Why MCA must rejoin the Government

Zaid Ibrahim, TMI

The call made by the Chinese business community and NGOs for MCA to rejoin the Cabinet is not surprising.

If MCA is to have any future it must rejoin the Government, but party members must also do more than what they have become accustomed to doing. In the past, they delivered allocations to Chinese schools and representated the Chinese community in business and educational issues.

A few of their top leaders held Cabinet posts and this enabled them to dish out some contracts to the Chinese towkays. The lower-rung MCA operatives held positions in local councils, which gave them some leverage with grassroots members.

MCA needs to and can do more. Its deputy president’s statement that rejoining the Cabinet would allow the party to be more vocal on issues that are relevant to the Chinese community is frankly hard to understand.

You can be vocal without holding Cabinet posts, and you certainly don’t become a part of the Cabinet just to be vocal. You join the Cabinet to implement policies that you believe are essential for your community and the country.

If MCA were to rejoin the Cabinet, it must do so for the right reasons. Being vocal without having the ability or willingness to implement key policy issues will reduce MCA to being like just another NGO: vocal, but essentially helpless.

I think it is important that MCA rejoins the Government, especially if the party can get the Prime Minister’s undertaking to listen and act on key issues.

On top of the list is for MCA to do its part to stop racism from spreading its wings in national politics. There is no way we can overcome economic and financial challenges in the future if the country is divided along racial, religious and ethnic lines, so a well-crafted Race Relations Act is urgently required.

The law must be there to punish or at least discourage racism and all its ugly ramifications from spreading. Discriminatory practices must be outlawed.

The rights of citizens must be respected, regardless of whether their forefathers came from China, India or Sulawesi. Immediate action must be taken against racist conduct and remarks.

Companies and the civil service must be open to all races without discrimination, for this is the only way we can progress as a nation.

Wanting to have a Race Relations Act is not asking for the sky. In fact, it was discussed at the Cabinet level but several senior ministers developed cold feet, making it impossible to carry  through. That was five years ago and race relations have clearly deteriorated since then.

A Race Relations Act will signal to the people that this Government is concerned about racial discord, that it has the political will to act against racism and racist policies, and that it has every intention to deal with the subject fairly to maintain peace and harmony.

Laws are useless if they are not enforced fairly or made applicable to those who violate them. In Malaysia, Malay or Muslim demogogues — especially from Umno and Perkasa — have escaped prosecution despite making blatantly racist remarks.

The Government, however, has been quick to act against those on the fringe or from other races. MCA should make it a point to get the prime minister to promise that the Public Prosecutor will be given a free hand to charge anyone — anyone at all — who violates the Race Relations Act.