Sunday, May 04, 2008

"MCA Needs To Be Multiracial Or Face Risk Of Eventual Extinction," Says Ong Tee Keat

MCA, the second largest Barisan Nasional (BN) component party which has all along been known as a Chinese-based party since its formation, needs to change by adopting a more multiracial outlook and approach or face the risk of extinction in the national political landscape, says Vice-President Datuk Ong Tee Keat.

Such a strategic change, he said, might not be drastically apparent at the moment but it was something that the party needed to do to stay relevant for the people in the country's new political scenario after 50 years of independence.

"We need to project a multiracial outlook and multiracial approach to handle the people's concerns," he told Bernama in an interview here.

"Of course, I do not rule out the possibility that my agenda will raise the eyebrows of the conservative (members) in the party in the name of preserving the orthodox ways. I am also mindful of the possibility that this might be used by my detractors in the forthcoming party elections and subsequently make me risk losing support within the party.

"(But) I am adamant in my stand. I am strongly convinced that this is the way out for the party if you really want to keep the party relevant," he added.

Ong, who was recently appointed Transport Minister by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said adopting a multiracial approach was not something that was difficult for MCA to adopt as its members had been "non-mono-ethnic" in their approach at their service centres. "In providing service on a day-to-day basis at our service centres, we had never been mono-ethnic in serving the public, but only our focus is more often than not attached to the rights of the Chinese community.

"After 50 years of independence, we should practise or initiate changes in the mindset (of the members) and in our endeavour to forge a new political culture," said the politician who is known for being articulate in Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin and English.

Ong said "zero sum mindset, which was deeply entrenched in our political culture, should now be abandoned and a new "Malaysian" approach should be adopted as communal rights are always inter-twined with the other rights."

"By adopting a new political culture in being multiracial in its approach, it does not mean that the party is abandoning its primary function as being an ethnic Chinese-based party. There is nothing wrong with it," said Ong, in defending his proposal.

"We should have a broader multiracial outlook in our approach and at the same time, when we are talking about our rights, it should be in the Malaysian perspective," he said.

Asked how this multiracial approach could be implemented, Ong explained that MCA was initially set up as a welfare organisation to help the Chinese community affected by a proposal by the then British colonial government to repatriate them to China. "It was only later that it became a political entity. Now after so many years, we have seen many political changes and I am strongly convinced that the plight of our (people’s) future is inter-twined and inseparable."

Ong said this was now the right time to raise the matter as the general election had just ended and its memory was still fresh in the minds of politicians and they should be able to see clearly why the MCA needed to change.

"The race-based party concept, knowingly or unknowingly for the past few decades since the Alliance days, had compartmentalised our role in reaching out to the people. This means that if you are a Chinese-based party, you deliver the Chinese votes. If you are an Indian-based party, you deliver the Indian votes and if one talks about Malay votes, you leave it to Umno," he said.

Ong felt that this should not be continued anymore as voters nowadays desired "what you can deliver to them, not based on which party or which race you come from."

During the hour-long interview, Ong admitted that it would not be easy to make MCA change as any attempt to initiate changes tended to be a tedious exercise and there was also a need to understand the "psyche of the people".

"But it shouldn't be left to remain as an idea, notion or utopian concept. When we canvass for votes (in the general election), we did not look at colour. So why can't we develop a new mindset?" he asked.

Ong said he had personally become a victim of race-based politicking and had gone through the spectre of racialism but he had managed to survive. "Intra-ethnic politics really put you down. I don't think I enjoyed that," he said, but this has not deterred him from consistently adopting a multiracial approach as his brand of politics since he became the BN candidate for the Ampang Jaya parliamentary seat in 1989.

Ong, who was a former political secretary to Tan Sri Lee Kim Sai, faced a tough challenge in his maiden effort to be a member of parliament when he was pitted against former Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Harun Idris standing on a Semangat 46 ticket. Ong beat the former Umno strongman by 4,500 votes.

In 2004, he was moved from Ampang Jaya to contest in the newly-created Pandan parliamentary seat. "In my constituency, I even donated a Muslim hearse. In the past two years, I even started a hydroponic project to help single mothers supplement their income," he said.

Ong said he realised that his multiracial approach idea was not easy to be achieved as it was easier said than done. Ong, who is considered to be "a lone ranger" in MCA, said he would not back down from speaking up his mind on this issue as he had faced many criticisms in the past.

When Ong was MCA Youth Chief, he even criticised the party top brass for an unpopular decision to acquire Nanyang Press Holdings Bhd in 2002. Barely few years later, he was censured by the Cabinet for speaking out on the improper renovation work carried out at a Chinese school in Muar, Johor.

