On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Let members decide on party affairs

The deadline to submit the notice for an EGM (involving
current delegates) is tomorrow if Team B wants to make sure it is held on or
before April 26 because of division polls over the next two days. By then, new
delegates would have been elected.

That aside, the signatures would have to be authenticated.

Questions have been raised as to whether an EGM can be called as the process of
election has proceeded, with many branch leaders already elected

Team B wants the polls stopped because it claims that the new membership list
of 135,700 names contains so-called phantom members.

Team A, led by party president Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik, has challenged his
detractors to prove their allegations, saying it was easy to make allegations
but the bottom line was evidence. He has also said that the 21-day objection
period – against the usual six previously – was over and asked why these
allegations were not submitted.

His critics replied that they did not do so because they had no confidence in
the headquarters' elections committee that was set up to study the objections.
They claimed that the committee was dominated by supporters of Dr Ling except
for vice-president Datuk Chan Kong Choy.

Team A leaders had pointed out that no one, even themselves, had said that a
party of 1.025 million members could have a 100% clean list. Even the Election
Commission rolls have blemishes.

Last month, the committee removed 868 names. The first batch comprised 399 who
had died, 156 were under-aged or below 18 years old, 26 had dual membership,
and 287 declared in writing that they did not join the party. The total number
of names deleted now is 1,773 or 0.17% of the 1.025 million members.

Non-members and even members can be forgiven if they find the statements of MCA
leaders confusing. In the process, the party's image has been badly hit.

Team A can explain as much it wants but some people may choose to listen to the
underdog, out of sympathy or prejudice. At times, even some sections of the
media have failed to explain the issue accurately.

Allegations of phantom members thus get better newspaper play than the findings
of the National Registration Department that the membership list is

The checks showed that of the 135,700 new members, only 905 or 0.6% had
discrepancies in their identity card numbers that could be due to technical
errors during the process of entering data into the computer.

The crux of the controversy appears to be what constitutes a phantom member.
Depending on who you talk to, the answers would be different.

But unlike the 1980s, when the MCA plunged into a 23-month crisis, even the
most hardened critic of the party would admit that this time, the so-called
phantom members are not dead.

One sore point among Team B leaders is that out-of-state members are allowed to
enrol in a local branch. For example, the Kapar division in Selangor is said to
have members from Johor.

They have been classified as phantom members, but Team A leaders say there is
no law to stop out-of-state members from joining a local branch as long as they
are bona fide members.

There is a loophole here but it is neither unconstitutional nor illegal —
morally wrong, perhaps, but other Barisan Nasional component parties have the
same system.

Similarly, the Election Commission allows us to register as voters in our
hometown even if we work and live in Kuala Lumpur with our family.

Then there is the scenario of an address with over 100 members. At first
glance, it appears improper and questionable. How can a house possibly contain
100 people?

The reality is that there is nothing to stop a service centre or a house from
being used as a correspondence address. There is no law by any political party
or the Election Commission that requires a minimum or maximum number of members
or voters per house.

It is a tactic used by grassroots leaders to stop their rivals, at branch
level, from contacting those already recruited. Come election time, their
rivals will have difficulty campaigning. However, in all likelihood, these
members exist.

During good and friendly times, such methods of recruiting are accepted by all.
Now, faults are being pointed out.

It is the same with the setting up of new branches. The party has been using
the same method but a controversy has surfaced chiefly because of the

Without question, there are flaws in the MCA constitution that need to be
rectified. The best forum is the general assembly where members can air their
grievances and correct the wrongs.

MCA leaders must not forget that the election is only a part of democracy. If
they wish to lead, they must be ready to serve first.

The Chinese community is tired of seeing the intense infighting. There are
plenty that needs to be done such as the setting up of Universiti Tunku Abdul
Rahman, the expansion of TAR College and the Langkawi Project, which can
improve the lives of thousands of people, and not a few politicians.

As Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad correctly advised politicians: solve your
problems internally, don't drag in the courts or government, or people outside
the party.