Monday, October 20, 2008

A straining relationship between Umno and MCA

By Leslie Lau
Consultant Editor

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 20 — The message from the delegates and members of the MCA was loud and clear.

They want a party leadership which is more vocal, and which can be seen by the public as having the gumption to stand up to Umno on important issues.

In other words, despite the denials of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Umno is perceived to be a bully in the Barisan Nasional and MCA members want a stop to that.

The mood in last weekend’s MCA general assembly was decidedly hostile towards their most significant BN partner.

“I do not know how clear a message Umno wanted that the MCA feels they are a bully. They just deny it as if what we say did not count,” a close associate of Datuk Ong Ka Ting, who completed his term of office over the weekend as party president, told The Malaysian Insider.

During the assembly, Ong had spoken about how the public perceived Umno as being too dominant in the BN coalition.

While there was no call from the floor during the assembly for the MCA to leave the BN coalition, there was a clear consensus among many delegates that the party would go down in the next general election if the current arrangement and relationship with Umno continues without change.

That was perhaps the most significant reason behind some clearly surprising results in the party elections.

While the election of Datuk Ong Tee Keat, known as a vocal political maverick, was not a surprise, Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek caused a major shock in overcoming the hurdle of a sex scandal to win the deputy presidency.

Although both leaders created much animosity with each other during the election campaign, the delegates viewed them both as vocal and outspoken leaders, whom they hoped would stand up to Umno.

But the two men will be hard pressed to deliver on their promises because of Umno’s continued refusal to acknowledge the groundswell of anti-Umno sentiment, especially among the non-Malay communities.

From a platform of reforms and openness, Umno looks likely to become more insular under the likely leadership of Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

This is because of the reverse sentiment among the hardcore in Umno.

There is a growing feeling among Umno that the MCA and other parties like Gerakan have been making enough noises in the period since the March general election.

Umno grassroots now want the party leadership to reassert its dominance and leadership of the BN and the country.

There will be a tendency to be less tolerant of dissent among Umno’s incoming leadership.

Even the idea floated by MCA Youth last week of the BN appointing a deputy chairman from the MCA has not been greeted warmly by Umno.

In light of the situation, a resurgent MCA and an Umno eager to flex its muscles could be headed for a clash.

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