Will MCA ‘ubah’, embrace DAP, or sit out KKB by-election and be sidelined?

It is certainly a tough time being an MCA grassroots leader. Imagine reading all the MCA-DAP bashing before, to now singing a different tune, by getting grassroots members to support their direct competitor and once-arch nemesis.

That is the scenario in which the Chinese-based party could face ahead of the Kuala Kubu Baharu by-election on May 11 with a possible DAP candidate being named.

Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari, had earlier this month, indicated the seat will be contested by a DAP representative, following the death of three-term DAP assemblyman, Lee Kee Hiong.

MCA dislikes DAP. And the feeling is mutual. Period. Thus, it was not surprising for MCA to announce that it would sit out the by-election. Rather gutsy, too, since MCA is part of Barisan Nasional (BN), which is part of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s so-called ‘unity government’.

MIC, in fact too, intended to stay out of the Kuala Kubu Baharu polls, but has since made a U-turn, for reasons best known to the Indian-based party. There are those who claim that Indian support for PKR is waning, and that the community isn’t really for DAP, either.

Enter MIC, who Umno believes, will be able to wrest some votes due to the thinking that Indian voters are kingmakers. Swaying some votes for the Pakatan Harapan candidate in the by-election will earn Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, and MIC president Tan Sri S.A. Vigneswaran some brownie points with Anwar.

What raised eyebrows was that Umno vice-president, Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail, had issued a statement on April 21, urging MCA and MIC to reconsider their decision to sit out the by-election. Wan Rosdy is also the Pahang Menteri Besar, who is going through the names of potential state assemblymen, including one from MCA and Amanah. Wan Rosdy, last month, said that the individuals will be nominated as assemblymen at the next state assembly sitting in May.

The Pahang legislative assembly can now appoint five assemblymen without going through the election process after a motion to amend the state’s Constitution was passed in 2020.

What does this mean for MCA?

If MCA plays ball, they will be assured of a state assemblyman in Pahang. That’s just crumbs in the political world, but it’s worth something for a party that has pretty much lost everything, including its dignity. It would also mean pleasing the ‘bosses’ – whoever they are – and protecting business interests of certain leaders in the state. However, the backlash would be severe.

What little support MCA has, will further disappear, for it would be difficult to explain why MCA leaders are now willing to walk hand in hand with DAP in the upcoming by-election. It’s similar to how some DAP supporters still cannot fathom chanting “ubah” (change) prior to GE15, to now seeing their beloved leaders next to those they had mocked and ridiculed before winning the national polls.

MCA leaders have been taking potshots at DAP politicians, with the latest being MCA Youth vice-chief, Tan Yang Pang. Tan, on April 20, commended the National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) for lodging police reports against Human Resources Minister Steven Sim Chee Keong, claiming alleged abuse of power by the DAP man over a ‘Festival Aid’ allowance. Will these leaders, including Tan, now “ubah“?

If MCA decides to go all Ip Man and grow a backbone, it would be seen as going against the unity government, and BN, which could very well boot MCA out of the coalition. After all, the top brass in Umno seem to be all chummy with DAP. Also, DAP clearly has the support of the Chinese community – unlike MCA – as evident in the results of past elections.

Can MCA stand on its own?

Such a move may gain the beleaguered party some respect, admiration even, from some of its members. But there will be those who would argue that it would be silly being all gung-ho, only to lose opportunities. As some would say, principles don’t make money.

Let’s not forget what happened in 2006. MCA tried to play hero by leading a memorandum calling for the review of Article 121(1A) and other laws that affect non-Muslims in Islamic matters. Days later, it was forced to withdraw the memorandum following outrage by Umno leaders. MCA was punished in the 2008 General Election, presumably for backtracking on the memorandum, among others. The party only managed to secure 15 of the 40 Parliamentary seats it contested that year. It has been downhill for the party since.

The next few days will be crucial as discussions will be held, compromises made, and a decision will be revealed as to what MCA will do next. The wise MCA leaders could also fall back on any of the eight party pledges – “To serve our party and country with loyalty, to develop a just society”; or “To respect and love our comrades (DAP included, under these circumstances), and to fortify unity.”

Regardless, MCA will need to quickly justify and explain its position to its grassroots leaders and members, and convince them why they should still sing Ma Hua Dang Ge (MCA anthem) with pride.

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