Should MCA Leave BN to Regain Relevance and Dignity?

Now, with more evidence surfacing to reinforce this perception, they have become even more convinced that whatever the MCA says in the interest of the Chinese will count for nothing.

by Kee Thuan Chye, Malaysian Digest 

It has become an issue of public debate: Should the MCA remain in Barisan Nasional (BN)?

The question struck a poignant chord last month when MCA president Chua Soi Lek spoke up for the Chinese business community and was immediately ticked off by the Umno top brass.

Right after the MCA-organised Malaysian Chinese Economic Congress, Chua called on the Government to, among other things, gradually remove the NEP’s 30 percent Bumiputera equity in all sectors of the economy. Immediately, Umno deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin retorted and warned him against making statements that could anger other races and told the MCA not to undermine BN when fighting for the Chinese community. He even invoked the spectre of May 13.

Umno vice-president Hisahmmuddin Hussein reminded Chua to “stick to the struggles of BN”. He did not specify what that meant, but those who know would form their own conclusions.
Prime Minister Najib Razak was on leave at the time but when he came back, he did the normal thing – remind BN leaders they had to be careful when issuing statements. He did nothing to reassure Chua publicly, even though Najib was himself a main speaker at the Malaysian Chinese Economic Congress, and he used the occasion to urge the Chinese CEOs present to spearhead his New Economic Model.

What this shows is that Chua and his party have no one they can fall back on when it comes to standing up for issues they are expected to champion. A few days after Muhyiddin’s chiding, Chua became defensive, saying in an interview with Berita Minggu that he was not questioning the NEP but merely making a suggestion to improve the country’s competitiveness in order to help Malaysia become a high-income nation.

In the eyes of the public, that episode showed even more clearly the dilemma the MCA is in.

Then just the other day, like a faithful party man, Chua praised the Government for giving academic awards worth RM2.25 million to United Examination Certificate (UEC) students. He said it showed that “the Government is giving more weight to the UEC and the role of the Chinese independent schools”.

Set against what Muhyiddin, as Education Minister, had said in June that the Government does not recognise the UEC because it does not follow the national education syllabus, Chua’s over-enthusiasm may be justified. As the saying goes, one has to be thankful for small mercies.

“Small mercies” would seem to be the most accurate description for what the MCA can manage to get these days. Even though it is a senior partner in the ruling BN, it is being seen as an increasingly impotent partner. When it comes to speaking up for the big things, it can be told by its big brother to shut up and that would be the end of the matter.

The Chinese community that the MCA is meant to represent perceived that the party would become increasingly compromised. So they pulled out their support for the party at the 2008 general election. Now, with more evidence surfacing to reinforce this perception, they have become even more convinced that whatever the MCA says in the interest of the Chinese will count for nothing.

If the situation carries on this way, the MCA will probably lose more seats at the next general election.

Chua is keenly aware of this. When he rebutted Muhyiddin and Hishammuddin for their admonitions, he eloquently expressed his party’s predicament: “The MCA is aware of its role within BN, but we have a role to play as a Chinese-based party so that we can continue to be relevant.”

However, because of the Catch-22 the MCA is in, that relevance will continue to diminish. You can see it in the fact that the MCA these days is reduced to watching the Opposition parties like a hawk and crying out whenever the latter do something it deems contradicts their credo. One obvious example is over the gag order issued by the DAP to stop its members from quarrelling over the Ronnie Liu issue. The MCA yelled that it went against the DAP’s avowed principle of transparency.

Unfortunately, when the MCA stoops to serving such a function, it comes off sounding like the pupil in class who in wanting to gain brownie points from the form teacher repeatedly cries out, “Teacher! Teacher! Annuar is talking!” or “Teacher! Teacher! Siew Siang is disturbing Veloo!”

That’s not the kind of politics that will be useful to anyone. Attacking your opponents merely to smear their reputation is a tactic that indicates political immaturity. Pakatan Rakyat does that a lot too, and it’s as deserving of censure. Besides, it doesn’t really work. More often than not, it serves only to make supporters of the group that’s being smeared more upset, more hardened, and more anti the group that did the smearing. Besides, it’s exhausting for the electorate, if not the politicians.

The MCA is no longer a political force. After the farce it went through to oust its former president, Ong Tee Keat; after the charging of another of its former presidents, Ling Liong Sik, for cheating the Government in regard to the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal; after this latest put-down by Muhyiddin, it is clear that the party needs to do something radical to regain its dignity.

That may be something as drastic as pulling out of BN.