Ong Tee Keat's declaration of his candidacy for the MCA Presidency should be regarded as a heartening development even for neutral observers. Read the report in The Star Online entitled Ong to go for top post and http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/86407.
The square-jawed MCA leader has steered a relatively independent course in his political career in a party that is filled with cliques. For this, he has been branded a recalcitrant by many quarters in MCA. But, by so doing, he has provided a third option to many MCA members in the past.
Widely regarded as a gifted writer in Mandarin, Ong, was an award-winning columnist for Chinese daily Sin Chew Jit Poh. His articles ran from 1979 to 1986.
Malaysiakini reports that the other front-runners are likely to include party secretary-general and Housing and Local Government Minister Ong Ka Chuan and Youth Chief and Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai.
It is also reported that despite resigning from his vice presidency due to a sex scandal, Dr. Chua Soi Lek has been paving his way back to the leadership platform and is said to be keen to contest for a top post.
There is also speculation that another former vice-president Chua Jui Meng is expected to join the fray after being nominated for the Sungai Abong Tengah branch chairperson's post by his supporters during a nomination process at the MCA Bakri division office in June.
Nomination day on July 22
MCA is the second largest component party in Barisan Nasional and it has a total of 191 divisions with keen campaigning expected in Johore, Penang, Selangor, Perak and Kuala Lumpur come nomination day on July 22.
Ong Tee Keat and the future of MCA
Ong Tee Keat should be regarded as the MCA leader who can heal the party's many rifts. He should also be regarded as the correct leader for the current national ethos, in the aftermath of GE2008 when MCA suffered crushing defeats in the many seats it contested both at State and Federal levels.
As an overtly communal party, the MCA is well and, truly, at the crossroads. If the party sticks doggedly to a communal platform, it will eventually find itself marginalised. The MCA needs to reinvent itself at a very fundamental level in order to be relevant in the nation-building discourse.
This blog has previously criticised the stand taken by certain MCA leaders such as Yap Pian Hon for saying that the MCA cannot be multiracial until and, unless, UMNO turns multiracial. Read MCA cannot turn multiracial until UMNO does???
But, unlike the other more guarded (and, therefore, pro-status quo) MCA leaders Ong Tee Keat has courageously stated on record that MCA Needs To Be Multiracial Or Face Risk Of Eventual Extinction. This is what stands Ong Tee Keat heads-and-shoulders above the other MCA leaders. This strategic view of the future of MCA is very crucial for the following reasons.
The need for a multiracial platform for MCA
As Malaysian voters become better educated and better informed the BN's traditional communal discourse on economic development and education is losing its appeal. This may be one key inference that MCA should draw from GE2008.
If the MCA adopts a wait-and-see approach to morphing into a more multiracial party, it confirms to all that the MCA is very much a subservient junior partner to UMNO within the BN coalition. All Malaysians cannot have failed to notice the peon-like expression on Ong Ka Ting's face on national television whenever Pak Lah or Najib is in the foreground. OKT perpetually looks lost and awaiting instructions from his UMNO bosses. This perception must change.
It can only change if the MCA steers a more independent, yet harmonious course within the BN superstructure with a multiracial platform. This does not mean that MCA will necessarily abandon the causes it has espoused. For example, in any dialogue on the welfare of vernacular schools, just add the Tamil schools into the mix; in any dialogue on poverty eradication, MCA should add the plight of Malay fishermen or Indian estate workers into the dialogue.
The multiracial discourse is something that Ong Tee Keat can lead the MCA into with vibrancy, imagination and courage. More importantly, it will engender positive change in the party and keep the party strong and virile within the BN.