Cornered Tee Keat claims conspiracy to bring him down

By Leslie Lau, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR:  Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat has thrown down the gauntlet at what he calls a campaign to “topple Ong”, setting the tone for a bitter fight in the MCA that is set to cause further damage to a party trying to regain the backing of Chinese voters.

The Malaysian Insider understands that supporters of both Ong and his bitter rival Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, the deputy party president, are already gearing up for a fierce battle that could culminate in a fresh vote for the MCA leadership.

Speaking on a radio talk show yesterday, Ong said he did not fear the campaign to topple him, and quipped that his deputy president could then take over.

“Then they can decide whether to continue investigating the PKFZ issue,” he said, referring to the RM12.5 billion Port Klang Free Zone scandal.

Ong has come under considerable political attacks over his handling of the PKFZ scandal, and claimed recently he had received threats.

Earlier this week, he took the unprecedented and unusual step of circulating a statement from MCA ministers and deputy ministers which backed his handling of the scandal.

In an immediate response, Chua dismissed the move, pointing out that the public was only interested in whether there had been an abuse of public funds.

Chua also said that the most important step was to “move forward so that the PKFZ controversy can be put to an end without affecting the image of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government”.

Ong said that he was determined to do his job in handling the PKFZ scandal despite the attempts to topple him.

By getting his Cabinet colleagues to openly back him in the PKFZ scandal, Ong appears to be painting a scenario of himself as a party president under siege.

But The Malaysian Insider understands that his advisers are already preparing a “do or die” battle with Chua, whose backers are also understood to be preparing a campaign to call an extraordinary general meeting to bring down the Ong presidency.

The bitter fight is already causing some uneasiness among senior members of Umno.

And there is some concern among some MCA leaders that the party would lose even more of its limited influence in the ruling coalition as a result of any bitter fight.

“Previous MCA presidents and their advisers had close personal and business links with Umno and there was always close consultations.

“But Ong is a loner and his advisers are unknown personalities who are prepared to fight off rivals at all cost,” one senior MCA official told The Malaysian Insider.

Signs of the MCA going into a tailspin again had surfaced last week after it was made public that Chua was recently issued a notice to appear before the party disciplinary board over his 2007 sex DVD scandal.