A punch-drunk party?

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With only fear-mongering as its ‘weapon’ and a front line that arguably consists of a bunch of self-serving deadweights, it is quite likely that the MCA will remain irrelevant and out of touch with a growing, truly multicultural Malaysia, observes Zaharom Nain.

Ng Yen Yen – Photograph: mca.org.my

If the reports are to believed, after a weekend of coming up with absolutely nothing in terms of policy strategies and directions for the country and incessantly bashing Pas, DAP and hudud instead, the MCA annual general meeting, clearly in need of sustenance, resorted to Malaysia’s favourite pastime, sex.

Or, rather, talking about sex.

Or, even more accurately, talking about other people having sex.

Indeed, leading up to the two-day, weekend meeting, the MCA’s mouthpiece, The Star, chose to relegate whatever build-up there might have been to the inside pages, and stormed ahead with its expose of these two naughty Malaysian souls, Alvin and Vivian.

For three whole days, their photographs – individually or together – were prominently featured on the cover page of the paper. Fully clothed, fortunately.

Together with the voyeurism, there was so much predictable tut-tutting by all and sundry. These ranged from the paper’s ‘agonising’ aunty, to quickly-interviewed shocked and appalled Malaysians, including parents, to even ‘experts’, psychiatrists dispensing their wisdom from kilometres away without the need of their couches. Or the need to talk to these two ‘celebrities’.

And at the MCA weekend retreat, too, their frolicking did not go unnoticed. Both the MCA Youth and Wanita meetings were spiced up with condemnations of the couple’s very-public performances.

And the wholesome twosome simply basked in all that attention they received.

Then, almost abruptly, the coverage stopped.

Of course, this came about at around the same time that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) decided not to approve the airing of a couple of radio interviews with the duo; interviews, surprise, surprise, conducted by two radio stations under The Star Media Group.

Yep, the same group that owns the The People’s Paper.

A bit of a role model

Coincidentally, I’m sure, the coverage also stopped when it was reported (not in The Star) that Amazing Alvin saw the MCA president, Chua Soi Lek, as a bit of a role model.

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He had declared, according to some reports (again not in The Star), that Dr Chua had been quite the inspiration, sexually, for him.

Quite likely, tongue firmly lodged in his cheek, impish Alvin was recalling the exploits of the MCA chief in a hotel room not so long ago that were taped and distributed far and wide.

And, like it or not, that episode, unfortunately for the MCA president and his members, continues to haunt the party in its attempts to rise from the ashes and come back to anywhere near where they were under the departed Tan Cheng Lock and Tan Siew Sin.

It is a party that was clearly decimated in the 2008 tsunami, having only 15 MPs in parliament today.

By any measure, this is an abysmal number, certainly as compared to the 31 MPs that the MCA had in parliament prior to 2008.

And of these, who really is the MCA known for? Who really are the news-makers?

The list, unfortunately, is quite unenviable. And even those being mentioned here are more infamous than they are famous.

Not surprisingly, the ones who have made the news are the ministers and deputy ministers. The first that comes to mind surely must be Tourism Minister Dr Ng Yen Yen.

Yes, Ng Yen Yen of the RM381m Tourism Malaysia advertising contract; the same Yen Yen who sought Australian PR status 17 years ago; the one whose ministry reportedly spent RM1.8m to set up six Facebook pages.

The same Dr Ng, indeed, who has been called the tourist minister by those in the opposition for her quite substantial – and expensive – trips overseas.

Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai, heading a ministry that has traditionally been helmed by an MP from the MCA, has also been in the news a couple of times over the past two years.

Unfortunately for him, they were for the wrong reasons.

The first was in relation to Bersih 2.0, when the police fired tear gas into the compound of Tung Shin Hospital in the middle of KL. Despite eyewitness accounts and recorded footage of the incident from numerous sources, Tiong Lai went on record (and into the history books) as saying that no tear gas had been fired into the hospital compound.

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More recently, of course, he was embroiled in a farcical controversy of having bid RM24000 for a fancy vehicle number plate, WWW15, apparently for his official car. Questions subsequently were raised about where the money came from and why the need for such a fancy number for an official government car.

The president’s son, Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Chua Tee Yong, most recently has burst onto the (media) scene, principally for his Talam exploits.

Indeed, despite being the deputy minister, instead of providing some kind of insight into an agricultural cock-up, as it were, such as the quite massive National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal, he chose to train his sights on the Selangor state government.

Allegations met with derision

His allegations of financial mismanagement as regards the Talam dealings have since been met with derision by economists and politicians from the other side, accusing him of not understanding basic accounting.

While the dust perhaps has not settled on this affair, the fact that it has gone all quiet for a while now suggests that it might all have been a lot of hot air and nothing else. If that turns out to be the case, he might have to sorok muka for a while until the coast is clear. If he isn’t doing so already.

Top of the party’s tree, as it were, although he is not an MP, is the MCA president himself. A survivor whose past continues to dog him; the other thing that Chua Soi Lek is known for is his current, persistent, ongoing attack on hudud.

Despite all the evidence put forth to illustrate that enacting such laws would be well nigh impossible under present circumstances, Soi Lek goes on bashing the opposition, especially the DAP and Pas, using the anti-hudud bat.

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Recently, he made a claim on his video blog (he evidently likes videos) that the implementation of hudud would result in the loss of 1.2m Malaysian jobs.

Was this assertion based on some scientific study conducted by his party?

Not quite. Incredibly, it was based on an anonymous SMS he received earlier in the morning. Making bald assertions based on an anonymous SMS certainly doesn’t reflect well of the leader of an established party with intellectuals and think-tanks at his disposal.

Granted, opposing hudud (which, coincidentally, only MCA appears to believe is a very real eventuality) seems to have become MCA’s battle cry. And, thus far, its only battle cry. But it’s an empty, nonsensical battle cry because it does not argue its case out.

It’s all fear-mongering and nothing else.

With all those monkeys on its back, its inability to stand up to its bigger brother, Umno, its apparent refusal to condemn Umno-linked racist groups like Perkasa, the MCA needs something more substantial to make itself even sound relevant.

Post-2008 Malaysians from all ethnic groups are more concerned these days with how political parties will confront and get rid of very real, troubling issues.

Issues like rampant, blatant corruption by our so-called, indeed shameless, leaders.

Issues such as increasing inequality, not only between races but also, significantly, within ethnic groups; between regions and states, such as between the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak; between the urban population and the rural; between gender groupings.

Issues related to institutionalised discrimination, equal access to social services such as education and, increasingly, in the light of the ongoing failure of our security services, issues of personal safety and security.

Unfortunately, with only fear-mongering as its ‘weapon’ and a front line that arguably consists of a bunch of self-serving deadweights, it is quite likely that the MCA will remain irrelevant and out of touch with a growing, truly multicultural Malaysia.

Zaharom, a long-time Aliran member, is a media academic and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur.

This commentary first appeared in Malaysiakini.

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