MCA with Nowhere to Go

by Kee Thuan Chye
24th June 2013

Post-GE13 (13th general election), the MCA is looking more lost than ever before. It is like the partygoer who is all dressed up with nowhere to go. Except that in its case, its dress is somewhat tattered and its face rather bruised after the beating it took at the polls. From the 15 parliamentary seats it held prior to GE13, it now has only seven – and for this poor showing, it has had to heed the call of its president, Chua Soi Lek, to refrain from taking positions in government, including the Cabinet.

Way before GE13, Chua had taken the ill-advised stand that if the MCA did not get enough voter support, it would play no part in government. He had expected then that the Chinese community the party claims to represent would largely abandon it, and in order to win them back sought to make them fear that a government without MCA representation would be disastrous.

Too bad for him and the party, the strategy didn’t work. Simply because fear-mongering and threats don’t go down well with Malaysian voters any more, especially if they can think for themselves and opt to do the right thing. Besides, the Chinese already knew that MCA participation in the government was little more than endorsing whatever big brother Umno decided, rather than fighting for the community. So they dealt the MCA its biggest blow.

Now, because of Chua’s hubris, all and sundry among the MCA leaders have to abide by his foolish stand. And, naturally, this is bound to cause disgruntlement among its ranks. And likely mutiny.

Already, in Johor, Tee Siew Keong has defied the order by accepting an executive councillor position. In response, the party’s presidential council has suspended him for three years. It did not go so far as to sack him, but its action is enough to cause uneasiness.

Last week, vice-president Donald Lim Siang Chai reportedly said Chua should admit he was wrong about his stand and call for an extraordinary general meeting to review the order. But this drew Chua’s ire – apart from insisting that the decision was a collective one made by the party’s central committee, he lashed out at Lim for having been one of those who endorsed it.

Lim, however, maintained that Chua was the “key figure” behind the decision, and that no one in the central committee had dared to object.

Since then, only a few days ago, a high-ranking party leader who declined to be named has publicly acknowledged agreement with Chua that the decision was made collectively, but he also said it was a “collective mistake”.

“And we must collectively correct that mistake,” he added.

Chua must be a poor student of human nature not to have seen this coming. No one who has experienced being in a position of some power before would want to give it up without rancour. Not if they feel they are entitled to it as leaders of a senior component party of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

Even though in the past Cabinets, the MCA had been holding ministerial portfolios of lesser significance than those of Umno, its ministers had nonetheless benefitted in numerous ways, not least of which was acquiring prominence, if not riches as well. (Let’s not go to the extent of the Port Klang Free Zone scandal, though.) Now, however, they have become virtual nobodies. It takes getting used to. Or maybe never.

Chua may not understand the loss his colleagues are now experiencing because although he was once a minister himself, he was not eventually deprived of it because of some unpopular party ruling. In his case, he was compelled to step down – even if the decision were his own – by his own carelessness and indiscretion, in carrying on a sexual assignation in the same premises over a period of time and therefore facilitating discovery. As such, he had no one to blame for losing his office.

This is, however, not the case with, for example, his current deputy, Liow Tiong Lai, who was health minister before GE13. If not for the ruling, he would have easily been made minister again. In fact, Prime Minister Najib Razak has left the transport minister position open; if the MCA changes its stand, Liow could be the man to fill it. If not Ong Tee Keat.

Understandably, then, Liow is showing signs of defiance too by defending Lim and telling off Chua for censuring the latter. Beneath that defiance must lurk a sense of frustration and perhaps unhappiness over a missed opportunity.

These personal issues aside, it must be understood that the MCA is a party that has been used to being in government since even before independence. Now that it’s not, it would naturally feel lost and disconnected. Indeed, one of the fundamental dilemmas it now faces is, what is the role it should play?

It is still part of the ruling coalition, but it has no governing role. Does this make it any better off than an Opposition party? How should it address public issues?

Of course, it could now prove itself to truly represent the Chinese by being more vocal about matters that disfavour the community, such as racially discriminatory policies and practices, cronyism and rent-seeking. It could also speak up on issues that affect the nation as a whole, and even criticise wrong measures taken by the Government. That would indeed be serving the people. But would it dare to do so?

On the other hand, if it doesn’t, what is it functioning for?

Did Chua foresee this central dilemma before he pushed through the motion concerning no government positions? Did he anticipate the state the MCA would find itself in?

Clearly, the MCA needs to redefine itself. Whereas the Chinese electorate, especially in the last five to six years, has moved ahead of the political game, the party is still caught in a time warp. Only a minority of Chinese Malaysians still see the need for a Chinese-based party; most others welcome multi-racialism.

In any case, they don’t expect much more from a government than fair treatment, respect for their rights as citizens, good governance, corrupt-free leadership. They don’t even dream of having a Chinese prime minister, despite what some Umno provocateurs would have us believe. To them, a party of any race, or a combination of races, would win their vote as long as it provided the necessities.

In this regard, even if the MCA ceased to be, it wouldn’t matter. GE13 proved that to be so.

As such, the big challenge for the MCA now is to face the new paradigm and decide what it needs to do to be relevant not only for now but also for the future. If it continues to deny that things have changed and that the electorate has moved on, it will be doomed.

It will become a party that is all messed up with nowhere to go.

* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the bestselling books No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians and Ask for No Bullshit, Get Some More!

