Publication : NST
Date : 16/11/2009
Page Number : 16
Headline : Untangling complexities of Chinese community
Words : 978
Byline : By Rita Sim
MCA has to resolve its internal problems, and soon, before the Chinese community looks elsewhere for more reliable representation, writes RITA SIM
THE MCA appears to be incapable of resolving its internal leadership crisis. Personalities are a powerful factor, but the MCA turmoil also reflects fundamental cleavages in the Malaysian Chinese community.
The MCA leadership conflict should have ended on Oct 10 at the party’s extraordinary general meeting when president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat received a no-confidence vote — he had previously given members his word that he would step down should this eventuate, but then reneged.
Ong has been clearly deprived of a mandate and now rules by fiat, putting the country’s six million Chinese in the untenable position of being led by a party with just over 10 per cent (840,489 votes) of the total national vote of 7,944,274.
To make matters more complex, the Registrar of Societies reappointed Ong’s sacked deputy Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, leaving Ong’s new deputy, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, to form a third faction opposing both Ong and Chua.
There is increasing speculation that other alternative channels within the Chinese community may step into the political representation vacuum left by the MCA’s inability to perform.
There are, for example, more than 7,000 Chinese guilds and associations currently active in the country. These are represented nationally by the Federation of Chinese Associations, or Huazong, through the state Chinese Assembly Halls and Federations.
There is also the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia, which provides effective business representation for some 28,000 constituent companies and trade associations, represented likewise through state organisations.
And there is, of course, the influential United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia, known more popularly as Dong Zong, which has often caused controversy for its stand on the development of Chinese vernacular education.
Each of these three groups possesses formidable resources and nationwide reach. Unlike political parties, they stand for specific interests, which, as indicated by of the groups’ size and importance in the community, are the three most dominant in the Chinese-speaking Malaysian worldview: Chinese culture, business and vernacular education.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin recently met these groups directly, perhaps in a bid to form a better understanding in catering to the needs of the Chinese community.
Such a development would present the astonishing possibility of non-Chinese political leaders representing the community at the highest levels of government. The more cynical would doubt whether such a bold initiative could be sustained. Umno leaders will eventually have to revert to a Chinese political partner if they are to secure lasting support from the electorate. But the Chinese, like all Malaysians, can only benefit from a more aracial political process.