MCA and Umno – a lesson of friendship and betrayal

Its adamant attitude to stay with PN and not showing gratitude to Umno is a typical behaviour of true betrayal.

Rosli Khan, Free Malaysia Today

I know politics is now a boring subject. People are fed up with politicians, too. But this piece is partly a history lesson. One needs to understand a bit of history in order to devise a stand for the future. Or better still, to mount a good fight.

This lesson is drawn from the factual accounts of what happened to MCA.


Traditionally, MCA used to contest in pockets of predominantly Chinese-majority seats and held seats mostly in the urban areas along the west coast with a concentration of Chinese businesses.

However, in 1966, DAP came into the picture. It contested for the first time in the 1969 general election. What started as a party of working-class heroes and labour unionists slowly began to chip away at the influence base of MCA, which was regarded as being full of “towkays”.

It was not long after that MCA found it had a serious opponent, just as its partner Umno had to contend with a breakaway faction called PAS.

After the 1969 debacle, Barisan Nasional (BN), a coalition of many parties, was formed by Abdul Razak Hussein in 1973. There was a political shift, a power play of some sort and a who-gets-what kind of arrangement.

As DAP was pushing hard for a Malaysian Malaysia, Umno, the dominant partner, found solace in PAS and also political funds from MCA. It, therefore, became kind enough to let MCA (and MIC too) contest under BN in many Malay marginal seats.

But MCA was never a service-oriented political party. Not only did it fail to uplift the Malays in the constituencies it won, it also let down the Chinese voters. By the early 1990s, the fumbling MCA ended up competing neck and neck with DAP for Chinese representation.

A couple of general elections later, MCA candidates became losers in many major urban seats such as Bukit Bintang, Petaling, Cheras, Kepong, Ipoh, Kota Melaka and Seremban.

MCA reached its peak with 31 parliamentary seats in 2004, thanks largely to Umno whose leaders lived up to the spirit of BN by allowing MCA to contest in Malay marginal seats.

These seats included Alor Gajah (Melaka), Air Hitam and Tanjung Piai (Johor), Selayang and Ampang (Selangor), Raub and Bentong (Pahang), all Malay marginal-majority seats.

If it wasn’t for this consideration from Umno, MCA would have been wiped out a long time ago.

Another turning point in Malaysia’s political landscape was the emergence and acceptance of PKR as a multiracial party by many urban voters in early 2000. This was also a major factor in MCA’s decline.

DAP was by now a heavyweight in many key Chinese constituencies, and PKR, with young and upcoming faces in places like Ampang, Pandan, Selayang and Tanjung Malim, was a force to be reckoned with, resulting in MCA’s popularity continuing to decline.

By 2008, MCA managed to win only 15 parliamentary seats. In Penang, like Gerakan, MCA was defeated in all the seats it contested. By contrast, Umno remained intact with 11 state seats and several parliamentary seats in the state.

In 2013, the results were much worse for MCA. Its seats in Parliament dwindled down to seven. Yet, it continued to be trusted by long-time partner Umno and continued to get ministerial posts, including that of the transport ministry and the international trade and industry ministry.

The year 2018 must have been MCA’s worst nightmare. It won only a single parliamentary seat – Air Hitam, a 58% Malay-majority seat, courtesy of Umno members who gave their votes to MCA leader Wee Ka Siong.

With DAP winning 42 parliamentary seats and PKR taking 49, many predicted the end of the road for MCA.

Bersatu factor

In 2019, the charitable Umno again allowed another MCA leader to stand for BN in the Tanjung Piai by-election against a candidate from Bersatu in a seat which has a Malay majority of about 57%.

That by-election clearly demonstrated Umno’s collective concept of sharing and the practical aspects of a multiracial coalition, which many voters overlooked during the excitement of GE14.

However, as it turned out, the February leap year of 2020 was a political nightmare of a different kind to those in Pakatan Harapan (PH), except for Bersatu.

A total of eight Bersatu MPs, plus another 13 ex-Umno “ranid” MPs,  with 10 PKR MPs, betrayed their own parties and partners in PH. As a result, PH collapsed and lost control of the government.

That infamous “Sheraton move” culminated in a new coalition called Perikatan Nasional, which many right-minded Malaysians simply cannot accept.

BN (including the two-seat MCA) cooperated with PN to form this new government that we now have.

Umno’s threat

But as predicted by many seasoned political observers, this PN coalition is not likely to last long.

If it wasn’t for the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to the declaration of an emergency and the suspension of Parliament, the PN-led government would have collapsed by now.

The once-powerful Umno has not been a very happy coalition member of PN. It has kept threatening to pull out from the PN government but has yet to do so. Its long-time partners in BN – MCA and MIC – appear reluctant to follow suit.

Herein lies the irony of the present political landscape in the country. Those who were previously very much against Umno in GE14, are now back supporting Umno’s initiative to “pull the plug” on PN. They can’t wait for Umno to get its act together.

MCA, however, is indifferent. Its adamant attitude to stay with PN and not showing gratitude to Umno is a typical behaviour of true betrayal.

Many pundits are suggesting that GE15 will witness MCA’s demise and a total rejection of politicians who practice treachery and display deceitful behaviour.

Over the years, this party has clearly demonstrated that it is only in it for the business opportunities that incumbency offers. As a party, MCA is a spent political force. What added value can it offer Umno?