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Thursday, March 18, 2010

MCA ’s three-ring circus rolls around

By Kee Thuan Chye
Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat just doesn’t know when to quit, does he?
Despite his bravado in promising to step down before the mess hit the fan at the MCA’s extraordinary general meeting last Oct 10, he is still adamant that he will be an asset to a beleaguered party split apart by his high-handedness as president. He has declared — the first candidate to do so — that he will defend his position at the coming party elections on March 28.
This is the very man who promised to quit as president if the no-confidence vote against him at the EGM was passed by just one vote. It was actually passed by a margin of 14, with 1,155 delegates voting for it and 1,141 against. He should have kept his word, and done the honourable thing; instead, he chose to stay on.
That more than 600 members attended the party’s annual meeting on March 7 indicates that he enjoys their support, but that is only a quarter of the 2,379 delegates who will vote in two weeks. Besides, some of those 600 could have attended the AGM just to hedge their bets; there may be opportunists among them who will switch loyalties if another faction looks the surer winner. Furthermore, the political complexion has just changed, now that former president Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting has also announced his candidacy.

This is another pathetic twist to the MCA soap opera. In 2008, Ka Ting was the one who led the party to its worst general election defeat ever, losing more than half the seats it had held. In his tenure as president, he was not noted for having any gumption in standing up to Umno’s trampling over Chinese concerns. He also didn’t stand up for Tee Keat when the latter was reprimanded in 2006 by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, then deputy prime minister, for urging the Education Ministry to act on corruption in Chinese schools.
What will Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek and Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, who have been touted as likely candidates, do now? Chua had been considered the front-runner because, pundits say, he could rely on the support of at least 900 delegates. How will his chances be affected with Ka Ting’s entry? As for Liow, since a large chunk of his supporters are also those of Ka Ting’s, will he settle for the number two position?
What about Ka Ting’s brother, Ka Chuan? Surely, there would be something in all this for him? But Ka Chuan’s track record is not impressive: he was trounced in the 2004 general election in Batu Gajah and managed to win in 2008 probably because Tanjung Malim was a safe seat. And in the MCA elections of 2008, he lost to Chua for the deputy presidency. Why would the delegates want him this time?
The MCA is in for intriguing times. There will be a lot of horse trading right up to the elections as the factions scramble to make up the required figures. Liow was an ally of Tee Keat’s till he apparently betrayed the latter after the Oct 10 EGM. Are we likely to see further betrayals by any of the others? Will Chua the “magician” be wily enough to pull off the art of making the impossible possible, and the possible impossible?
It looks like the same circus is back. You can almost hear the orchestra striking up the opening strains of Send in the Clowns. The sad part is, the delegates may be faced with only these options – of a man who broke his promise, a man who betrayed his friend, a man who cheated on his wife, and a man who lacked courage when he was president.
In the past, there was only a Team A vs Team B; now there are Teams X, Y and Z. With the party already so split, will the March 28 elections lead to unity? There would be animosity even if Ka Ting becomes president again. If Tee Keat wins, the party would be back at square one. All the grief and disgrace the party has experienced would have been much ado about nothing. And Tee Keat was the one whose open contempt for Chua, his deputy then, from the moment he stepped into the presidency led to the unravelling of the whole mess today.
Where does the solution lie? One doubts whether the team leaders know the answer. As it is, the whole MCA “dramedy” has shown up the reality that the MCA is no longer a force in Malaysian politics. The world of the Malaysian Chinese didn’t end while the in-fighting went on. Life in the Chinese community continued, debunking any claim that the MCA still matters to the Chinese.
Its days are nearly over. Why fight over a dying cause? Time to move on. Time to heed the words of Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik who has suddenly wised up now he’s been out of the Gerakan leadership for a couple of years: “After March 8, politics is going towards an ideological base that is multi-racial in approach.”
Perhaps it’s time for the MCA to implode and start all over again.


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