

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 25 October 2012 - 8:46 am

    That’s why TDM has to come out to defend CSL/MCA against quarters demanding an apology from CSL over his Hudud remarks) by saying that MCA is just scaring the Chinese community when actually it is supportive of the Islamic state promoted by UMNO under his administration. In so defending, TDM has made things worse for MCA because it shows MCA an insincere imposter telling the community which it is supposed to represent one thing and actually doing another. This is a blow to MCA dwindling political stock and credibility already at its lowest ebb. MCA’s greatest liability is the set back of being seen UMNO’s stooge. Instead of growing spine to rectify, it has elongated its tail when it heaped praises on UMNO’s president in recent EGM.

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 25 October 2012 - 8:48 am

    The time when MCA’s leaders like raised louder voices for fairness to Chinese governance issue like PKFZ, they were pushed out (eg Tan Koon Swan, Lee Kim Sai & Ong Tee Kiat). Even those who toed the line like Dr Ling & Kong are not prosecuted for cheating the ex PM who has come out to testify that he was not cheated! MCA therefore has missed the whole issue – the problem is its image, playing poodle for few morsel of crumbs, used as a fodder for UMNO’s convenience, which time and again, it is unable to rectify but instead reinforced by UMNO. Its biggest problem is not DAP or PAS: its UMNO. It couldn’t even identify what its biggest problem; if it could, it cannot do anything about it, so it carries on in denial. The community humiliated by its sham claim of representing its interest will make it a point to punish it by consigning it to the dust bin of political history in imminent GE.

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 25 October 2012 - 8:57 am

    ooops – “Dr Ling/Kong..noW prosecuted..”

    The Chinese community appears to have reached the tipping point where humiliation exceeds reservations of fear of even Hudud where they will begin rationalizing – one group will say no way Hudud can be implemented per PR ground rules requiring consensus of all parties; another group will say, so what Hudud – it won’t affect non Muslims but will chop the hands of the corrupt thieves that steal from Rakyat; yet another group will just out of spite say yes we vote for the pact that may likely introduce hudud that we fear, let them win and then we emigrate! What say you, MCA?

  7. #7 by sotong on Thursday, 25 October 2012 - 9:04 am

    UMNO Malays only know MCA Chinese and they thought they know each enough to stay in power indefinitely.

    Both do not understand the real and basic issues of ordinary people….they are only concerned about power and money, everything else is secondary.

  8. #8 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 25 October 2012 - 9:53 am

    Reminds me of the two suitors trying their best to win a girl’s (i.e. the people’s) heart. They both will try all kinds of tricks but will either one succeed or will they both meet the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow and cabut?

  9. #9 by cseng on Thursday, 25 October 2012 - 12:57 pm

    Right, many Chinese voters had gone over the phase of ‘balancing MCA’s BN with DAP as opposition’. Because UMNO controlled majority of the votes then, you can’t beat Umno, living in that reality, many Chinese needed MCA for that little role play in BN, even though the frequent let down.

    Unfortunately for MCA, the last 308 GE results destroyed that last lifeline. Why vote MCA to balance anything? Many, include MCA single out DAP as key competitor, if this is the case, DAP can balance PR better than MCA on BN. To most Chinese, MCA is A problem, but THE problem is BN, UxxO to be specific.

    For MCA to work, the Chinese society need a sense of threatened. First, they say no Chinese minister/rep, if BN win but MCA lost. Now, they say Hudud, chaos, bankrupt, if PR win. Unfortunately, we have live long enough to see through the decades long same old tactic and fail to appreciate and play along.

  10. #10 by monsterball on Thursday, 25 October 2012 - 2:24 pm

    That is MCA last act…new shirt design….new image.
    That’s Chua Soi Lek’s ideas how to fool Malaysian Chinese.
    No past MCA presidents…under Umno B banner for 35 years
    dared to utter they have Malaysian Chinese majority votes supporting them…except Chua Soi lek.
    What he is saying in another that the Malaysian Chinese support corruptions and be second class citizens willingly.

  11. #11 by boh-liao on Thursday, 25 October 2012 - 9:28 pm

    Y dis hum sup wife-cheating snake went around offering his hand 2 b shaken? Many R offended by his dirty hands

  12. #12 by rockdaboat on Monday, 29 October 2012 - 4:56 am

    “No past MCA presidents…under Umno B banner for 35 years dared to utter they have Malaysian Chinese majority votes supporting them…except Chua Soi lek.”

    Well, monsterball, this is Chua Soi Lek’s infamous KA KI KONG, KA KI SONG.

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