The myth of the indispensable hero Tee Keat

The PKFZ issue has been bandied about by certain people as the reason Ong Tee Keat should remain the MCA president and transport minister. These people seem to think that if Tee Keat is not holding these positions the probe into the multi-billion ringgit PKFZ scandal will grind to a stop.

By Thomas Lee

Such thinking is simply simplistic and utterly illogical, especially when many of those arguing in support of Tee Keat are supposed to be educated and intelligent people, some of them being leaders in political parties and non-governmental organisations.

Such people should know and understand that the PKFZ buck does not stop at the desk of Tee Keat but at the table of the Umno boss and Prime Minister, Najib Razak. The ultimate decision on what to do with the PKFZ issue is not in the hands of Tee Keat but that of Najib. It doesn’t matter who the transport minister is as it is the prime minister who will finally call the shots and make the decision. The transport minister is merely his executive officer for carrying out his will and decision.

Another argument in support of Tee Keat is that he is supposedly one who can stand up to Umno and be able to make demands from the Umno-controlled government to serve the Chinese community which the MCA claims to represent in the government.

Such a fanciful fantasy is believed only by the gullible and moronic. Anyone with even some semblance of political insight and maturity will know and realise that almost all the concessions won for the people are the result of massive inroads made by the opposition parties like the DAP. The overwhelming support the people gave to the opposition parties during the general elections has forced the Umno-controlled Barisan Nasional coalition federal government to concede to the demands of the people. It is not that Tee Keat and the MCA, or for that matter, Koh Tsu Koon and Gerakan, or S. Samy Vellu and the MIC, that has been successful in their bargaining for these concessions.

So the myth of the indispensable hero Tee Keat being the saviour of the MCA and the Chinese community is just that — a myth. And it is not a good and justifiable reason to insist on having him remain at the helm despite losing a vote of no-confidence against him by the MCA grassroots leaders.

The contention that Tee Keat could only be removed as the party president by a two-third majority of the general assembly delegates is certainly legally valid but morally void as he had, prior to the no-confidence vote, vowed that he would step down if he were to lose by a simple majority. The failure to honour his public pledge has resulted in him losing his credibility and integrity for which he would have a difficult time to redeem. No wonder he is reluctant to hold fresh party elections now as he will certainly be thrown out by the party delegates.

On the issue of fresh party elections, I believe that Tee Keat and many central committee members are not willing to take the risk and put their necks on the chopping board. This is in view of the most likely scenario of many so-called written-off party leaders that will take the opportunity to stage a comeback by contesting for key positions. People like Ong Ka Chuan, Fong Chan Onn, Donald Lim, Tan Chai Hoe and even Teng Chu Pei are no political lightweights within the MCA; and fresh party elections in the midst of a choatic struggle will afford them the chance to be resurrected into the party leadership hierachy.

If fresh party elections are held, I expect the three possible presidential candidates of Tee Keat, Chua Soi Lek and Liow Tiong Lai to be overwhelmingly thrown out by the delegates for the simple reason that they are perceived to be an embarrassment and a liability to the party.

Tee Keat’s renege on his pledge to quit if he lost the no-confidence vote has caused him to be a subject of ridicule, not only among the party members, but also among the Chinese community and within the Barisan Nasional. One of the fundamental principles of the Chinese ethos is the word “honour” (“hou jee” in Cantonese), and anyone who does not honour his vow or pledge loses the respect and honour of the people. Hence, I doubt Tee Keat will be able to survive if fresh party elections are held.

As for Soi Lek, his soiled moral misadventure, although forgivable, is not easily forgotten. He may be an excellent grassroots leader, but his indiscretion may become a big liability to the MCA as he may be blackmailed into toeing the Umno line to accept and implement policies and programmes which may not be favourable to the party and the Chinese community.

Tiong Lai is perceived by many in the party and the community to be an impatient upstart who had betrayed his former boss Tee Keat to climb to the top of the party leadership hierarchy. The allegation of a gift of a luxury car to his wife by a private company purportedly awarded a contract by his ministry, although yet to be proven, has already taken a toll on his reputation. Obviously, his support in the party has eroded, and I doubt he will be able win in the party elections.

I expect Fong Chan Onn or Ong Ka Chuan, or even Donald Lim, to stake a claim on the MCA presidency; and one of them will likely be elected to give the party a completely fresh start to reform, regenerate and rejuvenate itself.

Chan Onn, a former don with a Ph.D in economics who had served as a cabinet minister, has almost impeccable credentials as compared to many MCA leaders; and will stand a very good chance of getting elected if the delegates are non-partisan in their voting and want a renewed life for the party following the mess under the Tee Keat regime.

Ka Chuan is another of presidential material but has the disadvantage of being former party president Ong Ka Ting’s brother. I said disadvantage because many party grassroots leaders have reservations on whether Ka Ting will be pulling the puppet strings if his brother is the MCA president. I believe Ka Chuan should consider being the running mate of Chan Onn. The duo can be a formindable force to provide the general assembly delegates with a viable alternative to Tee Keat, Soi Lek and Tiong Lai.

As it is, it seems unlikely that the required number of central committee members will resign to pave the way for fresh party elections. If that is the case, the ball should be thrown into the court of the general assembly delegates. The delegates should move a motion at the impending party general assembly to have the central committee dissolved for fresh elections to be held.

Quo vadis, MCA?