Will BN be replaced?

Chua Soi Lek on the future of race-based politics

Najib must demonstrate through positive actions that the government of the day does not belong just to Umno. That the goverment of the day doesn't just implement policies that benefit only Malay [Malaysians] or a certain segment of people. I think these are the most fundamental changes he has to initiate.

By Deborah Loh, The Nut Graph

DESPITE his own dilemma about remaining in the MCA, party deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek believes the Barisan Nasional (BN) has a chance at regaining voter confidence, but not if it doesn't muster the political will to change.

He thinks the BN has a shot at reform under new Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak if the political parties can move towards becoming issue-centric, rather than remaining race-based.

Yet, the former cabinet minister doesn't think Malaysian society can fully forsake racial politics to embrace issues- and ideology-based politics until after two more general elections.

He says while the Pakatan Rakyat has lifted people's hopes with its "new politics" of equality, Malaysia's realpolitik will not let such a message be realised so easily.

The Umno-dominated government, therefore, has to show it can be fair and just to all races.

Chua speaks to The Nut Graph in the second and final part of an exclusive interview about Najib's early days, the shrinking Chinese Malaysian population, and the future of race-based parties.

On Prime Minister Najib

TNG: Before Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi left, he wanted to hold a BN convention to strengthen race relations. Should Najib still proceed with it?

I think there is a need for a BN convention so there can be a consensus among all the component parties on the future direction of the BN and the government. After March 2008, a lot of component party leaders felt that if they became more vocal, then things would be okay. They think they've shown to their own community that they've dared to speak out and demand the things their community wants.

But does that solve anything, whether by talking or by asking for things that your community should have — will it be fulfilled?

So speaking out is not enough. The MCA has been doing that a lot with a lot of different statements lately.

You can speak out, but will your voice be heard? I don't know how effective it is. By being vocal as a component party, are we sending the right message? People on the outside will also say, you are part of the government, why should you make so much noise? If you were really effective you could whisper and get it done. You don't have to behave like the opposition. The opposition needs to be vocal because they don't have a channel to the prime minister.

What do you think of Najib's leadership and his 1Malaysia?

It's time for him to walk the talk. People nowadays are not taken up by slogans. This is a time when the government must show and demonstrate that it is committed to treating everyone fairly.

He must be democratic and transparent in his decisions, must show that the government of the day means business, that it will deliver what it promises, and that it is making a Malaysia where all people, irrespective of race, are stakeholders. And as stakeholders, they are entitled to what is due to them under the constitution, and that the government will not say one thing and do another. They want to see that the leaders are in touch with the rakyat.

Najib's walkabout was good, but it doesn't solve problems. The walkabout should be followed by dialogue to know what that particular community wants. Just walking around and shaking hands is good political spinning, but the younger generation is sceptical about it. We should take it a step further by sitting down and talking.

I do that in my constituency, that's how I can survive, I walk around and talk. Even now I still do in my own bahagian, because I'm still ketua bahagian for MCA Batu Pahat. I help the local wakil rakyat by going around and talking to people. It's no point walking around and having coffee and creating a hoo-ha. Will that translate into support?

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