Monday 27 June 2011

Chinese 'losing political power' that we never had

Yesterday, Star editor-in-chief (On the Beat, 'Big Test for Chinese Voters', Sunday Star June 26), echoed MCA president's stern warning to the Chinese - to swing their votes back to the party or risk losing government representation (not surprising since Star is owned by the MCA). He postulates that the Chinese in Malaysia face a big test in the next election - will they "follow their heart or rule with their head"?

These statements from the two Chinese leaders in the political and media arena respectively, reek of desperation, and no matter how hard they try to mask it, is simply a threat to the Chinese electorate that they risked losing big time should they "follow their heart".

It also shows just how out of touch they are with the ordinary Chinese voter.

The Chinese have always been pragmatic in their voting preferences. And crucially, Chinese representation in government is not nearly as important as who will be the prime minister of the day.

We understand that in the make-up of Malaysia's political structure, the Prime Minister's Office is the entity that will shaped the destiny of the Chinese in Malaysia. The PM's political leanings, his planned policies and perceived fairness is thousands of times more important that who the MCA president is or how many seats the MCA has or how many cabinet ministers are from MCA.

We know that at the end of the day, at best the MCA can influence policies, but it can never shape them. For that matter, even with strong Chinese representation in government, it is the prime minister's voice that matters - whether he is fair, transparent and pragmatic in implementation of national policies.

When Mahathir was prime minister, he enjoyed immense support from the Chinese. Not just because the economy was growing rapidly. Remember, this was the time when 'Malaysian Inc' was at its peak, where privatisation yielded immense wealth to selected Unmo-linked businessmen.

This was at a time of Operasi Lalang, where ISA was invoked to arrest opposition politicians. Media freedom was muted. Yet, the Chinese in general continued to express admiration for Mahathir. Why? Because we were never felt to be an outsider in our own country - we genuinely feel Mahathir was a prime minister for all. He espoused for all Malaysians to be united in progressing towards a developed nation, and indeed, all Malaysian truly believed we can do it if we work hard together.

The Chinese continued to support Dr M when he faced a grave test in the 1999 election with the sacking of Anwar. As Wong Chun Wai rightly pointed out, Dr M opined that it was the Chinese voters who saved many Umno candidates in the 1999 GE. So then, did we vote with our hearts or head even as substantial Malay votes swung to the opposition?

MCA (and Wong) should realise by now that we do not care whether the MCA is relevant as much as whether the PM is genuine in uniting all Malaysians in a common objective. So what if the MCA is represented in the cabinet when the true levers of power lies within Umno, where only the PM can hold sway?

The 2008 GE saw heavy defeat for MCA because the Chinese lost hope in the administration of Abdullah Badawi. A vote for MCA will mean a vote for a PM that never did quite deliver on his promises.

And now, for PM Najib, certainly he has done a much better job than his predecessor in addressing the Chinese concerns by saying and doing some right things. However, when extreme right-wing parties like Perkasa is allowed to utter racist remarks and get away with it, when the Chinese is accused of being ungrateful for exercising our democratic rights - we need to see firm action from our leader. We need to see that he can rise above racial politics currently being played out by Umno (and MCA) and speak for all Malaysians regardless of race and religion.

Some quarters have labelled the Chinese as being "ungrateful". After all, we did enjoy immense benefits - good education, good career prospects, good racial harmony. However, we fear that what we have enjoyed in our generation, and that of our parents, may not necessarily be true for our children.

We are genuinely worried that with intense global competition, instead of strengthening our country's building blocks - education, legal system and public administration - on the contrary, it is being torn apart by politics, corruption and incompetence. And to top it all, racial harmony is being stretched and tested such that what we take for granted in our youth now require a slogan to remind us that we are in this global race together.

We want change, not just for the Chinese, but for all Malaysians. We want meritocracy. We want to realise Malaysia's true potential. But so far, we see little progress in that direction, except for some expedient statements but no action to that effect.

Wong Chun Wai and Chua Soi Lek may genuinely be worried that Chinese may lose "political power" if the MCA does not receive a firm support from its constituents - but you can't lose what was never yours.

We are pragmatic - we tend to vote with our heads, and seldom our hearts. But in this instance, both our heads and our hearts are in unison - we vote for change.

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