KUALA LUMPUR – As 2,400 MCA central delegates converge at the party 64th Annual General Meeting (AGM) this weekend, there will only be one paramount issue on everybody’s mind – the 14th General Election (GE14).

This year’s AGM is crucial as it is hoped to demonstrate a high level of solidarity and the preparedness of party members, and to steer its election machinery in facing the impending GE14.

Despite being well on the road to recovery and with massive efforts put in to rejuvenate the party, MCA, lead by President Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, still faces a mammoth task to prove that it is capable of winning back the hearts and minds of the Chinese electorate.

The largest ethnic-Chinese party was hit by two major setbacks in the 2008 and 2013 general elections, reducing its control from a comfortable 31 parliamentary seats and 77 state seats in 2004, to a mere seven parliamentary and 11 state seats in 2013.

As if that was not serious enough, it was also mired in a prolonged leadership crisis at the same time, which had further complicated the situation.

Infighting and blame games among factions, faced with rejection by the Chinese community and hatred fanned by the opposition had not only further complicated the situation, but had also taken a toll on the party’s image.

Soon after taking over the party leadership in December 2013, Liow wasted no time to work on unifying the party that had been divided by infighting for an extended period of time.

With the internal crisis controlled, he and his team were able able to chart a new and clear direction to transform the party, encompassing political, socioeconomic and educational aspects.

The party focused and worked relentlessly to reconnect with the Chinese community, meeting and delivering their aspirations, while at the same time becoming their voice in bringing up issues of their concern to the government’s attention.

Last year, the party amended its election voting system by expanding voting rights to some 33,000 divisional delegates to choose the central leadership, a privilege previously only held by central delegates.

Besides working on helping to boost business opportunities for the Chinese community locally and abroad, the party also continued to fight for Chinese education in the country.

Its struggles and persistence did not go unnoticed and had indeed captured the attention of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

It was so evident that during a Chinese community patriotic assembly in September, which was attended by some 30,000 people, Najib acknowledged the Chinese community’s contributions in nation building.

The prime minister, who is also Barisan Nasional chairman, also promised that the BN government would approve more Chinese school projects, especially in new growth areas, to meet the demands of the community.

Just last week, the government approved the proposal to build 10 more Chinese vernacular primary schools in Johor and Selangor.

MCA Publicity Chief Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker said the party is now stronger and more solid than ever and that the level of confidence and optimism among its members is very high.

“We admit that we have weaknesses but we will not give up. In the past four years, we have worked hard to reform the party and to reach out not only to the Chinese community, but to other races as well.

“Now, I can say that we are doing very well and the response from the Chinese community is also very positive and welcoming. We don’t have to present our report card at any particular time. Our commitment and the results are continuous and the people can see it,” he told Bernama.

Najib is scheduled to open the AGM on Sunday morning.

This will be MCA’s last “family gathering” before the GE14 and the speeches of the prime minister and the party president would definitely draw a lot of attention as its intensity will set the clarion call for party members to charge forward to regain the trust deficit it had lost before.

— Bernama