But if you can’t walk away?
I guess that’s when it’s tough.” - Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman)
COMMENT MCA president Chua Soi Lek may think that everyone has a role to play in this coming “war”, which is the upcoming general election, but the only role the MCA is going to play is that of cannon fodder in the ultimate showdown between Umno and their arch nemesis Anwar Ibrahim.
I get it. I really do. Malaysians are constantly being told to be grateful. Each community has been brainwashed into thinking they should be grateful for different reasons but above all their gratitude should be directed at Barisan National.
The opposition thinks that non-Malay Malaysians have woken up but the reality is that the MIC and MCA fell asleep on the job. Dereliction of duty when it came to the communal interests of the non-Malays at the expense of Umno hegemony is what has caused the downfall of these component parties. That and of course the infighting, corruption and hubris of being the only game in town.
What is really destroying the MCA is not the propaganda of the DAP but the acceptance by a large voting demographic of the Chinese community that no representation in the government is better than MCA representation.
However, in an intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible way, Malaysian Chinese should be grateful to the MCA. After all this group of plutocrats held up their end of the power sharing deal (getting rich in the process) but also protecting the rights of the Chinese community far better than their fellow BN comrades, the MIC.
Everyone was only out for his or her own for decades and MCA was the ever-willing enabler of a corrupt system that paradoxically vilified and nourished the Chinese community.
As an old DAP hand often tells me, “Thank god, the Chinese have made their stand instead of the old way of using the DAP as a counter balance to the MCA”. This was what the recently concluded AGM was really about. The realisation behind the bluster and sabre-rattling, that the Chinese have abandoned the MCA for a party that was not afraid to take on the Umno machine.
I have argued of the futility of the MCA playing the hudud card but Wanita MCA chairperson Yu Chok Tow (right) fears of Muslim solidarity hijacking of the federal constitution is not unfounded. Long-time watchers of Malaysian Muslim politics say much the same thing.
Umno fearing a total loss of power may decide that the Muslim state option is a viable alternative to political annihilation. After all, there are more than enough examples of “Islamic” regimes where democratic front men carry on playing their corrupt games all the while cloaked in piety of their mullah handlers. Chua Soi Lek was right that most failed states have Islam (or hudud) as a commonality.
‘Agree to disagree’ position
However, he was wrong when he claimed that the DAP had managed to convince the Chinese that “hudud” would reduce crime and corruption in this country. As far as I can tell the DAP’s official policy has always been that in no way does it support the implementation of hudud although PAS continues to see this as an “agree to disagree” position.
The only people convinced that “hudud” is an effective tool against crime and corruption are the kool aid drinkers of Pakatan who are more than willing to commit to any position as long as it is in opposition to Umno.
All this Muslim baiting just goes to show how out of touch the MCA is with the shifting political and cultural attitudes in this country or more accurately in their voting base. At a time when the DAP is mocked by pro-Umno blogs for reaching out to the Muslim community through PAS, the MCA chooses to accuse the most revered Muslim leader in this country of sanctioning the rape of non-Muslim/Malay women.
At a time when a large section of the voting Chinese public are eagerly embracing the rough and tumble politics of forming consensus and making allies in a diverse political alliance, all the while being mocked as being arrogant and rude; the MCA continues to embrace the sycophantic model of engagement with Umno as evidenced by the embarrassing adulation thrown Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s way when he graced the AGM.
Didn’t the MCA public relations flacks tell Chua that donning the blue of BN further adds to the perception that the MCA is willing to sublimate Chinese identity to the dictates of Umno? This brings us to another important point. Chinese identity has evolved beyond the stereotype that the MCA has always relied on. Bread and butter issues have become more sophisticated than the usual Chinese school education and a larger slice of the economic pie.
Issues such as corruption, systemic discrimination, the erosion of religious freedoms and the dysfunction of public institutions have become important issues, which cut across class lines, but more importantly acts as common ground for a certain section of the voting public looking for an alternative - any alternative - to Umno/BN.
MCA by interpreting these issues as hate speech and by underestimating the “multicultural/racial” underpinnings of the opposition (even though it may merely be lip service) has painted itself into a corner by reducing the worth of the party as a collection of infighting groups hell bent on reclaiming populist Chinese support when the community’s definition of “populist” has changed.
A good example of this is the anti-hudud posturing of the MCA does not translate to a pro-Christian stance. Whereas Pakatan has a pro-religion - as in every religion is vigorously “defended” - dialectic going on, MCA has to continue to play the appeasement game with the hard liners in Umno at the expense of a valuable new awakened Christian voting bloc.
Whereas the DAP has been actively seeking the Christian vote and in the process reminding them of their constitutional rights, the MCA has been chastising these efforts as another example of the DAP disrupting the Umno peace with “hate”. Did the MCA forget that in this changed political climate the Chinese vote and Christian vote is not necessarily mutually exclusive?
Delegate Tiew Geok Siew unintentionally lets the cat out of the bag when she claimed that the “poorly educated” join the DAP. As I said, the MCA has always been a party of plutocrats who remained relevant as long as the Chinese community was willing to scramble over each other to gain the favours of the party’s warlords.
Finer points of crony capitalism
This was not a political party as such but rather a business club where members learnt the finer points of crony capitalism. In addition, to say nothing of the fact that political parties think that “education” is a necessary tool for indoctrination of students to prostrate themselves before their political betters.
The class tensions within the Chinese community which were never addressed by anyone except the DAP have proved to be a boon for the opposition party.
While post-2008 tsunami, the MCA has been struggling to find relevance, the DAP together with her partners have managed to turn racial issues into populist class issues. This is why the MCA and other BN component parties have been vilified as “racists” merely because they doggedly stick to the original “power sharing formula” game plan.
If you are a mainstream political party and you are no threat to Umno, then the conventional thinking goes, you are no use to anyone. This is the most important lesson of “change” that the MCA has failed to learn.