Asked when MCA could become a multiracial party, Ong said that it may take time but it did not mean that it was something that could not be done. "In fact, there are a thousand ways to skin a cat. Of course, you can't do it overnight but that doesn't mean it cannot be done in the future," he said, adding once party members were convinced with the idea, MCA should open up its membership to other races.

"You must understand that if you do not have such a mindset or paradigm shift, even if you want to open up the membership, it would hardly attract the participation of all races," he said.

"Work on the mindset first, make the people convinced through deeds and when the time is right, the people would be prepared to accept such a notion, then it is time for us to open up," he added. (By Alan Ting, Bernama)

***** Datuk Ong Tee Keat has hit the nail on the head. It takes real courage to espouse so drastic a concept as he's done. However the conservatives in the party would rather stick to their present outdated ways than go for a paradigm shift.

If such a plan is to see fruition, then all the old goats in MCA have to be sent packing and in a hurry. The younger generation is not saddled with as much chauvinistic, communal baggage as the seniors. Unfortunately history has shown that more often than not those who put forth revolutionary ideas are looked upon with suspicion and many a time are crucified instead of being lauded. Datuk Ong Tee Keat fully understands the risk involved.

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7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post!

I will publish extract of your post and link back to your weblog so that more people can do some thinking.

http://mylivingwall.com

3:54 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ong Tee Keat is "somewhat" correct. It's the BN that needs to be Multiracial (not the MCA) but the BN needs to do away with UMNO, MCA, MIC & Gerakan. Just one United Malaysian Party.
Wait a minute! Keadilan & DAP are already doing that!
Well, looks like BN can go into Extinction then!

5:17 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Gerakan and PPP have been adopting a multiracial outlook and approach but yet were wiped out in the polls. Its not the outlook and approach that counts, but the policies that the party needs to embark on to counter umno racism

6:15 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous novice101 said...

Ong Tee Keat and Chua Jui Meng are indulging in their own fantasies. What if the MCA were to adopt a more multiracial outlook and approach? What if the MCA were to change its leaders? What difference would it make to MCA’s fate? There are 2 possible outcomes that can be discerned if this change is adopted:
 MCA can change its outlook and its approach, but if the nature of its association to UMNO remains unchanged, then in the minds of the Chinese, the status quo remains. If this is the perception, then it would make any difference to the fate of the MCA. Why would this be so? It is because the Chinese would not be convinced that MCA has been accepted as an equal partner in the BN. The old stigma of it being subservient to UMNO and not being able to advance the interests of the Chinese would remain
 MCA can change its leaders but it is, to the Chinese, a matter of changing the drivers not the wagons. Even showing more determination and using stronger language, the Chinese would still see the MCA would not be able to make a dent in the status quo. They know that as long as UMNO is still the big brother and its will still determine the path of the BN, MCA will not be able to make the necessary impact.
MCA does not need a crystal ball to tell itself what the end result would be. So, are these real solutions for the MCA, or are these just wishful thinking on the part of Ong Tee Keat and Chua Jui Meng?

12:56 AM GMT+8  
Blogger darcwil said...

"Just one United Malaysian Party.
Wait a minute! Keadilan & DAP are already doing that! Well, looks like BN can go into Extinction then!"

May the best "United Malaysian Party" marketing campaign win.

To think of it, it's all about who can convince the public better right now. The message is just the same, it's a matter who speaks the best, whose catchphrase is the best ("ketuanan rakyat" anyone?) and who can screw each other's reputation better on the internet.

Same old politcal games. Let's not be dumb enough to fall for any.

5:59 PM GMT+8  
Blogger phillix-starscreamer said...

just because keadilan and dap are doing it doesnt mean bn can't. if that's the case, then HP, Acer, Dell and the likes shouldn't exist because Mac already has a laptop product. darcwil is right. it's all a matter of who plays the political game better. you want to fall for any of them? your pick.

1:00 AM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I STRONGLY AGREED THAT ALL RACIAL POLITICAL PARTY WILL FACE THE EVENTUAL EXTINCTION. EVERY MALAYSIAN SHOULD WORK FOR THE COUNTRY AS A WHOLE AND POLICIES MUST BE THE SAME.
AT THIS MOMENT,SOME OF THE LEADERSHIP ARE ELECTED BY A GROUP OF LOCAL LEADERS AND MEMBERS BASED ON NON-THINKING, SELF INTEREST AND NO PROPER JOB ARE TOTALLY NOT ACCEPTABLE. OPERATIONAL PROCEDURES AND CLEAN-UP OF POLITICAL PARTY CONCERNED SHOULD BE REVAMPED AT ALL LEVELS AND MALAYSIAN PARTY SHOULD BE FORMED INSTEAD. JOINT FORCE WITH OTHER MULTIRACIAL PARTIES WITH THE SAME OBJECTS IN BRINGING GOOD FOR THE COUNTRY.
BY POLITICAL OBSERVER PS

1:25 PM GMT+8  

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