When the news first broke that Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, the Malaysian Chinese Association’s Deputy President, and seven other central committee members quit their posts on Thursday, March 4th I have to say I wasn’t the least bit surprised.
The Malaysian Chinese Association, or MCA as it is commonly referred to throughout Malaysia, is the political party that represents the Chinese minority in Malaysia. It is one of the three main political parties making up the ruling coalition in Malaysia, Barisan Nasional. The other two main parties in the coalition are United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC). As of August 2009, there are 16 political parties making up the coalition.
At the heart of MCA’s ongoing internal power posturing are MCA’s President Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat, Deputy President Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek and Vice President Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai. During the last party elections, which were held in October 2008, it seemed obvious to me that MCA would eventually find itself engulfed in flames when bitter rivals Ong and Chua were elected to their current posts. Sadly, I was right.
Following months of sniping and bickering with Ong, Dr. Chua was sacked as Deputy President on 27 August 2009 by MCA’s presidential council at the recommendation of the disciplinary committee on the grounds of tarnishing MCA’s public image after being involved in a much publicized sex scandal in late 2007.
According to an article appearing in Warkah on 27, August, 2009, Ong, who holds the post of President on the presidential committee, denied being behind the decision to pursue disciplinary action against Dr. Chua. Ong’s denial, which may be sincere, is hardly a convincing argument that his hands are clean given his bitter rivalry with Chua and that the complainant had withdrawn his allegation prior to the disciplinary committee hearing.
With Dr. Chua sacked and Ong being accused of taking a RM10 million donation by Datuk Tiong King Sing, the CEO of Port Klang Free Zone turnkey contractor Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd, for taking free flights on the company’s private jets, MCA’s membership had finally had enough and stepped forward to put out the fire caused by Ong and Chua’s inability to work as a team.
On October 10, 2009, MCA’s membership held an Extraordinary General Meeting to address the party’s sad state of affairs. The outcome? A no-confidence vote was passed against Ong, Chua’s bid to be reinstated as the Deputy President was rejected but any subsequent attempts by the central committee to expel or suspend him would be annulled. Unfortunately, for the MCA the results of the Extraordinary General Meeting not only failed to resolve the internal issues but also introduced a third politician with eyes for the party’s top post, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
No one, can fault Chua for pursuing his legal options to be reinstated as MCA’s Deputy President following the Extraordinary General Meeting. If Ong did in fact have a role in Chua’s sacking, which seems totally logical given he occupies the President’s seat on the committee, Chua’s reinstatement as Deputy President sends a very clear message to Ong and others that the voice of constituents, not a politician’s personal agenda or political aspirations, comes first.
As for Ong, I believe the MCA would be in a better place today had he resigned as MCA President when the no-confidence vote was passed against him last October. Despite the number of supporters in his corner, the fact does remain that a no-confidence vote was passed against him and he should have resigned immediately so that fresh party elections could have been held.
Sadly, five months later the MCA is still in limbo. Ong remains as President. Chua remains as Deputy President. And as was the case prior to the October 2009 Extraordinary General Meeting neither man is talking to the other. Fortunately, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for the MCA.
With Chua’s resignation, those of the other seven central committee members who quit their posts the same day and the previously intended resignations handed in following the Extraordinary General Meeting in October 2009 from Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and his supporters on the central committee, fresh party elections, which according to the party’s constitution must be held within the next 30 days, will finally take place on Sunday, 28 March 2010.
The internal issues within the MCA, which have made almost daily headlines since October 2008, are an important concern to Barisan Nasional. The ruling coalition suffered some rather big losses at the hands of the opposition party during the 2008 General Election. A lot of finger pointing took place after the election as to who should be blamed for the coalition’s poor performance where Barisan Nasional lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time since 1969. Since then Barisan Nasional has placed a strong emphasis on winning back the electorate in the last two years so that it can continue its uninterrupted control of the government. If the MCA, which is the second largest coalition party in Barisan Nasional, is unable to get its house in order before the next General Election some worry that the opposition may win even more ground.
For now all eyes are on Monday, 22 March 2010 when the nominations will be announced for MCA’s Party Elections. Will Ong compete for the top spot? Seriously, I hope Ong won’t re-contest for the Presidency post but he hinted he would at the MCA’s 56th Annual General Meeting on Sunday, March 7 at Wisma MCA in Kuala Lumpur as reported in the 7 March 2010 edition of the Malay newspaper Bernama. “I am determined to shoulder on and finish the journey that I have chosen to begin. I hope I will carry on.” Clearly Ong has trouble understanding “no-confidence” means “no”. Hopefully the party won’t forget how it got to where it is today and will do the right thing when casting votes on 28 March.
Given that no candidate at the moment has the full support of the MCA there will obviously be wheeling and dealing behind closed doors between the different factions within the MCA in the days leading up to the announcements of nominations on 22 March 2010. This political maneuvering is common to Malaysian politics.
Barisan Nasional has ruled successfully as a coalition government since Malaysia gained independence from Britain on 31 August 1957. The individual parties making up the coalition such as the MCA are expected to bring in votes during General Elections which are held in Malaysia at least once in every five years. Achieving this goal requires that each political party in the coalition have the full support of its constituents. In the last General Election, Pakatan Rakyat, the opposition party led by Anwar Ibrahim, was able to break through Barisan Nasional’s one party dominant system of government because racial-based political parties like MCA, MIC and UMNO were unable to deliver the votes.
The importance of delivering the votes in the next General Elections must be foremost in the minds of those in charge at MCA after its poor showing during the 2008 General Election. As such I wouldn’t be surprised if Chua and Liow brokered a deal over the next week whereby they contest for the number one and two posts, respectively. In doing so, they would bring together their individual support bases which currently stand at 50 percent for Chua and 30 percent for Liow. With those kinds of numbers backing a Chua-Liow team the MCA may finally be able to put the tumultous last 15 months behind them and focus on delivering enough votes in the next General Election.