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MGG: The MCA Fracas: For Whom The Bell Tolls
By M.G.G. Pillai

5/8/2001 7:09 pm Sun

[Kekecohan yang berlaku pada mesyuarat pemuda MCA itu adalah kesan daripada kemarahan yang terperam kerana asyik dicengkam. Ahli MCA dan rakyat negara ini semakin tidak diberi laluan untuk menyampaikan suara mereka. Dulu penerbitan dikawal kini ceramah pula sudah tidak dibenarkan. Tidak hairanlah bantahan itu meledak dengan kekecohan kerana sudah tiada jalan lain lagi untuk menyedarkan pihak kepimpinan secara aman.

Setiap manusia mempunyai had untuk menyimpan rasa tidak puas hati dan kemarahan. Sepatutnya kerajaan membiarkan rakyat menyuarakan pandangan secara terbuka dengan aman kerana banyak negara maju melakukan sedemikian tanpa tergugatpun keselamatan awam. Bayangkan sampai sekarang tiada SEORANG PUN pun reformis ataupun hadirin di ceramah ditangkap dan didapati bersalah kerana melakukan kerosakkan. Mengapa kerajaan perlu merasa takut jika ia berada dipihak yang benar?

Apabila semua ruang dinafikan sudah tentu rakyat akan bangkit dengan jalan lain kerana sudah tidak mampu menahan. Jika itu berlaku rakyat tidak akan menghiraukan lagi risiko ataupun ancaman dan kerajaan akan terpadam. Bukankah sejarah banyak merakamkan sedemikian?
- Editor

The MCA Fracas: For Whom The Bell Tolls

The MCA President, Dato' Seri Ling Liong Sik, is upset. He faces incipient revolt within his ranks. He is unconcerned, so he make it seem, is only sad about it. The MCA Youth general meeting set the tone for what is to come. In a raucous melee yesterday (02 August 01), delegates threw chairs and hurled karate chops and blows at each other, with the proceedings enlivened with a false alarm of a bomb threat. There is nothing in this for Dr Ling to write home about: it is sign of an open revolt which in MCA's case is linked to the presidential decision to buy the Nanyang Press Group without the usual checks and balances in place. The Chinese community is incensed that the newspaper group is now under the direct control of the MCA, as the English-language The Star already is. The MCA could not have gone into it at a worse time. Dr Ling, like the president of UMNO, has outlived his use in MCA, but believes he is still needed.

The MCA Youth turned riotous because it disagreed with the Nanyang Press purchase for reasons that the MCA secretary-general, Dato' Ting Chew Peh, now accept: that the Chinese community is hostile to it and it would take awhile before it comes to terms with it -- if at all. MCA presidents, since the May 1969 riots, have not gone quietly. Tan Sri Lee San Choon sided with the then president, Tun Tan Siew Sin, to beat off a challenge from the Chinese Unity Movement upstarts in the early 1970s, then turned against him. He in turn, in the early 1980s, was unseated by Dato' Neo Yee Pan, who in turn was by Mr Tan Koon Swan. Dr Ling succeeded Mr Tan. But every changeover of leaders was fraught with angst and confusion. Now is no exception. Dr Ling insists he is arbiter of the MCA, can do as he likes whether the party councils are with him or not.

He and his deputy president, Dato' Lim Ah Lek, represent two factions; every statement from Dr Lim is challenged, not for the idea expressed but for misrepresentation. Dr Ling, for instance, said the central working committee had unanimously decided to form a constitutional review committee: Dato' Lim insisted it was not. Both, of course, were at the meeting. Dr Ling fouled his chances when he refused to resign as he promised his deputy president and the central working committee, stayed on at the UMNO president, Dato' Seri Mahathir Mohamed's insistence. It is widely believed, though not necessarily true, Dr Ling bought Nanyang Press Group to deny a former Anwar backer, Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan, from owning a newspaper. It backfired. And puts MCA at risk.

Which is why Dr Ting is so conciliatory to Chinese issues. He accepts the party mishandled the Vision School issue, the Nanyang Press Group issue, that the Chinese are unhappy with the MCA. The MCA general assembly, which begins today (03 August 01), will have as a backdrop not the Chinese community's anger over MCA's alleged mishandling of Chinese issues, but if the MCA could survive long if Dr Ling insists to be its rotting fish head. There is no party elections this year. So, he would not be challenged. But a denouement is at hand. He must decide soon if his remaining as MCA president is more important than the MCA remaining a viable political party in the future. Curiously, UMNO, Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, MCA leaders are in the same predicament. The National Front have discouraged political activity from within, now find the Malaysian cannot relate to him. For the MCA, in the past, the infighting was related to how the president ran the party; now it is how the MCA has not addressed the community's problems.

This year's MCA general meeting is therefore more fractious and contentious. The youth and women's wing showed some of the inbuilt anger at how they address issues. The MCA meeting cannot be much different. However well organised it might be, the incipient anger of the Chinese community is too strong for Dr Ling to ignore. It would make no sense if the MCA delegates do not stand up and voice their views. When a political party shuts up dissent from within, it must break out into chaotic conditions as we saw yesterday. What frightens, and saddens, is for Malaysian political leaders, in government and opposition, to insist that once elected, they should not be challenged.

Every National Front party, and many opposition parties, are in this dilemma. It shows that neither the government or the opposition parties allow anything like a free flow of political action from amongst its members. We had the pressure on Mr Lim Kit Siang to resign from the DAP. Now it is Dr Ling's turn. The impact is to restrict political activity and lobotomise political party members. Which is why, apart from PAS and PRM, no political party is believed for what it stands for. Every leader protects its turf, the more autocratically the more they are in odium with its members. A political culture on these terms gives rise to the belief that only violent action, metaphorically and in fact, can bring about changes. The reformasi action is an example of that. The MCA Youth meeting yesterday another.

M.G.G. Pillai