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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Where have MCA’s young gone?

By Neville Spykerman
KUALA LUMPUR, March 27 — The MCA party elections tomorrow sees a crowded field of 101 candidates vying for 31 posts, with most of them aged over 40 and reflective of the 62-year-old party’s inability to attract new blood to its ranks.

Former party president Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting has entered the fray for a grab at his old post, fighting incumbent Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat, and former deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek. The two Ongs are 53, while Dr Chua is 63.
Others vying for the top posts are not much younger than those contesting the top post, leading to concerns that the party may not be relevant to the youth, who now form the bulk of the Malaysian electorate. The median age of voters in Election 2008 was 25.
Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said MCA, the second largest component party in the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, is suffering from brain drain because it was still using an old script.
He explained that Chinese party was caught in a time warp because it belonged to the old political, race-based framework with Umno as the dominant party.
“The young will continue to remain not attracted to MCA as long as it is seen as being subservient to Umno,” Khoo told The Malaysian Insider
He also pointed out that today’s youth also spoke a totally different language from MCA and were rejecting race-based politics.
And unlike parties in developed democracies, where there is survival of the fittest and leaders are easily replaced, MCA continues to field either tainted leaders or those past their best, such as the three presidential contenders.
Below them is a straight fight for deputy president between Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha, 60, and Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, 49.
The 10 contenders for the four vice-president posts are all old hands, including 67-year-old former Serdang MP, Datuk Yap Pian Hon, who is hoping to stage a political come back.
Yap had contested for the same position six times, winning it on three occasions.
Political writer Josh Hong believed MCA’s old guard dilemma stems from the long tenure of former MCA president, Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik, who was helmed the party for over 16 years before he stepped down in 2003.
According to Hong, many — if not most — of Sunday’s candidates, including Yap and his fellow vice-president contender Datuk Seri Donald Lim Siang Chai, have been waiting for a long time on the sidelines to rise up in the party ranks.
Ka Ting, who succeeded Ling, made the situation worse by grooming only his own people.
“Many of the current candidates are now using the current MCA leadership crisis to serve their own interests,” Hong said.
He believed that MCA cannot attract the best young minds as long as it was seen playing second fiddle to Umno and unable to assert itself, adding the young would rather join the opposition, including DAP and even PKR.
Liau Kok Fah, who is the civil rights committee chairman from the KL-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, concurred with Hong.
He said young people increasingly see MCA as being irrelevant, and neither felt nor believed they would have a future in the party.


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