On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Up to Ong and Chan to forge ahead

After 17 years at the helm as the party's longest serving
chief, it was still difficult for many MCA leaders, including his party rivals,
to accept the fact that a new leader had been elected.

As the party leaders spoke about the day's historic event at Wisma MCA, they
still referred to Dr Ling as ''the president'' as they talked about the
Transport Minister.

It was the same with non-MCA members who called up newsmen and party leaders to
find out what was going on at ''the president's house.'' (There was plenty of
food and drinks as the impromptu gathering dragged on to near midnight.)

There was no sadness at the party. The leadership succession has finally taken
place with both Dr Ling and his deputy, Datuk Seri Lim Ah Lek, stepping down

''I resign not with a heavy heart but with a sense of ease in the knowledge
that our party will be in capable hands,'' he wrote in his resignation

The same sentiments were felt that evening.

The central committee had voted to reject the two resignations and wanted them to
reconsider their decisions but they remained adamant, proving sceptics

As the central committee reconvened its meeting on Friday evening, they
proceeded to vote in Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting as president and Datuk Chan Kong
Choy as deputy.

With the exception of vice-president Datuk Chua Jui Meng, Youth chief Datuk Ong
Tee Keat and veteran Datuk Wong Mook Leong who were absent, the committee voted
solidly for the two.

The two names were proposed by Datuk Chor Chee Heung, aligned to Team A
previously, and seconded by Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek (Team A) and Datuk Tang See
Hang (Team B). There were no other names for the two posts.

Chua, who had to attend the Malaysian Medical Association dinner graced by the
King, sportingly congratulated Ong and Chan.

He wished them the best and hoped that they would deal with matters in a fair
manner. He noted that they would have to work hard to resolve the party's
problems before the general election.

The Health Minister, who is said to have also eyed the president's post, did
not express support for either Ong or Chan but his words were certainly
comforting, given the scenario.

Tee Keat, who has criticised the leadership harshly, abstained when the
resolution to reject Dr Ling and Lim's resignations were put to a vote earlier.
He did not turn up for the meeting in the evening.

Chua and Tee Keat were elected to their party posts and they would remain until
2005, as agreed under the peace plan.

However, with the political realignment taking place in the MCA, their influence
is likely to be affected.

When Chua arrived at the KL International Airport on Friday morning from
Geneva, he was greeted only by Tee Keat and Wanita deputy chief Datuk Paduka Dr
Tan Yee Kew and other supporters.

But at the evening central committee meeting, Dr Tan, who is the MP for Klang,
voted for Ong and Chan for the top two posts. In the afternoon, Chua also
followed the tide and voted against the resignations of Dr Ling and Lim.

In the case of Tee Keat, he has chosen to go the opposite direction.

The spotlight is likely to continue to be trained on the hot-headed MP as he
awaits the outcome of disciplinary charges against him. He has allegedly
tarnished the image of the party by claiming there was triad

No one is sure how the political drama will unfold in the coming months or even
weeks but a new beginning has started with a generation of younger leaders at
the helm.

Ong and Chan have served in many capacities at party and government levels.
They are both experienced and would certainly be able to deal with issues in a
mature way.

They will bring fresh perspectives to the MCA and certainly help to rejuvenate
the second largest Barisan component party.

The two leaders have at least eight months to create a new party image and
identity ahead of the next general election, speculated to be held early next

Every effort must be made to ensure that the two become a solid pair as they
have the urgent task of reuniting the party, split by 14 months of

There will be those with selfish political interests who would attempt to pit
them against each other with lies and rumours.

Ong and Chan would by now understand these underlying dangers as they go hand
in hand to rebuild the MCA.