MCA is now in the situation DAP was in, in the late 80s and early 90s. That was when the Chinese voters in particular were fearful of PAS whose leadership was moving towards the far right.

⁠DAP was then quietly working with PAS under the stewardship of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who formed Semangat 46 when Umno was declared illegal.

Thereafter, Tengku Razaleigh formed two coalitions, namely Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah consisting of PAS, among others, and Gagasan Rakyat consisting of DAP, among others. In 1990, Barisan Nasional was then supreme, and DAP and PAS were both backwater parties, one in urban areas and the other in the rural areas. There was no hope of unseating BN without a coalition.

The two coalitions then morphed into Barisan Alternatif, which helped PAS win the state of Kelantan in 1990 and, subsequently, Terengganu.

PAS’s emergence and victory were at the expense of DAP when Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh – the party’s most important leaders – lost their respective parliamentary seats in Bukit Bendera and Jelutong in 1999.

At that time, the Chinese voters were still allergic to PAS’s extreme politics, and DAP embracing PAS was seen as traitorous.

Today, MCA is in the same situation as DAP which had, in the past, gained and also suffered along their journey of working with all parties and personalities from both Umno and PAS (The only two parties DAP didn’t work with were MCA and Gerakan).

DAP has morphed into the supreme party they are today by forming coalition after coalition quietly and sometimes behind closed doors and in the dark. They have successfully changed from one image to another via small, gradual steps and even managed to coax their supporters to support PAS, Umno, and Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whom they have alleged to be the most corrupt and cruel leader for decades.

After the 2008 general election, DAP leaders found the courage to embrace PAS in the open. This was when BN lost their two-thirds majority in Parliament, and Selangor, Perak, Penang and Kedah.

From shying away from working hand in hand with PAS – due to the perceived optics – DAP found courage to come out openly to hug PAS leaders and share the same stage. They began to sing Teresa Teng’s “The Moon Represents My Heart” (alluding to PAS’s logo), and they were encouraged by a new generation of voters who were more receptive to PAS and unafraid of PAS’s-proposed hudud laws. Loke Siew Fook even went to the extent of saying, “If you don’t steal or rob, you don’t have to fear PAS’s hudud laws”.

DAP morphed from Barisan Alternatif to Barisan Rakyat (2004) and Pakatan Rakyat (2008), gaining strength after strength to the “superpower” they are today in Chinese constituencies.

MCA, unlike DAP, is more conservative and sluggish. They continue to be sensitive and mindful of the feelings of their core supporters, which have shifted and dwindled to the miserable state they are in today.

Their leaders have been seen to be buying into Malay sentiments since they were mostly MPs in Malay-majority constituencies, thus the buying in of Malay sentiments.

Unlike DAP leaders, who allowed their subordinates who were MPs in Chinese-majority constituencies to “shout out loud” what the Chinese wanted, MCA leaders clamped down on any voices, opinions, or posturing that may seem to be Chinese-centric, as they were all looking after their political interests in their Malay-majority constituencies.

This is one of the reasons why Chinese voters have abandoned MCA in particular. In 2006, MCA, together with other non-Malay parties and non-Muslim ministers, were forced to withdraw and retract the memorandum that calls for the religious rights of minorities to be protected. This was seen as a sign of weakness and also established Umno’s “omnipotence” over the rest of the BN component parties.

Coupled with a few other issues, such as the display of the “keris”, the live telecast of debates by Umno’s delegates where their posturing – including condescendingly labelling the non-Malays “pendatang” – highlighted its arrogance.

This led to Chinese voters punishing Umno for their ungratefulness, despite their full support in 2004 and the past few general elections.

All these have passed and are nearly forgotten. Now DAP has displaced MCA in the government as the Chinese element, whereas MCA is suddenly “estranged” by Umno.

The MCA president recently expressed his willingness to stand alone in a display of courage and out of frustration. Bersatu and Gerakan have welcomed MCA to work together.

But the question is, can MCA leaders be as dynamic and creative as DAP’s?

A bigger question will be, “Who’s the past, present, or future leader in MCA that will get the party out of the doldrums and predicament?”

Ti Lian Ker is a former MCA vice-president.

Source : FMT

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