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MGG: The MCA President's Pyhrric Victory
By M.G.G. Pillai

26/6/2001 6:13 pm Tue

[Mahathir menyeru ahli MCA berbaik kembali walaupun mereka telah ditipu, dituduh sebagai musuh parti, malah diseru agar dimusnahkan sama sekali oleh Ling sendiri. Ling telah membelakangkan ahli dan AJK dengan membeli Nanyang dulu. Inilah Ling yang sama yang memungkiri janjinya kepada timbalan presiden sendiri.

EGM hanyalah sekadar ingin menutup imej Ling yang semakin memudar kini. Dia mungkin memenanginya di sini tetapi apakah artinya kerana golongan tua dan pemuda MCA sebulat suara menolak pembelian itu. Malah majoriti masyarakat Cina tidak menyokong hasrat itu. Hanya setelah itu baru Ling menggelabah ingin menjual sebahagian saham kepada pihak lain. Sebelum itu dia membisu sahaja setelah menelan hampir 75% saham Nanyang itu.

Walau apa pun boikot akhbar akan diteruskan juga walaupun EGM memihak kepada Ling. Pembelian Nanyang ini menunjukkan Ling telah menjadi khadam presiden Umno. Patutlah MCA asyik tidak memihak kepada pandangan masyarakat Cina dalam banyak isu semasa - dari sekolah wawasan, budaya dan kini Nanyang. Apakah dengan semua rekod jelek ini masyarakat Cina akan bersatu dan menyokong lagi Ling dan MCA? - Editor]

25 June 01

The MCA President's pyhrric victory


MGG Pillai

The MCA president, Ling Liong Sik, must rue the day he thought he was the voice of the Chinese community, and could do as he pleased. It is the mistake his predecessors, Lee San Choon, Neo Yee Pan and Tan Koon Swan committed. They did not survive. Neither could he. Not with the law suits swirling around him over business commitments involving his son and the growing anger of the Chinese community which sees him as no more a friend.

Ling's fall accelerated when he bought Nanyang Press without his central committee on board with him. He bought it, consulted it only when opposition was raised to the deal. He insisted it was his right to do as he did, any who questions are enemies of the community, and ought to be destroyed.

But he is a fading dictator so full of himself that what he says the community must accept without question. He threatened to resign, but pulled back when the UMNO president did not want him to. He broke promises made to his own deputy president. So, when he bought the newspaper group, those who opposed it also wanted to throw him out.

So, the extraordinary general meeting yesterday gave him a wafer thin majority -- he had expected 60 to 70 per cent, but got only 53 -- and put him on notice. He said a win is a win even if by ten votes. But he won the battle to lose the war. For lose the war he would. It is a matter of time.

At UMNO's bidding

Now the Nanyang Press is firmly in UMNO hands. UMNO need not own it. Why should it when its president can instruct? The UMNO president gave the most convincing reason why the MCA should own the Nanyang Press: the two newspapers were most critical of the National Front during the Lunas by-election.

It is Dr Mahathir who tells Malaysians why it is all right for MCA to own the two papers. It is he who tells MCA that it is all right to sell most of the shares and keep a small portion for itself. Whatever MCA does with its shares, few will believe it is done for reasons other than self-interest.

So, it does not matter if Ling now claims Huaren Holdings is not legally the MCA, and therefore mortgaging party assets does not arise. If this is correct, why then was this EGM held? If Huaren Holdings is not linked to the party, why all this fuss? It was an attempt to divert attention from his problems.

But he assumed a power he did not have. The pressure to force him out as president rises by the day. Instead of watching his back, he dared them to do their worst. They did. And he is now a fish out of water.

Indian adviser

As the pressure grew, he resorted to legal niceties. Indeed, at the central committee meeting on Saturday, he brought in a leading Indian corporate lawyer to advise him on legal issues; and promptly forbade the raising of legal issues at the EGM. For an issue as serious as this, the EGM was stage managed. He lost. For him to damn his critics, he had to have at least a two-thirds majority. He barely scraped through.

When the battle lines were drawn, Ling was forced into a corner. The Chinese community objected vehemently. The Youth wing unanimously rejected the deal, indicating that it aligns community elders worried about the erosion of culture to squeeze MCA from both ends. The MCA stands alone.

The boycott would continue, even if the MCA could find buyers for the majority of the Nanyang shares. The MCA cannot call for the boycott to be removed. Not so long as it officially holds shares in it. Ling has not explained why it bought nearly three quarters of the Nanyang Press share capital if it was to divest itself to friendly parties later on. But this explanation only came after the community's opposition became marked.

The MCA can close ranks -- if that is ever possible with Ling as president -- but the damage is done. In every issue dear to the Chinese community, the MCA holds a contrary position. It does not matter what the issue is: visions schools, Nanyang Press, Chinese culture. So, could the Chinese community rally behind the MCA under Ling?

Politics versus culture

The Chinese community, like the Malay and increasingly the Indian, is split seemingly irrevocably between its political and cultural components. The opposition to the MCA does not come from the DAP, but from those who once supported it but cannot for a myriad of reasons.

Political parties exist in Malaysia to support its president right or wrong. Those against are forced out. And it requires issues which anger the community to force him out. Membership in political parties does not give you the right to an opinion, only to echo the sentiments of the leaders. The leaders must be obeyed without question. It is not even an option for you to resign and join another party. This view is not confined to National Front parties. The DAP, for intance, is annoyed that ex-DAP members join Keadilan.

Ling Liong Sik grew up in this environment. If he is as agile as Dr Mahathir is, he can force his way through. But he is not. He depends upon Dr Mahathir to survive. So, he is thrown to the winds when Dr Mahathir himself says one day he approved the sale and an another he did not, he only agreed to the propriety of the MCA buying a newspaper. Then he spoils it all by accusing Nanyang Press of writing reports which made the Chinese voters to desert the National Front.

Huaren is not MCA is not Huaren is ...

Now that Ling has won, it is not only Nanyang Press that is on tenterhooks. He also is. He cannot now say that since Huaren Holdings is a different entity from the MCA, the party is not bothered by how it does. All in all, whatever the justification, he overshot his limits. If he had considered the matter seriously, he could well have bought the Nanyang Press and retained much of the goodwill.

All Ling can now do is lick his wounds. He must have realised that once the battle began, aligning with the deputy president Lim Ah Lek's faction were those who were against him personally. He miscalculated the force of that combination.

When the UMNO president stepped in, Ling's goose was cooked. The longer he remains in office, the more problematic MCA's influence in the National Front, let alone the Chinese community it claims to represent. Ling's pyrrhic victory earned him an albatross around his neck.

M.G.G. Pillai