Between Scylla and Charybdis, between the devil and the deep blue sea, between a rock and hard place, f**k if they do, f**k if they don’t …
That sums up the perpetual predicament of non-UMNO component parties in Peninsula Malaysia, particularly the MCA and to a lesser extent, Gerakan, when dealing with UMNO’s racist policies and utterances.
When a party like the MCA beds down with an aggressive partner, or more correctly a selfish taikoh (big brother), it frequently gets buggered, in every sense of that word. And it's no point calling on the cleric because UMNO buggering its partner(s) is to be expected.
Years ago, after the disastrous general election in 1969 for the BN’s predecessor Perikatan (or Alliance), the late Dr Tun Ismail was so pissed off with the MCA’s performance (it was decimated by a combination of the DAP, Gerakan, PPP, with supporting help from PAS) that he described the MCA as (words to this effect) “… hidup segan, mati ta’mahu”
I'll be kind by providing the polite translation of 'neither dead nor alive'.
The sad tale for the MCA, apart from the party’s sometimes corrupt policies and some leaders, was the regular undermining of its status among the Chinese community by (no, not DAP but) UMNO.
Yes, UMNO has always been MCA’s real political enemy because every time UMNO wants to shore up its own position with its Malay electorate, it invariably f**ks up MCA in the process – more significantly, it doesn’t give two hoots for MCA’s interests (or for that matter, Gerakan’s or the MIC’s).
… or where do you think the DAP gets its ammo from? In this regard, UMNO is in fact the DAP's best friend.
The recent UMNO general assembly, where a president under-siege, a Youth chief unsure of his position, an over educated deputy Youth underhanded in his grubby ethnic politics and several delegates underachieving in their party positions, wanted to show they are over nationalistic, over loyal and over the top in their Hang Tuah-ish credentials in one way or another, by acting in ways destructive, dogmatic, domineering, doctrinaire, ‘dunno’, dumbo or plain dictatorial.
As malaysiakini journalist Kuek Ser Kuang Keng puts it “The racist flames ignited at the UMNO general assembly last week seems to have burnt the ruling party’s non-Malay partners in the Barisan Nasional coalition with MCA being the first casualty.”
And as Hishamuddin Tun Hussein, UMNO Youth chief told Star Online Joceline Tan rather bluntly and insensitively when she questioned UMNO's infliction of severe damage on its non-Malay partners in the Barisan Nasional, namely MCA and Gerakan by its racist remarks:
“We have to get our priorities right. It’s not just about winning elections but building a society and a very complex one that requires strong leadership. We are in it together. Even if UMNO wins a lot of seats and the component parties do not win, it is not going to make us happy. We have to deliver as we build up to the elections.”
In that statement, Hishamuddin summed up UMNO’s disdain for its partners’ political interests to the effect of dismissing MCA and Gerakan’s inevitable losing of votes as far less important than UMNO demonstrating ‘strong leadership’ in a ‘complex society’, which in truth has been made complex and highly divided by none other than UMNO’s racist policies and pronouncements. And that's what he meant.
So a collaterally damaged MCA is in damage control. Unlike the DAP it can’t lash out in equal dosage back at UMNO because that will effectively take it out of the BN into the opposition camp, making ethnic politics even more divided and indeed dangerous for ordinary Malaysians (and its own interests). But it has been forced to deal with an uncaring, selfish and arrogant taikoh.
Instead of remaining like mutes stung by hornets, or spinning bull like the former Raja Bodek, MCA top leaders, including four ministers, will be meeting with the party’s grassroots leaders by way of a nationwide road show to explain the party's stand on several current issues, especially the racist remarks made by UMNO delegates.
The official explanation is that the MCA road show aims to alleviate and ameliorate discontent among party members pissed off with racist statements made during the UMNO assembly, but the reality will be a mixture of spin and an appeal for tolerance in the face of its taikoh’s usual selfish and arrogant behaviour.
For a start, they will seize on AAB’s closing speech as the true indication of UMNO’s stand. But many MCA grassroots members will point out that AAB is the FIL of the famous SIL who made disparaging remarks about the Chinese some months ago and who hasn’t yet been called to order by anyone – so WTF with AAB’s closest ‘act dunno’ speech?
Second, MCA president Ong Ka Ting will say that the party leadership had conveyed the Chinese community's demands to the government and that they will not compromise the rights of the Chinese community.
In reality, MCA doesn’t make demands to UMNO – but the road shows will be behind closed doors, so talk about ‘MCA making 'demands’ to UMNO is cheap.
However, at a practical level, I have to concede that the MCA talking behind closed doors to top UMNO leaders may still be the best bet for the nation, because UMNO leaders don’t like being publicly put down or talked back at, least of all by Chinese leaders – t'is merely an UMNO Malay problem of ‘face’ and ‘siapa raja’ (who’s the boss!)
But MCA Federal Territory youth vice-chief Yee Poh Ping told malayiskini yesterday "No matter how strongly you criticise in the closed-door briefing, people do not hear you."
.. meaning those inconvenient Chinese voters!
The MCA (and Gerakan) leadership had been criticised as weak vis-à-vis UMNO's policies, and having surrendered to the hegemony of UMNO.
But look, it’s all bull complaining about UMNO’s hegemony as if that party wasn’t exercising it in the first place, eons ago.
UMNO has always been the domineering partner, the primus inter pares (first among equals), except in the BN or its Perikatan predecessor, there’s no such concept as ‘pares’ (equals). Only UMNO makes policies, only UMNO’s interests matter, the rest are mere supporting cast, unless in rare cases like 1999 when the Chinese were elevated to some useful ‘equal brotherly’ status.
But Tang Ah Chai, chief executive of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, thought that MCA leadership should train their members to carry out open and rational discussions on national issues, instead of solving problems solely through the BN leadership.
... like Asli's report?
He said the 'kapitan’ system of leadership which surrenders all decisions to respective leaders cannot be implemented in a modern democratic society.
"We cannot simply sweep all the controversial issues under the carpet every time. This actually delays the progress of democracy and transparency of the country. The same problem will rise again soon, because we did not solve it seriously and openly."
Do you readers think our society is ready for open democracy, because that’s what Tang Ah Chai is advocating? I can tell you UMNO isn't!