On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Factions tone down after a word from PM

Clearly, Dr Mahathir had wanted to offer his advice to
both sides before leaving for his month-long working-trip-and-vacation
overseas, besides attending the World Economic Forum in New York.

Following the meetings, both sides now appear more restrained. On Tuesday, Dr
Ling announced that the names of a million members in 4,000 branches would be
displayed to ensure transparency, with a 21-day objection period for

The inspection period, which was usually between five and six days, was to give
party members ample time to scrutinise the list at all branches.

The party election steering committee will then rectify any proven discrepancy,
including deleting names of phantom members, if there were any.

On Thursday, Ah Lek issued a statement welcoming the decision to display the
names but pointed out the high number of new members.

Dr Mahathir revealed that he had been asked to intercede in the dispute between
what is now known as Team A and Team B within the party.

There are a few options available for Dr Mahathir, should he decide to go ahead
with the mediation.

The first option would be to allow both sides to slug it out but to ensure that
there is a level playing field. There must be a clean membership rolls and both
sides must stop their mudslinging through the media.

That means the factions should not hide behind unnamed sources when talking to
the Chinese newspapers.

There could also be an end to the large dinner gatherings and road shows. If
gatherings are to be held, they must be closed-door affairs strictly for members

The second option is to let the status quo remain for the posts of president
and deputy president. The contest can go on at vice-presidency level, where
party delegates will choose four representatives and the 25 elected central
committee members.

Not everyone will agree with this plan because some will dismiss it as merely
postponing the problem. The distrust will continue unless there is genuine
acceptance of the situation. The practicality of the proposal would come into

But if that is the sentiment of the majority of MCA members and the Chinese
community, the leaders may have no choice but to consider this approach.

Some leaders have said that one faction was pushing for this option because
hopes of winning the party polls had dimmed. Although incumbents are always in
a stronger position, it remains to be seen whether such talk is part of the
psychological war waged by the factions.

Dr Ling has announced his readiness to set up an independent committee, and Ah
Lek has welcomed such a move.

If given the go-ahead, this committee will have to ensure that all steps are
taken by the headquarters election steering committee to uphold transparency in
the polls.

With over a million members in 4,000 branches, the election steering committee,
headed by party secretary-general Datuk Seri Dr Ting Chew Peh, will have to
handle every complaint. Vice-president Datuk Chan Kong Choy is also a member of
the committee.

The independent committee cannot possibly have authority over the 11-member election
steering committee or take over its role.

The composition of the independent committee must also be sensitively handled.
Dr Ling has said that it may comprise members or non-members but they must have
a fair understanding of the running of a political organisation.

There is no such thing as a squeaky-clean name list and room must be given when
examining the administration of a mass appeal political party.

The guessing game by the media will continue as both sides work out their
differences, or at least decide on the rules of the contest, in the run-up to
the party elections in June.