MCA’s harakiri and its repercussions on the Chinese

MCA is an ineffective political force in part because it has long played only a marginal role in the previous Malaysia Plans — implemented by the Umno-aligned, Malay dominated civil service — that have shaped socio-economic development in the country.

By Dr. Lim Teck Ghee (CPI)

The Malaysian public, especially the Chinese, must be wondering if MCA can ever get its house in order so that it can attend to the important affairs of state, especially the economy.

Besides the economy which affects the wellbeing of all households in one way or another, there are many other issues that should occupy the time and attention of the party.

Rising religious tensions; increasing intolerance of Islamic zealots; growth of rightwing Malay NGOs and extremism; lack of education opportunities for young Chinese and other Malaysians – the list is formidable. Many of these issues have implications not only for the Chinese but for the whole country.

The Najib administration’s New Economic Model (NEM) is being touted as the way forward. Do the MCA leaders know or even care what is in the model?

Should the New Economic Policy (NEP) be a key part of the NEM as suggested by some Umno leaders? NEP was a policy that was supposed to have ended in 1990 but has in fact been continued with new labels during the past 20 years.

Is there a danger that NEM will in fact be a retreat to the obsolete NEP strategy as demanded by Perkasa? Will there be a continuation of the crony capitalism that has blighted the earlier economic model? The Deputy Prime Minister has said that no Malaysian will be sidelined by the NEM and that “every Malaysian will be given the opportunity to look at what is being proposed and can provide their input”.

Can the MCA vouch that the interests of all the communities will be safeguarded in the NEM?

Can MCA assure the party members and public that they have not only closely monitored the drafting of the soon to be unveiled NEM but also contributed to its final form? If so, what are the inputs the party has provided or has this crucial strategy been left to others to formulate while the party has been twiddling its thumbs in between the preoccupation with party games.

It will be interesting to know not only the party’s inputs but also the specific suggestions for the economic transformation of the country provided by the contenders jostling for party leadership.

Input to economic planning

There has been absolutely no word on NEM from MCA’s rival factions, so the public can be forgiven if they assume that these factions are either clueless or couldn’t give a damn as to what is in the new model.

The concern is not only with regard to NEM but more immediately, the 10th Malaysia Plan, which will decide on how public expenditure is to be spent during the next five years. What is the specific input of the MCA to this national blueprint?

For example, has the party consulted the best experts as well as the affected businesses on how to get the small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) out from their low-value-added, low-wage and low-productivity structure?

And again, what inputs (assuming that the party leadership has been furnished with early drafts of the 10th Malaysia Plan by the Economic Planning Unit) have MCA provided on the plan? Presumably MCA has access to a wide range of expertise available from the Chinese business community and intelligentsia. This feedback if collated should be useful in providing pragmatic guidance on how to achieve a breakthrough in the many challenges we face.

For the coming MCA elections on March 28, the party members should insist that each of the candidates contesting key positions provide a full report card on their views on the NEM and 10th Malaysia Plan and how they intend to ensure that their policy proposals are taken up by the party and government.

This report card, including their record of service and accomplishments at the community and national level – rather than the dinners and other perks aimed at wooing supporters –should be the main focus of their campaign.

A disclosure of the candidate’s policy position on the major economic, social and political challenges that the country faces is the first step to realizing the party’s aspiration to be a credible political force.

Marginalizing itself or being marginalized?

The consensus of analysts is that the MCA has been an ineffective political force in part because it has only played a marginal role in the previous Malaysia Plans that have shaped socio-economic development in the country.

Because of Malay dominance of the civil service and the close relationship between Umno and the civil service, past development plans, for example, have been skewed against vernacular schools and education for the children of minority communities. At the same time, billions of dollars have been disproportionately spent on Mara junior science colleges and other Bumiputra elitist educational institutions.

Some of the outcomes of the earlier economic model and past development expenditure have been the failure of the country to grow to its full potential; the economic dominance of Umno- and MCA-affiliated tycoons and business interests; the widening income inequalities within all communities; and the extraordinary growth of a super rich and wealthy class.

The resulting inequalities and persistence of Bumiputra poverty is now unfairly blamed on the ‘greed’ of the ‘pendatang’ community by extremist Malay and Umno quarters seeking a continuation of NEP and Malay-oriented development policies.

Quite apart from concern over how the national economic cake is being shared, surely the party must be fully aware that among our neighbours such as China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, Malaysia’s real GDP growth in the last three years was the second lowest at 5.5 percent. Or that private sector investment has stagnated and in some cases even regressed.

If the party is aware of the bleak economic scenario facing Malaysians, what key proposals has it formulated to reenergize the swooning Malaysian economy and how have these been incorporated into the 10th Plan?

The ongoing power struggle


Junfa, or its English equivalents ‘warlords’ and ‘warlordism’, when used in the context of Chinese polity and society during the first part of the twentieth century, are pejorative expressions….The warlord era was marked by constant warfare, thrusting China into perpetual economic and political instability…. Official history …denounces warlords and characterizes the era as reactionary to China’s endeavour toward national unity and progress. Both Chinese and English scholarship describe the warlords as regional militarists, possessing personal armies that they constantly strove to expand and heavily relied on to advance their own interests in power and money.


Excerpt on Chinese ‘warlordism’ which is found in the New Dictionary of the History of Ideas (2005) by Yu Shen


Over the last 18 months, we have seen the leaders of this communal component of the BN coalition engage in bitter and open conflict, mainly due to personality clashes and craze for power that has made the party a laughing stock. MCA has become a subject of derision to non-members and a cause for heartburn among the party supporters.

We are all aware that most politics in Malaysia begins and ends with personal interests, especially for those individuals who belong to the top echelons of the ruling parties. There are of course the ethical few who see political power as a moral calling to serve the nation and who dedicate their life to doing the best for their constituents and the nation.

The endless squabbling for positions in the MCA has led to the perception that the party has very few leaders of integrity and more than its fair share of opportunists. Even the top man, Ong Tee Keat has gone on record in his presidential speech at the previous annual general meeting to state that his attempt at party reformation had caused discomfort to some people, especially opportunists.

The MCA’s lowered standing after 56 years of existence is not only a view held by the general public or the opposition parties. Its partners in BN are shaking their heads in despair or privately crowing with glee as the spectacle of infighting and backstabbing intensifies.

As for the future, it is the ultimate indictment of MCA that its President has had to publicly apologize several times for the so-called aggressive investigation of the Port Klang Free Trade scandal, in which various leaders and associates of the party have been implicated.

The question that comes to mind is why should Ong apologize for seeking the truth on the scandal and in the process stirring a hornet’s nest? Is this apology a result of pressure from party leaders and members that the MCA should see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil?

Is the President sending out a message that the party should condone what has taken place? Or that he should hide from the public the truth on cronyism, corruption, mismanagement, inefficiency and abuse of power? If this is the logical conclusion, then the sooner the party is consigned to the dustbin of history, the better.

Note: An earlier version of the article appeared in the Chinese weekly Red Tomato on March 12, 2010.