D-Day for MCA when it heads into its EGM on Oct10 in the fervent hope of ending a crisis that has ripped apart the party and stymied reform efforts after being trounced in the last GE. Five motions are up for voting, but the ones that will have the biggest implications on the party are the no-confidence motion against DS Ong Tee Keat's leadership and the motion to reinstate DS Dr Chua Soi Lek to his post.
Friction between party president OTK and his former deputy CSL is the main source of the tension that has stupefied party members post-GE, and a resolution of the animosity is imperative if the party is to move forward. The task weighs heavily on the 2,377 central delegates, who are aware of the wider implication for the party as the second largest component of BN. MCA members ought to think of the party's symbiotic relationship to Umno.
If the party can't stand up to Umno, then it can't win Chinese votes. If it can stand up to Umno, then it might weaken BN itself. So the party is in a dilemma caused by the BN influence shrinking.
What delegates would do well to remember at this point is what is good for the country, and what kind of future they imagine the country should have, and that members should think long term and be firm on a secular and multiracial country.
CSL has always been seen as having a good relationship with Umno while OTK's was said to be not as warm. Questions have arisen whether CSL's close relations with Umno would result in him and MCA being more accommodating, perpetuating an ineffective coalition as if MCA is oblivious to the reasons the Chinese community abandoned the party at last year's GE. But between the two of them, it’s not an easy choice.
CSL will always have his sex scandal hanging over him, although it’s no longer sensational. The manner in which he was booted out, however, has not gone down well with some grassroot members. To have been voted in as deputy president about 10 months after the scandal is a signal that some in the party are willing to overlook his indiscretion.
On the other hand, OTK has been hailed as a hero for his pursuit of the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal. But he also has the allegations of receiving a RM10mil donation from the chief executive of the turnkey contractor for PKFZ hanging over him. Granted that he had sued Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd CEO DS Tiong King Sing on the allegations, the matter will cast a pall over him until it is cleared in court.
A vote for CSL could be a signal that delegates want a change of leadership but without knowing how to go about it, but at least they express dissatisfaction, and that is a start. Most Malaysians condemn monetary corruption much more than they do sex trysts with a mistress. But one could not say a leader is sympathetic to reforms and not the other, because things are not that simple.
However, CSL's sex scandal should not be discounted totally as a liability, as adultery is still a morality issue for many. It would also become more interesting, post-EGM, when the party would have to strengthen under one leader and that is why OTK is willing to gamble. If he wins, then he has to strengthen the support.
MCA's history has shown that the party always becomes stronger after each crisis, as seen of the Neo Yee Pan-Tan Koon Swan saga in the 1980s and the succession plan deal between Ling Liong Sik and Lim Ah Lek in the early 2000s.
But still, it is best to remove both OTK and CSL and bring in a new president. No one knows if the factions can accept each other if OTK or CSL is president. The best way is to get a third person to unite the party.
After the 1980s crisis, LLS took over the party mantle while a succession plan was struck in the LLS-LAL crisis, which saw both their protégés - DS Ong Ka Ting and TS Chan Kong Choy - taking over the party leadership.
The names that have been whispered around are that of vice-presidents DS Liow Tiong Lai and DS Ng Yen Yen. However, both may not be the best candidates, as LTL is still considered ‘green’ in leadership terms while with a woman at the helm, it may not go down well with the male-dominated MCA .
When the delegates cast their votes at the EGM comes Oct10, they must realise that MCA (the second-largest component party in BN and the largest Chinese party in the world outside of China) is fighting for its’ own survival and not just the political survival of two strong-headed warring personalities.
All said and done, MCA, which has been losing the Chinese votes, is unlikely to recover from the blows it received at the March 2008 GE and thereafter in time for the next GE. Another onslaught would spell the demise of the party. The central delegates must think hard on how to get the 60-year-old party back on track, to put party before self, before MCA is reduced to a footnote in history, come rain or shine! CIAO!