On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Change or be changed


By : Wong Chun Wai

BY Saturday, the MCA would have a new leadership. A new party president, deputy president and possibly a new line-up of vice-presidents. The clear favourite to win the party presidency at this point is Datuk Ong Tee Keat, who is being challenged by former Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng. Ong has a huge task ahead for him as we must acknowledge that the political landscape has changed after March 8. It cannot be business as usual. Like Umno, the MCA must realise it has to change or be changed in the next general election. But the MCA, despite the opposition onslaught, still has 15 MPs, which provides the party a decent position to bargain. This is unlike the MIC and Gerakan, which have only two MPs each and face a Herculean task of rebuilding themselves. For a start, the MCA cannot continue its mono-ethnic features, even if the fact remains that it is a communal-based party. Its leaders have to learn to use English and Bahasa Malay­sia, in a much stronger manner, at their meetings, conventions and even on their banners. It must also take up issues affecting other communities. Unless it makes a serious effort to be more multi-racial in outlook, it will face serious competition from multi-racial parties like Parti Keadilan Rakyat and the DAP. MCA leaders can be defensive about this by arguing about the racial dominance of Malays or Chinese in these parties but the point is that their doors are open to all. Neither can the MCA continue to depend on its excellent service centres, financial support for Chinese schools, Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman and Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman. Changed expectations The young voters, who make up over 60% of the electorate, regard such support as the right of taxpayers and responsibility of a political party. Yes, it is unfortunate that they don’t ask the same from PKR, PAS or the DAP, and it seems unfair, but that is the reality that the MCA and other Barisan Nasional parties have to live with. The expectations of Malaysians have changed. They expect MCA leaders to be arti­culate, not just in Mandarin, but to speak up intelligently and to be a voice of Malaysians. They expect to see MCA leaders with dignity and respect and that can only happen if the MCA leaders win back the respect of the community and Malaysians. They have followed the American presidential election debates on TV and they expect a similar kind of quality from their leaders, regardless of their parties. They see a black man about to make history by winning the election and they ask why race, religion and gender should continue to feature so strongly in Malaysia. To put it blunt­ly, they are sick of the kind of race politics in Malaysia. They want change and the first warning was on March 8. There will be no more signals four years down the line if the Barisan continues to sell the same product and formula, even as the voters are crying loudly for change. We cannot deny that for the last 50 years, the Alliance and Barisan have performed well and developed Malaysia to this level. In all fairness, we need to revisit and recognise the contributions of Umno, the MCA and the MIC. The Barisan has brought stability and develop­ment to Malaysia; no one can deny this, not even the Opposition. But history doesn’t sell. We can talk about Merdeka and the wisdom of our founding fathers and we can remind everyone of the Social Contract but it will just draw a blank look from our young. In their lingo, it’s like “Duh?” To the Internet and I-pod generation, these politicians don’t connect. The link is down, as they say in computer language, but these politicians sadly don’t seem to realise this. Multi-racial outlook Neither can we brush aside corruption, the abuse of power and arrogance of power. They see has-been politicians with tainted reputation seeking to stage a comeback. Can Malay­sians be blamed if they have a cynical, if not downright pessimistic, view of their future? Malaysians want to see a more transparent, more democratic, cleaner and fairer government. They want to see a more multi-racial outlook. They want to feel safe at home and on the streets, and they wonder why the Govern­ment and the police cannot carry out this simple task and prefer to blame the press, foreigners and everyone else for the rising crime rate except themselves. The young generation, so used to the freedom of expression on cyberspace, want to speak up freely without the threat of the Internal Security Act being thrown at them. The MCA has to speak the language of the new Malaysians. Changes cannot be made overnight but steps need to be taken now. Reforms alone in the MCA would not help the Barisan as the lead has to come from Umno too, as the dominant party of the ruling coalition. The new leaders in MCA would have to face the New Malaysians from next week. Their duty is to bring in new ideas and adopt new approaches.