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Friday, April 9, 2010

BN in damage control after S'gor convention fracas

Wong Choon Mei  

KUALA LUMPUR, April 8: Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Barisan Nasional coalition has rushed into damage control mode following a rare show of temper by its normally obedient Chinese and Indian components MCA and MIC at a much-watched function in Selangor.

Both parties were stung by coalition 'big brother' Umno’s overt disrespect for minority groups after Selangor Umno deputy chief Noh Omar suggested that non-Malays should be grateful for their citizenship.

Noh was speaking at the grandly-launched Selangor BN inaugural convention on Wednesday. His remarks were sharply rebuked by both the Chinese and Indian leaders, with the Kapar division of the MCA even staging a walkout in protest.

“How can we trust Najib's 1Malaysia if Umno doesn’t respect its own allies,” PKR MP for Batu Tian Chua toldHarakahdaily.

“It is further proof that 1Malaysia is a failure. The slogan is all public relations and hype. Najib’s people may say it has worked because everyone has heard of it, but what is the point, when Malaysians connect it to bad things,” PAS MP for Shah Alam Khalid Samad told Harakahdaily.

Walkout hushed up

Nonetheless, news of the fracas was hushed up in the mainstream press. Instead, rosy pictures were painted and published.

Newly-elected MCA president Chua Soi Lek barely blinked an eye, telling reporters his party was confident of regaining Chinese support at the upcoming Hulu Selangor by-election.

“The early assessment is good. There is a change in the mindset of the Chinese community. The Pakatan has never been tested. After two years, the constituents are able to see the difference in the administration by the opposition and the BN,” Soi Lek said.

"It is of paramount interest that the party moves forward as a team to contribute effectively to BN."

The Hulu Selangor parliamentary seat fell vacant after the death of PKR's Dr Zainal Abidin Ahmad last month. The by-election is considered an acid test for Najib, whose administration has been dogged by controversy since coming to power last year.

The constituency has 64,500 voters, of which 54 percent are Malay, 27 percent Chinese and 19 percent Indian. Politicians are expected to target three main groups there - the Felda farmers, factory workers and a small Orang Asli community.

No more boycott

Not to be outdone, Hulu Selangor Umno vice-president Adnan Buyong, whose division had previously sent a memo to Najib protesting the choice of an MIC candidate, quickly backtracked from his earlier demands.

Pledging full support for the MIC, he denied having threatened to boycott the by-election if an Umno candidate was not chosen.

“Najib must have done his own research. He has made the announcement. Whatever he says, we will have to accept,” Adnan said.

"If we want to win, we have to take into account all the factors. I don't want opposition from any component party.I will talk to all parties, including the MIC president, to determine the best candidate,” said Najib.

Another battle royal at the MIC

Meanwhile, the MIC is still busy trying to come to terms on who it will field now that it has been given the conditional green light by the PM.

At the convention on Wednesday, Najib reserved the right to make the final decision on which MIC candidate to field, and although MIC leaders smiling indicated acquiescence, an internal battle royal is expected to erupt anytime from now.

MIC president S Samy Vellu wants the parliamentary seat for his deputy G Palanivel, a former four-term MP for Hulu Selangor before his defeat to PKR in 2008.

But powerful vice president S Subramaniam, who is also the Human Resources Minister, wants his own men to be given the opportunity. They include information chief P Kamalanathan and deputy Youth chief V Mugilan.

“We will respect the PM’s wishes,” said MIC secretary-general S Murugesan.

But will they?

(Wong Choon Mei is the Consultant Editor for Harakahdaily -  English Edition)


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