Ong vs Chua: MCA will lose out

It is unwise for them to lock horns at a time when the nation’s heartbeat is gripped with anxieties over the death of Teoh Beng Hock and the PKFZ scandal. 

Sim Kwang Yang, Malaysian Mirror

The Chinese language mainstream and alternative media have been saturated lately with speculations that MCA is set for another one of those gargantuan party crisis that could mean disaster for this old premier party in Malaysia.

Undercurrents of factional strife have been festering beneath the surface since the newly minted MCA President Ong Tee Keat has failed to appoint his new deputy Dr Chua Soi Lek to any cabinet position. Ong had mumbled in the past about how political leaders needing high personal moral standards, making veiled reference to Chua’s sex video scandal.

chua-and-ong-2.pngJust last week, all ten MCA ministers and deputy ministers had come out with a collective statement expressing their support for the political leadership of Tee Keat. It is an unprecedented move that raised the question: why now?

Shortly thereafter, Ong himself made the stunning revelation that there are forces inside and outside the MCA to subvert the party and force him from his leadership position.

Internal dissenting forces

He alleged that these individuals and groups with vested interest in the PKFZ issue had been spreading rumours by word of mouth and SMS in an illicit campaign of character assassination. According to him, there were even threats from the underworld against his personal safety.

This is immediately mocked by Chua as Ong’s attempt at creating a heroic image for himself. He wondered whether a Cabinet minister can be so easily intimidated by the underworld, and why Ong had not reported to the police to seek protection of the state.

Meanwhile, the media is speculating that internal dissenting forces are agitating for a special MCA delegates convention aimed at removing Ong from office as MCA president and transport minister. This has raised the spectre of extremely acrimonious and self-destructive struggle for power between warring factions that had weakened the party in the past.

The fuse for the current eruption of open verbal scuffle between the two titanic figures of the MCA is probably the re-surfacing of Chua’s sex video. Unlike a year ago when the video fist surfaced, Chua seems determined to fight it out all the way.

The MCA disciplinary committee had already issued a show-cause letter on the video issue, and August 4 has been fixed as the hearing date.

Rumours rule the day

Chua’s supporters could have seen the show cause letter as just another conspiracy by Ong to remove Chua from office by using an old issue, though it has been said that Ong knew nothing about the letter issued by the disciplinary committee. Rumours rule the day these days, and it is hard to know what’s what!

I have been vaguely interested in some rounds of MCA crisis through three decades. The fiercest one was probably the fight between Tan Koon Swan and Dr Neo Yee Pan, involving many special MCA delegates’ conventions. It was very ugly to watch even from outside. They went against each other like mortal enemies.

ling liong sik.jpgTan won in that tussle but had to go to jail in Singapore, paving the way for Dr Ling Liong Sik to ascend to the MCA throne for a long period of time.

Personally, I dislike the MCA as a political party intensely. But when Ong Tee Keat first entered Parliament as a young man in the mid 80s, I had thought well of him, despite our occasional scuffle in the House when he was Deputy Speaker. He was an engineer by training, but he was reputed to be a writer of Chinese poems and well liked by the Chinese intellegentia and Chinese journalists.

Chua Soi Lek came to the scene after my time. By all indications, he must have enjoyed widespread grassroots support, when he could be elected as deputy president of MCA, even after he was tainted by the sex video scandal.

It is unwise for them to lock horns at a time when the nation’s heartbeat is gripped with anxieties over the death of Teoh Beng Hock and the PKFZ scandal. 

The MCA has lost a huge chuck of its electoral territory after the March 8 general election last year. You would expect them to rethink and regroup all their splintered forces after the debacle to work towards a collective come-back. Even Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is making a visible attempt to regain the middle ground lost by the BN en masse in that election.

Chua has nothing to lose

chua-jui-meng-2.pngAlready, Chua Jui Meng – a former MCA leading figure – had left to join the PKR. Whether he would turn out to be toxic asset is left to be seen, but he must have lingering influence in Johore. Pakatan Rakyat needs badly that kind of connection in Johore, which has always remained as a BN fortress in many general elections.

That may explain why Soi Lek is so resolved to take the fight to Ong this time around openly. Earlier, there had been rumours that he too might join PR one day. Without any ministerial position and any real power inside the party, while being marginalised at every move, he had nothing to lose. If he loses in the current crisis, he can always join PR, taking more chunks of MCA members and supporters in Johore with him.

Unfortunately, Chinese politics is often more about personalities than about policies and ideologies. The same applies to other Chinese based politics such as Gerakan, DAP, and SUPP in Sarawak.

I doubt if we have seen the last of the dramas of this MCA internal fight. If the current crisis escalates, we may just be witnessing the beginning of the end for the MCA!

SIM KWANG YANG is the former MP for Bandar Kuching.