KUALA LUMPUR – An MCA central committee member defended his party’s past request for a deputy prime minister post, saying it was not an “offence” to convey the Chinese community’s wish for “empowerment”.

Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker admitted today that his party had sought to install one of its members in that position, after retired prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad exposed the request on his blog yesterday.

“It was only a process to channel the wish of supporters in a healthy democracy,” Ti said in a statement.

He explained that the party which is supposed to represent ethnic Chinese voters had made the request, seeing the post as an “empowerment” to resolve the problems of the non-Malay, non-Muslim community.

However, he did not elaborate on the problems faced by Chinese Malaysians in the predominantly Malay Muslim country.

“Nothing wrong or an offence for a party to convey its supporters’ wish at certain times,” he said instead.

“When a decision is made, what’s important is that we hold to party discipline and manners for harmony,” he added.

The MCA religious harmony bureau chairman then accused Dr Mahathir of having a “malicious political intent” in publicising past party communications within the Barisan Nasional (BN) ruling coalition.

“This is Tun M’s malicious political attempt to fish for votes,” Ti said.

On his blog post last night, Dr Mahathir who was also former BN chairman disclosed that the MCA had requested for a deputy prime minister post in 2009 in response to allegations that predominantly Chinese Opposition party, the DAP, had recently laid claim to the post if their Pakatan Harapan pact wins the next general elections.

Dr Mahathir said MCA deputy secretary-general Datuk Loke Yuen Yow had then asked Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for a second deputy prime minister post for the party president then, in addition to the BN deputy chairman post.

The 91-year-old government critic who now counts himself a member of the Opposition said he highlighted the issue to clarify an earlier “mistake” when he said the DAP had asked for a second deputy prime minister post to be created and for one its own to be appointed to it.

Dr Mahathir then had linked his post to a report by the Malaysian Information Department in April 2009 on the proposal, which quoted Loke saying that the two posts should be filled by the MCA president to reflect “true power sharing”, in addition to proof that the government gives priority to the role and contribution of the Chinese community.

DAP leaders have repeatedly refuted the claims that they were pushing for the DPM post, saying the Opposition pact has never discussed their potential Cabinet line-up save for the post of prime minister, which should be held by their de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is currently serving a five-year jail sentence for sodomy.