By WONG CHUN WAI
THE writing was on the wall. It was possibly the worst way for Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek to end the year after the sex DVD, which had been quietly circulating in Johor became a full-fledged controversy.
Yesterday, the MCA vice-president announced that he was quitting his Cabinet and all party posts. This came barely 24 hours after he admitted he was the man in the DVD and that he was not resigning.
The drama had unfolded on the morning of New Year’s Eve when Dr Chua took his wife to meet the Prime Minister and admitted he was the man in the sex DVD.
Datin Seri Wong Sek Hin told Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that she would stand by her husband and that they would go through the difficult time together.
And shortly before the countdown for the New Year began, a lonely Dr Chua walked away from a restaurant in Bangsar, where he had earlier huddled with his aides to talk about the press conference the following day.
The leader, who turns 61 in May, had decided to come clean by taking responsibility for the controversy.
Those who know the outspoken Johor politician were not surprised by his decision. He has always taken the bull by the horns and his public confession was classic Chua Soi Lek.
A man who does not mince his words, Dr Chua gained the respect of those who dealt with him but at the same time, also offended those who found him brash.
A hands-on minister, he knew what he was doing at the Health Ministry. He had certainly gained the respect of doctors since he assumed the post in 2004 and quickly made several major positive changes. He was cut out for the job and even his detractors would admit so.
Reporters covering the Health Ministry beat quickly found out they had better do their homework and polish up their knowledge on the medical profession before interviewing him. He was a man who brooked no nonsense.
Some said it would not be wrong to say he was the best Health Minister the country has ever had. Many also acknowledged that he was among the most intelligent and capable leaders in the country.
Dr Chua was also regarded as a man who has bigger political ambitions. For months, the media had watched his movements and speculated he could possibly contest the deputy president’s post in the MCA polls this year. Even his running mates were identified as they criss-crossed the country to meet delegates.
But all the plans came to an abrupt end with his announcement at about 3.30pm yesterday that he was giving up all his Government and party posts. Even as news of his decision broke, his supporters expressed their sadness over his resignation. Some cried openly, when they heard he had quit.
After admitting on Tuesday that he was the man in the sex DVD, MCA leaders called newspaper offices offering their support for the embattled politician.
One prominent youth leader angrily condemned the “entrapment” of Dr Chua, saying he was shocked over such dirty tactics, where four cameras were said to have been used to film Dr Chua in a hotel suite.
Labis MCA chief Tan Kok Hong said Dr Chua was “stabbed in the back” by certain parties who wanted to destroy the leader politically. He called for action against those involved in the production and distribution of the DVD.
The DVD, made from a closed-circuit television footage, was said to be distributed openly at several shops in Muar, Tangkak and Batu Pahat, the stronghold of Dr Chua, in a calculated move to embarrass him.
No one is sure when the recording was made but the blatant invasion of privacy at a hotel has shocked many politicians, who have questioned the security at such places.
They also pointed out that his wife and family have forgiven him and publicly said they would stand by him.
But Dr Chua has also been realistic, acknowledging that even with such support, there would also be those who would demand his resignation.
The anguish for him and his family is apparent but any such controversy means an extra burden for the MCA, which is already facing a difficult election campaign with strong anti-establishment sentiments within the Chinese community.
Voters also expect leaders to keep to higher standards of conduct. As public figures, they have little privacy. It is a price that comes with the perks and privileges they enjoy.
But how many of us dare to say we have no skeletons, weaknesses or human fallacies, even as we question Dr Chua and hold our moral grounds?
Dr Chua has handled his political crisis well. Those who have spoken to Dr Chua since the controversy have found him to be calm and prepared to listen to even the most negative of feedback.
In Malaysia, where not many politicians and leaders are prepared to take responsibility for their actions, Dr Chua seems to be an exception, unpleasant as it may be.
By quitting his Cabinet and party posts, Dr Chua has set the right example for Malaysian leaders. As the Chinese saying goes, ganzuo, gandang, which means dare to do, dare to be responsible.
Dr Chua’s resignation from the Health Minister’s portfolio, by tradition allocated to the MCA, has, again, proven that the portfolio is a burial ground for MCA political careers.
When Dr Chua assumed the post, he went on record that he was determined to end the curse. Like his predecessors, he couldn’t and the Health Ministry, among the MCA circle, remains the Hell Ministry