By Stanley Koh | FMT
The Chinese community in rejecting MCA at the 2008 general election is indicative that the community has not only awaken to the fact the party is no longer relevant and effective in representing its interests, but that it has expanded its political horizon towards a two-party system.
Moreover, new perceptions are emerging that the unity of the Chinese community is no longer dependable or factored by the prevailing leadership status of MCA.
Today’s scenario remain status quo even as in 1988, the Chinese Guilds and Associations blamed MCA leadership under Dr Ling Liong Sik as weak and did not truly live up to the aspirations of the community.
MCA in short has failed to feel the pulse of the community as many younger generations are colour blind and have no confidence in a race-based policy-making nation.
Its survival is threatened by the growth of a two-party system nurtured by a growing population of old and young voters irrespective of racial groupings.
In 1988, Michael Yeoh currently Asli’s CEO who was the chief administrative director presented a classified paper on a number of options for MCA to choose at the crossroads.
MCA was at a political crossroads during a time when Umno was dragged to the courts and was declared unlawful.
When Umno Baru was formed to replace the Umno that was declared unlawful, MCA led by Ling was placed in a leadership dilemma in terms of placing its patronage and loyalty.
Pros and cons of partnership
Five options were stated in the classified paper for MCA leadership to consider.
Firstly, accept the status quo of Umno led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Secondly, MCA leaders to resign all government posts but remain in BN.
The third option was to quit BN and stay as independents.
To consider whether MCA should quit BN and form new alliances as the fourth option and the last resort to de-register the party.
Umno was split into Team A (Umno Baru quoted as status quo) and a splinter group under Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah leading Team B.
Michael in listing out the “pros and cons’ argued the advantages and disadvantages of MCA facing the crossroads.
“Merits supporting the status quo of Umno Baru would prevent uncontrollable outcome of an Emergency Rule and that might allow a two-party system to take root,” stated the paper.
“By threatening of a MCA withdraw from BN might place the party in a better bargaining power to negotiate as such a move could trigger other component parties leaving the coalition.
“Perhaps, MCA can get some crumbs and even more crumbs,” Michael wrote.
MCA threatened by two-party system
Arguments against supporting Umno Baru (Team A) included that MCA should not be dragged down with the sinking ship and that the MCA could no longer trust Umno under the Dr Mahathir’s leadership because of the leadership’s arrogance and failure to deliver its promises to MCA.
“The mood of the people clamouring for change expected MCA to be a leader and not a follower,” the 1988 classified paper stated.
Today the MCA under the leadership of Chua remains at a crossroads.
Threatened by a two-party system and a predicament of worsening lack of confidence from Malaysian voters, the MCA’s future political survival is at stake.
It is becoming a political parasite to Umno and its survival is doubtful even within Chinese majority electoral constituencies.
Hence, how relevant or true is MCA’s claim that the two-party system is becoming a race system? The answer perhaps lies within Umno, the predator of race-based policies.
MCA is misguided into challenging DAP onto a formal debate on the race system.
The historical evidence above justified that the answers should lie within the MCA-Umno hegemony since both are predominantly race-based parties.
The Chinese proverb – “one step in the wrong direction will cause a thousand years of regret” – remains true today.
Would the same be happening if MCA in the 50s had joined a multiracial platform instead of a single race-based party called Umno?
Indeed, wisdom lies in the following Chinese proverb, which says: “ren jian li er bu jian hai, yu jian shi er bu jian gou”. Translated it means MCA at that time “like a fish only saw the bait but not the hook”.
Stanley Koh is a former head of MCA’s research unit. He is a FMT columnist.