A NEW MCAline-up has been formed with Datuk Ong Tee Keat as president and Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek as his deputy.
Along with them are four first-time vice-presidents: Datuk Kong Cho Ha, Datuk Liow Tiong Lai, Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen and Datuk Tan Kok Hong.
When the celebrations are over, their task will begin and it certainly won’t be an easy one with the massive changes in the country’s political landscape.
As his parting shot, outgoing party president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting did not mince his words. He devoted almost his entire speech to express how resentful the people were of the Government.
He said Malaysians had negative perception of Barisan Nasional and were angry with the arrogance of racist politicians, the increasing crime rate and unfair treatment by government agencies towards non-Malays.
It would not be wrong to regard it as the pent-up frustrations of a political leader whose party had suffered massively in the polls.
There was more from Ka Ting: he also said the people’s perception was that Barisan had yet to carry out any reform and that Barisan must change before it was changed.
This is where the Herculean task begins for the new line-up who have campaigned with the pledge to be bold in speaking up for Malaysians, not just the Chinese community.
Obviously, from the thrashing that the MCA has been receiving at the hands of the Pakatan Rakyat, it is not good enough resolving issues within the confines of the Cabinet meeting and the so-called proper channels.
No doubt the expectations of Malaysians are high but the fundamental concern for the new line-up must be how they can be effective in government.
It is one thing to speak up openly but quite another to resolve the grievances, or at least some of them, before the next general election. It would be a tough one. We recognise the frustrations but the question is: Can you solve them or at least some of them?
Announcing relocation of Chinese schools, raising funds for Chinese schools and Datuk Michael Chong helping the people don’t seem to be enough any more. The people see these as the duties of a political party now, that’s all.
Unlike Gerakan, where some of its leaders mulled about leaving the Barisan, the MCA has consistently stuck to the decision to stay firmly with the coalition.
Still, it is no secret that within the MCA, there is frustration at Umno for its refusal to acknowledge the need to carry out serious reforms.
Despite open unhappiness at the arrogance of some Umno leaders, the MCA also realises the reality of this country is that the Chinese must work with the Malays and Indians, and vice-versa.
The choice is Umno or PAS’ Islamic State objective. PKR has remained largely a personality-driven party based on the popularity of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
If Anwar isn’t there, leadership of the Pakatan Rakyat, which would certainly be Malay for all purposes and intentions, could be from PAS.
Early this year we saw how some PAS leaders flirted with the idea of working with Umno because of their uneasiness with Anwar and the liberal policies of PKR, displaying their discomfort with the many non-Malay leaders in PKR.
But PAS spiritual leader Datuk Seri Nik Aziz Nik Mat put a stop to the attempt and those involved in the plan are now keeping a low profile.
MCA has chosen to stick with Umno not only because of their historic ties but also because the MCA is not a fair-weather partner. They have gone through the high and low points in the country’s 51 years of history together.
Facing up to reality
The point is this €“ as a loyal partner of Umno, the MCA has every right to bring up its grievances because it is a time-tested relationship.
It was easier when the Alliance was just Umno, MCA and MIC but now the Barisan has 13 component parties.
Yes, party leaders meet at Cabinet meetings but how well do Barisan leaders know each other at the personal level like our founding fathers did?
The time has come for Barisan to form a Barisan presidential council that meets every month and not just at the supreme council level.
The new Umno and MCA leaders must realise they can bring freshness to Barisan but this could well be their last chance.
They cannot put their head, like ostriches, in the sand: the risk of losing to Pakatan in the next election is very real.
Umno can choose to regard the March 8 election result as a fluke and continue playing the communal heroes or take the calls, if not cries, for quick reforms from the MCA seriously, and sincerely too.
It is human nature €“ but more so among politicians €“ to only want to hear praises and not the bad news. But the fact is that among large sections of Malaysians, Umno is not just unpopular, it is resented.