On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Fit to carry on playing a key role

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
of constituencies.

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
collective decision-making.

As a team player, it must defend  all
Cabinet decisions, popular or  otherwise,
but its voice in Cabinet  is crucial for
the community.

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
particular constituency?

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
Wan Ismail.

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
chauvinistic image.

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.