In recent years, the MCA has been able to consolidate its strength in the government. That in many ways is due to the electoral support given by the community.
The party has since carried out numerous
projects close to the heart of the
community, particularly on education and culture.
The Langkawi project, the setting up of TAR college branches, and promoting information technology in
primary schools are some of the well-received
The MCA's performance will be evaluated
again when the present term of the
Barisan government ends in April next
For the Chinese community, the issue is
simple: Whether it wants to ensure the
MCA's effectiveness in government.
The community is already fragmented politically through several supposedly multi-racial parties.
Until 1995, the urban Chinese have been
perceived to be supportive of the DAP. The result was increasing weightage
given to rural areas in the delineation
The drawing of electoral boundaries to favour the ruling party, known as gerrymandering, is not something unusual in the Westminster style of
Before the 1969 general election, the
MCA was rewarded with key ministerial
positions such as the Finance Ministry and the Trade and Industry Ministry.
These plums jobs were the result of the
community's backing for the MCA in the
1955, 1959 and 1964 general elections;
1969 was the community's gravest mistake
and the implications were felt.
Faced with the reality of having to send
fewer representatives to Parliament, the
community will again have to decide
whether it wants its representatives on
the government or opposition
In urban areas like Penang and Selangor,
some members of the community want the
best of both worlds they want the MCA at state level and DAP in Parliament.
Sensing such sentiments, particularly with the current political scenario, the DAP has been low key,
campaigning along the lines that the
Barisan is in no danger of losing the
federal or state governments.
The hope is that there will be enough
protest votes to bring along a
But the Chinese community has come to a
crossroads. Like it or not, politics in
Malaysia is a numbers game.
A weakened Chinese representation will mean little or no voice in the formulation or implementation of government policies. It's simple arithmetic
less than 20% of the
parliamentary seats are Chinese majority.
There is also the belief that the
Chinese population is shrinking in
size, with most families having
only one or two children.
In addition to larger rural migration to towns, the future will see more foreigners becoming permanent residents
and eventually citizens. This will change the racial make-up of urban constituencies.
Even now, any form of Chinese opposition
will bring minimal impact.
As the community moves into the next
millennium, the stakes are higher. The
question that comes to mind is whether
they wish to throw away a protest vote
or whether they must remain pragmatic,
focussed and practical.
Unlike other countries with parlimentary rule, the Opposition plays more than just the role of a watch dog.
Besides having a Shadow Cabinet, the Opposition has a proper organisational
set-up with the ability to draw up
alternative policies and to offer itself
as a viable alternative government.
Until Malaysians see that, there is
really little choice. For the community, any dissipating of votes will erode its bargaining strength in government.
Despite the DAP's projection of MCA
leaders as lame ducks in government, they have been able to influence many key
decisions affecting the community.
The MCA's disadvantage is that it is
unable to claim credit for many
decisions because it accepts the fact of
As a team player, it must defend all
Cabinet decisions, popular or otherwise,
but its voice in Cabinet is crucial for
There has been suggestions that the DAP
and PAS work together, as one prominent
academician pointed out in the latest issue of a regional magazine.
He argued that if the MCA and Umno could
work out the citizenship issue then, he sees no reason why DAP and PAS could not.
There is a flaw in the argument. The MCA
and Umno remain committed to the system of Westminster democracy and both
parties share a similar philosophy on
how they can work out national
PAS has not committed itself to this
political system should it form the next
federal government. It has, in fact,
said it wants hudud laws in place.
Umno has been generous enough to allow
MCA candidates to contest in mixed or
even predominantly Malay constituencies. That is commitment to
The same cannot be said of PAS.
Malaysians cannot imagine DAP
Chinese leaders contesting in Kelantan or Terengganu with support from PAS.
PAS, which does not field women
candidates, is certainly not expected to field non-Muslims as
So, the likes of Tian Chua and Irene
Fernandez can offer themselves as independent candidates endorsed by DAP, PAS, HAK and Adil if they find party politics too partisan.
But why should the DAP support these
activists if the party thinks its own
members have a chance of winning that
At a recent forum involving DAP and Adil
supporters in Penang, a reformasi
supporter stated that the DAP should not make use of Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah
Another speaker, presumably a PAS
supporter, reminded the DAP about its
opposition to the setting up of an
Islamic state in 1990 which
subsequently led to DAP deputy chairman
Karpal Singh's apology at the same
In all fairness to the DAP, it must be
pointed out that it has toned down its
The younger DAP leaders have defended
cases involving non-Chinese and it has also tried to project a stronger multi-racial appeal.
Over the years, it has attempted to work
with Malay-based parties such as Parti
Melayu Semangat 46 and now, Adil.
That is, however, different from forging
a real multi-racial coalition party that
is capable of governing the country
For the Chinese, they realise the
importance of a strong political and
economic system one that the MCA has in no small part contributed to over
50 years in nation building.