  1. #1 by Jeffrey on Friday, 28 June 2013 - 6:36 am

    Chua’s pre GE13 stand -if the MCA did not get enough voter support, it would play no part in government- might have been an un-meritorious strategy to try recover Chinese votes (perceived lost) but if that strategy did not work as post GE13 results show, then it becomes a principled and meritorious stand (to be adhered) for MCA top politicians to not participate in govt. After all what is there for MCA politicians to play a role in govt when they have no mandate or legitimacy to represent the Chinese? Lets not perpetuate hypocrisy of participation and representation in govt here as a cover for politicians to play a lapdog role in govt only for purposes of benefiting from the largesse and patronage goodies that govt positions and political power avail. It is precisely this role -to show case its representation of its constituency’s rights and interest but in fact to let these be sacrificed on the altar of patronage crumbs doled out by UMNO – that has caused MCA to lose credibility and support of its constituency all these decades leading to GE13. It is not an over night thing!

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Friday, 28 June 2013 - 6:46 am

    ///Post-GE13 (13th general election), the MCA is looking more lost than ever before. It is like the partygoer who is all dressed up with nowhere to go.///

    The dressed up “party goer” may not have any other place to go to party but this does not mean he leaves the house. He can always still party within the house. He knows that there’s a lot of good food beverages and drinks and expensive party paraphernalia and memorabilia stocked/stashed up here and there -in the basement garage or the toilet- within the house that can still be used to party within the house!

  3. #3 by Sallang on Friday, 28 June 2013 - 7:01 am

    Mana Cari Ayam?

  4. #4 by yhsiew on Friday, 28 June 2013 - 7:59 am

    ///if the MCA did not get enough voter support, it would play no part in government.///

    They got trapped in their own silly game!

  5. #5 by Bigjoe on Friday, 28 June 2013 - 8:12 am

    CSL did UMNO a favour with his threats and blatant vote-buying and failing miserably. The favour is the lesson to UMNO – negative campaigning and vote buying has its limit and eventually even bite you hard. What the Chinese did by turning their backs against MCA is just preview to what the Malays will eventually do too..Half the Indians already acting with the Chinese.

    It won’t be any different with the Malays with UMNO because its universal. Look at the declining fortune of Republican party in the US – they have been at the cutting edge or negative campaigning and still lost against Democrats battered by poor economics and defense issues.

    Negative campaigning simply has its limits. Its not an endless cesspit that they can drag everyone into. If Najib can’t sell this lesson to his party, he is not the leader to deal with the issues of our nations at this time..

  6. #6 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Friday, 28 June 2013 - 8:48 am

    Nowhere to go?

    Oh no. Learn from the malay youths whom umno had abandoned. Look at what they do. Rempit-ing around and about of course.

    So mca, you might as well be Mat Cina Abeng!

  7. #7 by Winston on Friday, 28 June 2013 - 9:03 am

    Their greatest regret is that they’ll miss the gravy train!
    Malaysians just couldn’t be bothered whether this forsaken party existed or not!
    That’s why they gave it the tsunami.
    The fact is that all they have done during their long existence is to sell out the interests of the very people they profess to protect.
    GE13 showed all the bile that has been building up in the Chinese!
    What is there for them to do but to be content with the contempt of the Chinese.
    And to close shop.
    None of them should be given another chance to service in public office ever again!!!

  8. #8 by good coolie on Friday, 28 June 2013 - 10:25 am

    MCA has to be respected for its principled stand. How would the orphaned Chinese community fare? Well, they would fare no better or no worse than they did when an ineffective MCA represented them. Hard work and determination will carry them through.

    However, I wish they would stop bribing government officials. This is not in the national interest, nor in their own interests.

  9. #9 by sheriff singh on Friday, 28 June 2013 - 12:22 pm

    It should leave the BN and be neutral for a few years. Let things settled down a bit and then decide. Its current lot of leaders should leave the scene en bloc. Let new blood take root.

  10. #10 by cinaindiamelayubersatu on Friday, 28 June 2013 - 12:24 pm

    they will go to hell…

  11. #11 by Jligunjang on Friday, 28 June 2013 - 1:48 pm

    MCA is like an old tree withering in the sunset of old age.Its last recourse is falling to the ground to rot and impossible to regenerate.Best to draft its final epitaph.

  12. #12 by SENGLANG on Friday, 28 June 2013 - 2:42 pm

    CSL should be not be there anyway. If MCA members really behind him and appointed him after his DVD scandal then MCA member should not complaint now. MCA was in essential accelerating to its current down falls by CSL. The most unfortunate was the fact that he is still deemed fit to stay on after GE13 disastrous result to MCA. Sometime political leaders simply can defied logic and stay on as leader.

  13. #13 by Winston on Friday, 28 June 2013 - 8:42 pm

    They should be like Mamak, put new puppets on the stage and pull the strings behind the scene.

  14. #14 by vsp on Friday, 28 June 2013 - 9:58 pm

    CSL’s brains inside his pants overruled the brains in his head. When he was caught doing a porno gymnastic act in a Johore Bahru hotel he should change his profession to suit the urging of his brains inside his pants. Unfortunately he wants to cling to power and that drive a nail in the coffin of MCA.

  15. #15 by cinaindiamelayubersatu on Friday, 28 June 2013 - 10:16 pm

    if mca can go backward to yesteryear and reclaim finance ministry the support will pour..

  16. #16 by Loh on Saturday, 29 June 2013 - 10:58 am

    #8 by Loh on Friday, 28 June 2013 – 10:18 am
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    25 hours now, still moderating?

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