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MGG: And so here we go again in the MCA ...
By M.G.G. Pillai

29/10/2001 1:12 pm Mon

[Semakin lama Ling di puncak kuasa, semakin retak dan bermusibah MCA jadinya. Parti itu sudah menjadi satu bom jangka yang jika meletup akan menyebabkan kemusnahan yang gila dan banyak pihak yang akan terkena. Parti yang asyik bermasalah selalunya hidup tidak lama..... Bukankah falsafah Cina ada menyebutnya? - Editor]

And so here we go again in the MCA ...

The MCA is in good hands, its president, Dato' Seri Ling Liong Sik, is in good odour with the National Front president, Dato' Seri Mahathir Mohamed. So the official spin. Not many, especially the community in whose name it is in the power-sharing coalition, believe this. Internal fissures in the leadership began when Dr Ling, convinced he is now appointed by Dr Mahathir to lead the Chinese, thought he would up the ante and threaten to resign.

This is the oldest trick in the book of leaders threatening to resign when they are under attack from within, and that is usually enough to bring the party into line under his leadership. It did not work. There are capable leaders in the party who can not only replace Dr Ling, but rescue it from the doldrums if is now in.

It is there because the party constitution gives him dictatorial powers to remove his challengers, so that he is returned unanimously at party elections. And so Dr Ling went on his merry rule in the party by committing it to debt that cannot be repaid in generations. He treated the party as an extension of his self, buying newspapers and not batting his eyelid when his son acquired RM1.2 billion in bank loans given precisely because who his father is.

He brought in the man who helped sink him and his son into the party, made him a primus inter pares amongst semigods in the MCA heirarchy, and ditched him when the deals turned sour. Then he decides to buy the Nanyang Press group. He did not consult the party leaders. And when they, and the community, squealed, he went ahead with abandon, and, landed the party in nearly RM400 million in debt. Its business arm bleeds when its brightest light, The Star newspaper group, had to be brought in to ensure that loss.

But that divided the party. The president and deputy president are barely on talking terms. Dr Ling, in fact, said he does not listen to his deputy any more, only when he wants to -- and he made clear he does not. He tries to neutralise Dato' Lim Ah Lek's faction by acting autocratically, justifying it by insisting he acts within the constitution. But his opponents strike a resonance within the community. The most prominent amongst them is the MCA vice president, Dato' Chua Jui Meng. With Dato' Lim having taken a backseat, he is the most prominent. The clash has reached a stage where Dr Ling cannot be allowed to be returned uncontested.

The general belief is that that challenger would be Dato' Chua, the health minister. Dr Ling has tried to have him removed from the cabinet, but he does not have the strength to force Dr Mahathir to agree to his demands, as the later has on him. Now, the reports from the MCA bondooks point to a battle royale when party elections are held next year.

It is taken as read that Dr Ling would stand for re-election. It is, in his view, imperative he survive than the party. But he is not getting the unanimous endorsement from the branches, divisions and states as the last time around. Dato' Chua is the dark horse. He has his faults, one of which is indecision, but now that he has all but thrown his hat into the ring, the anti-Ling group swings to him.

So, the pressure now is on for him to announce his candidacy. The "efficient leader who brought progress an development not only for the party but also the community" -- so said the Negri Sembilan state MCA whose leader he of course appointed, now wants those who might challenge him to announce it. A day is a long time in politics. But for Dr Lim, ten months is too short.

But, if he wants those vying for the president to reveal themselves, should he not himself say what his plans are? Is he standing for re-election? In an election, everyone is equal, including the incumbent, even if he has the advantages of that incumbency. But it is, technically, a clean slate each time around. The MCA presidency is not his by ordination or annointment.

It is unnecessary, but since his side asks for it, he should lead by saying what his intentions are. That does not mean that his opponents must do so. One reason why party elections are not held every year is to reduce unnecessary politikking. As I wrote then, in the 1970s, it would aggravate, not reduce it. But the leaders thought is an excellent method to prevent challenge, and went wholeheartedly for it.

The candidates for office reveal themselves only after the divisional meetings are over. They do not nominate themselves; they have to be nominated by the divisions. So what good does it do to Dato' Chua to announce his candidacy when he may not even be nominated? But it makes sense for Dr Ling to announce if he is candidate for re-election. If he is not, he should name who would stand in his place. If he wants the party to reunite under the Chinese community, naming Dato' Chua would help. But that is less likely, as it stands, than for Dr Ling to be UMNO deputy president.

M.G.G. Pillai