Umno’s politics of engagement
NOV 21, 2009 — “If I were Chinese, I, too, would not support the MCA.”
Those words will ring in the ear of every single MCA member for a long time as the crudest statement uttered by a component party member.
The fact that the statement came from the Deputy Prime Minister and Umno’s Deputy President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has made it even more compelling.
It signals a major shift in the sacred policy of non-interference among the Barisan Nasional component parties.
Gone are the days when each component party’s business was theirs and theirs alone.
Prior to this, the camaraderie between BN members have been tested time and again but it rarely caused any shockwave, not to the extent that the sanctity of this policy is challenged.
When Umno was declared illegal by the High Court in 1988, the Chairmanship of Barisan Nasional went to MCA, as the next biggest party in the coalition.
MCA’s the-president Tun Ling Liong Sik subsequently accepted Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s newly formed Umno Baru into the coalition, which then returned Umno and Mahathir as the coalition’s head honcho.
When Umno was rejected overwhelmingly by the Malays due to the sacking and ill-treatment of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, MCA again stood by Umno unflinchingly.
Even though Umno lost many Malay-majority seats, which led to their loss of Terengganu in the 1999 General Election, MCA stoutly defended their partner-in-crime.
Former MCA presidents Ling and Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting have strengthened the notion that Umno is the backbone of BN and that Ketuanan Melayu à la Umno is here to stay.
It is the leaders of MCA that has ensured Umno’s longevity and placed an aura of invincibility in the minds of Umno leaders.
Umno can do no wrong and the false sense of supremacy lingers on in the minds of Umno’s party rank-and-file.
MCA, at its mightiest, was still unable to lift a finger against Umno. What more smaller parties like MIC, Gerakan, PPP and others?
The emergence of East Malaysian parties as a force within BN following the 2008 General Election has further decimated the significance of MCA and also pushed MIC, Gerakan and PPP deep into oblivion.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is running out of time to put everything into place before he calls for a general election, to seek a fresh mandate, in the next 12 to 18 months.
Najib would also want to maintain the pressure on Pakatan Rakyat with continuous attacks on the Selangor, Penang, Kedah and Kelantan state governments.
However, the leadership crisis in MCA is proving somewhat a distraction to BN’s upswing following the political tsunami of 2008.
In order to maintain the upswing, Najib needs an MCA that is able to regain its place as the biggest Chinese party apart from DAP.
With the way things are headed, it leaves Najib with no choice but to interfere and meddle in MCA’s affairs as he is running out of options to revive MCA from its deep coma.
The DAP-led Penang Pakatan government is doing well enough to ensure that the state will still remain under Pakatan in the next elections.
On the other hand, opposition leader Anwar has recently shown signs of urgency and taken concrete steps in putting his party, PKR, in order.
Anwar’s appointment as Selangor’s economic adviser is a statement of caution to Najib that he will not take the political bullying from Umno lying down.
If Anwar can effect change by ensuring decisive and prompt decision-making in the Selangor state government, and also bring in badly needed investments as well as increase the confidence of the hard-hit business community, the pendulum will surely swing his way instead of Najib’s.
The political temperature is likely to increase in the run up to the next general election.
However, the impotency of MCA is a drawback for Najib in his quest to maintain his premiership.
Note : This article first appeared in The Malaysian Insider on November 21, 2009