MGG: The MCA Crisis: From Tragedy To Farce And Back
By M.G.G. Pillai
10/4/2002 10:56 pm Wed
The MCA Crisis: From Tragedy To Farce And Back
The MCA crisis shifts from tragedy to farce and back again with
each passing day. The President's Men and the Deputy President's
Men are in gridlock, outstaring each other in a dispute that must
weaken the MCA and how it represents the Chinese community.
Neither is prepared to give way in this runup to the Presidency.
The president, Ling Liong Sik, believes he must have the
unfettered right to remain MCA's sole voice for as long as he
likes. The deputy president, Lim Ah Lek, is as insistent the man
has long outlived his usefulness. Neither would give way, and
whoever wins, the MCA is hobbled, its investments into the
newspaper business bleeding it so badly its raison d'etre is in
In the latest twist, the MCA central committee rejected the
Lim faction's demand for an emergency general meeting to discuss
the phantom members it alleges is peppered in the party
It cites spurious grounds to deny it: if held, it would be
too late anyway for the new list of delegates would have been
elected by then, and the EGM result moot. More than 70 per cent
of the delegates oppose it. Enough delegates withdrew from Lim's
petition to disqualify it.
To put the knife in, the Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press
carries identical editorials to damn the request for the EGM on
equally spurious grounds. The MCA central committee has no right
to refuse an offer or look into why an EGM is called. But it
does not want it, raises irrelevant issues and twists the law to
pain the Lim faction as party poopers.
Neither would give way. The Ling faction, which controls
the MCA now, has rejected the EGM, but the Lim fation is hell
bent on holding it. The three newspapers MCA owns - The Star,
Nanyang Siang Pau, The China Press - is commandeered to do Ling's
bidding, the extreme shrillness of its voice reflecting their
fears of what would happen to its gatekeepers if Ling should
The clash of the MCA titans
Given their extreme partisan coverage of this clash of the
MCA titans, an editorial and management massacre is highly
probable if Ling loses. The Star management is especially
vulnerable: it bought the Nanyang Siang Pau Group without due
diligence, found itself with 93 per cent of its shares, must
dispose 63 per cent soon, or take it private. It is caught in a
Catch-22 conundrum from which escape is near impossible.
The newspapers are full of self-serving postures of both
factions, each raising its voice but neither explaining or
looking at their battles in the MCA's own role. It is, like many
a political confrontation in Malaysia, reduced to one group
demanding the president be returned and another that he be thrown
But this functions as it should, for there comes a time when
every MCA president is forced out for staying on too long, and he
goes screaming and in high dudgeon. For when he leaves, he loses
his perks of office, his high profile in government, the
adulation he gets wherever and whenever he moves as the demigod
he is made out to be.
He does not understand -- indeed no non-Malay leader in the
Barisan Nasional do -- he is no more than a performing seal for
UMNO and the Malay. That was not his role when he started out:
he was an active participant. In the years since, he compromised
himself to remain in power and today it is not unusual for a
coalition party leader to stay on for a liftime in politics.
Several have been party presidents for two decades and more.
The communities they represent have no say. But those
communities are not prepared to accept their nominal leaders,
demand answers they would rather not answer, and worries the
party leaders no end. And the more insecure their hold, the more
intense the party infighting.
The MCA's battle royal is typical. Ling thought he could do
as he liked, and did. He promised to step down, then refused,
made a pact with Lim that both would, then reneged, all the while
hoping he could pull it through. He got the Prime Minister, Dr
Mahathir Mohamed's nominal support. With that, he set out to cut
Lim's coattails. That brought it into this fight-to-the-death
irrelevance it now is.
It is reduced to who should be MCA president, not how each
would improve the lot of the Chinese community, and how. I have
spokenn to both sides, and I get no sense of what they stand for,
except to destroy the other faction. With the Lim faction out to
rid the newspapers of editors and others who harmed them in
print. In other words, a vendetta of sorts is in place who ever
Is this how MCA would wean back waning Chinese support? Has
either faction thought through how it could get back some modicum
of respect in the Barisan Nasional when it is embroiled in an
irrelevant quarrel within the MCA? The Lim faction would not
comment when I asked if it would amend the constitution to remove
the untrammelled power of the president. In other words, little
would change in the party no matter who wins.
In other words, is this another 'wayang kulit' that
Malaysian political parties are famous for, and the battle royale
in the MCA a fight of the proxies of UMNO leaders? Or is it
where one faction believes the other had had their run of power,
and it is now their turn? That nothing would change, except the
president's men would be exchanged for the new president's men?
For when all is said and done, one sees a futility in this
manufactured crisis in the MCA. Nothing is about to change no
matter who wins. All it would result is a horrendous
bloodletting the victors would demand of the losers. If that is
followed by a clear statement of principles it would abide by,
and bring the MCA back to some respectability, this could make a
But that is not how each faction looks upon its role: it is
to destroy the other faction and its supporters. I found it
curious that neither looks upon its relations with UMNO and the
BN in this fight for survival.
It looks like a gang clash for a small corner which is of
total irrelevance to the larger and more deadly battlefield for
the Malay mind. This is unaddressed, and is why it cares not a
whit who emerges the victor. Unless he orders his priorities and
acts to stop the rot, the MCA would become more irrelevant as the
days go by.