Clara Chooi and Md Izwan, The Malaysian Insider
PKR’s leadership considered fielding MCA’s Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat in Pandan for Election 2013 several months ago, a PKR source has confirmed, but the suggestion was immediately vetoed in favour of Rafizi Ramli.
The source said the consideration was made after Ong’s MCA followers “sent out feelers” to PKR leaders on the possibility of him contesting on a PKR ticket, but without the former MCA president’s actual confirmation, the party had decided not to take the matter seriously.
“We never actually heard from him even though his people had made representation on his behalf,” the source told The Malaysian Insider.
“But there was a clear indication of Ong’s, or his people’s, intention. Only that it appeared he was just testing waters through his people so there was never anything really concrete.”
He added that despite the matter being raised at leadership level, the party had decided to proceed with its campaign in Pandan and stick to Rafizi as its candidate, refusing to leave candidate selection to the last minute.
The source pointed out that when the matter was raised, it had also appeared likely that Ong was Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s favoured choice for Pandan.
Ong, who was deposed as MCA president by his current successor Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek during a fractious power struggle in 2010, has been the Pandan MP for five terms now.
But earlier this week, Dr Chua told reporters at a Chinese New Year gathering that the Pandan MCA division had excluded him from its list of possible candidate choices for Election 2013.
Instead, said Dr Chua, the division had proposed 39-year-old lawyer Gary Lim, the division’s legal bureau head.
This was immediately denied by the division, however, and the majority of its leadership held an emergency meeting on Friday to clarify that they have yet to meet to discuss possible candidates for Pandan and had therefore not decided to propose Lim.
But PKR had predicted that out-of-favour Ong would lose his MCA ticket.
“We did expect this would happen, that Ong would be dropped. But at the time, Najib came to Ong’s constituency for a visit and gave allocations and all... talk was that Ong was the favoured choice.
“So the party decided that unless there is a formal request from Ong himself, it could not entertain requests made by those claiming to represent him,” said the source.
There has been heavy speculation on the possibility of Ong defecting to the opposition as the leader grew more isolated from his MCA peers over the years, but the Pandan MP never confirmed the possibility.
His open tiff with Dr Chua, however, continued to fuel the rumours and when the latter announced that his predecessor had been dropped from MCA’s list, the rumours reignited.
When contacted yesterday on the matter, Rafizi, who is PKR’s strategy director, told The Malaysian Insider that the issue did not come as a surprise.
He would not confirm if his party had discussed fielding Ong for Pandan, but affirmed that he was willing to exit the contest should the leadership feel that the latter was a more suitable candidate for the seat.