“… By disarming, you at once give offense, since you show your subjects that you distrust them, either as doubting their courage, or as doubting their fidelity, each of which imputations begets hatred against you.”
– Niccolò Machiavelli, ‘The Prince’
The answer to that is MCA obviously cannot do anything much for the ruling BN coalition anymore. How do you remain relevant when you have lost your voting base? Umno does not need MCA to win elections. The dodgy meme that the current Umno prime minster is a “minority” prime minster is as fallacious as the so-called “Chinese tsunami”.
It is pointless talking about the other communities here in Malaysia because this has always been about the Malay-Chinese dialectic. How this regime demonises the Chinese community when the hegemon is in trouble or relies on it – former prime minister and now de facto opposition leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad actually at one time thanked the Chinese community for sustaining his power – in times of plenty demonstrates the symbiotic relationship between economic power, race and political stability.
If the Malay community was not in a perceived state of agitation, there really would be no need for anyone to question the relevancy of MCA because Umno would have no problem allowing the plutocrats, who actually run this Chinese-based party, to coast on former glories to sustain the charade that a multi-ethnic government runs Malaysia for the betterment of all.
I say “perceived” because the more I look beyond the spin and talk to people on the ground who actually have a pulse on what is going on, the reality is that the odds favour Umno in this coming election.
The “Malay” heartland, which the opposition has been unable to influence beyond coming up with dodgy data on how the heartland is not as secure as Umno believes, remains the key to Putrajaya. That most strategically adroit of political operatives – Mahathir – realises that if he can destabilise Umno in the peninsula to the point that Umno has to rely on Sabah and Sarawak for power, it would be game over for the current Umno potentate.
All of this merely means that as far as remaining relevant, MCA has very little to do now. By its own admission it has lost its Chinese voting base. The problem is, what does MCA think the Chinese community really wants? What exactly has MCA done wrong that has made the community lose trust, not in the BN coalition but rather in MCA?
Five years ago, in the MCA’s long journey into night, I wrote – “What is really destroying MCA is not the propaganda of DAP but the acceptance by a large voting demographic of the Chinese community that no representation in the government is better than MCA representation.”
So, this idea that representation in the federal government is the holy grail of the basis of “Chinese” support is mistaken. As far as anyone can tell, and most political insiders, establishment and opposition will tell you – most often off the record – is that all the opposition has to do is remain relevant on a state level and the majority of the Chinese vote will always go to the opposition.
There is this hypocritical stance that opposition types, especially DAP political operatives, take when it comes to this issue of representation and “Chinese rights”. Here are my comments regarding what an assistant to a DAP MP wrote about representation and Chinese rights:-
“Kelvin Yii, an assistant to a DAP MP, asked, ‘So, would the Chinese want to have a say in the government, or stay out there in angry isolation?’ All I can say is that if you were a truly multi-racial party with a race-blind agenda, this type of question would not need to be asked.
“But since this is still a thing, why doesn’t Yii define the ‘rights’ of the Chinese community, which he thinks are lacking under the Umno regime, and demonstrate how Pakatan Rakyat has secured these rights on a state level, or even made it an issue on a federal level. In other words, Yii, you don’t get to berate MCA for playing the race card when you have no problem playing it yourself.”
Impotency of Chinese politicians
While I get that most opposition supporters think the coming general election will be a referendum on Prime Minister Najib Razak, the reality is that career opposition politicians – establishment and opposition – have only one goal in mind. That is, a win is defined as keeping the game going by maintaining the status quo. Hence the Chinese voting base, who have grown used to the impotency of “Chinese” political operatives on a federal level, see more gain in state-level operatives looking after their interests and keeping the federal government in check, however ineffective that may be.
Moreover, since I have never allowed partisan group-think to influence my position on issues, I can honestly say that MCA has actually done a good job in attempting to restore some of the trust that they lost over the years. The problem is that no matter what it does, MCA will never be the go-to party for communal interests, even though their positions have been far more morally and intellectually sustainable than DAP and the opposition.
The most recent example is the MCA’s position on PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s bill on syariah amendments. I wrote that the MCA had a clear position and that their criticism against the DAP, although flawed in their execution, was far more honest than the position of the opposition. And yet this did not mean anything to the Chinese community, at least to those who voiced their opinion online.
In fact, this clarity of position caused MCA to be vilified by members of their own coalition and created another set of tensions that demonstrated the impotency of MCA within the ruling hegemon. Meanwhile, DAP as a “Chinese- based” alternative, no matter what opposition partisans claim, remains a potent force within the “Malay-dominated” opposition.
Not only is this used by the Umno hegemon in their propaganda, it is also confirmed by the statements made by DAP political operatives on a range of issues that they are powerbrokers within the opposition instead of political eunuchs who service the Umno machine.
Therefore, there is really nothing MCA can do. Every corruption scandal the MCA unearths pales in comparison to the excesses of this Umno regime. Even when the MCA articulates a clear moral position, they are vilified by establishment and opposition partisans. Goal posts are shifted, tolerance is raised on many issues because the goal of removing Najib is the only thing that matters.
The race discourse in this country means that the Bangsa Malaysia kool aid makes it seem that the MCA is the “racial” party and not that the foundation of Malaysians politics is threatened by racial fault lines.
In other words, in this break-up with the Chinese community, it’s not you (MCA), it’s the Chinese community.