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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Democracy At Last with MCA Elections!

DEMOCRACY AT WORK IN MCA AT LAST!

Exchanges with Din Merican

Dear Bakri:

At last I have something good to write about our country!

Last week, Dato Chua Jui Meng, known among his close friends and associates here as Jimmy, surprised local political pundits by announcing that he would challenge the incumbent President, Dato Seri Ong Kah Teng, Minister of Housing and Local Government, in the August 2005 MCA Party Elections. As you remember, Ong was appointed to lead the party by the outgoing president, Tun Ling Leong Sik. There was no party election at that time; this was all part of a deal brokered by former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir. The arrangement also included the appointment of Dato Seri Chan Kong Choy as the Deputy President, to satisfy the followers of the incumbent Deputy President Tan Sri Lim Ah Lek, another important faction within the party.

Chan was part of the then so-called Team B during the Presidency of Tun Ling. Chan is now part of Ong’s team. I understand that there was an attempt to ask Chua to stand for the No.2 post with assurances that he would win against Chan. It is indeed astute on Chua’s part not to take the bait. He chose instead to go for broke by challenging the top position in the interest of MCA and its members. I congratulate him for this very bold move, and wish both him and Ong well in a clean and decisive contest for the party’s top leadership.

Democracy has at last come to MCA! It is setting the example for other component parties within Barisan Nasional, in particular UMNO, to emulate. I hope that the forthcoming MCA elections will be transparent, without “phantom voters.” If the elections were fair, then I believe the outcome is too close to call at this time.

The reason? Chua issued his manifesto on July 7, 2005 titled, “New Politics – New Vision – New MCA.” This is interesting in the sense that it has never done before in MCA, if my memory is correct. Again, I praise him for sharing his vision for MCA with the party members and the Malaysian public. The world at large can now read and ponder over his views as the manifesto is posted on his website www.chuajuimeng.com.

Chua appeals to the party’s central delegates to use this opportunity to “determine the type of leadership and direction” MCA needs in the 21st Century. A party manifesto is essentially a road map. It enables a candidate to share his vision and future plans on such issues as politics, economics, education and culture. Without the manifesto, the membership cannot judge and hold its President accountable for his promises. The party would be like a boat floating on the wide ocean without any sense of direction or knowledge of where it is heading. Chua realizes the value of his manifesto as the pillar of MCA in the years to come.

Yet it is amazing to note that reaction of the incumbent President Ong to Chua’s innovation was to simply state that he (Ong) does not issue any manifesto. He is implying that members can understand his thoughts and program by reading his mind! He is asking them to put their blind trust in his leadership. That is feudalism incarnate! There is no way to measure a leader’s performance if he or she is not open and transparent. Already many in the grassroots, though not with the central delegates, are asking what Ong has achieved for the party since taking over from Tun Ling Leong Sik.

Chua’s manifesto seeks to “set new directions for our community within the wider aspirations and goals of Vision 2020, a vision for a developed Malaysian nation....” His political agenda is to build a strong MCA that can contribute in a more meaningful and positive way to the continued victory of Barisan Nasional in future elections. MCA must be strong with core values founded on love of and care for the Chinese community as well as fairness, justice, integrity, discipline, courage in their convictions, and tolerance for differences in opinions. We can assume that Chua means a more democratic party with leaders who are clean, committed and capable. MCA has to earn the respect of the Chinese community. The people’s welfare is intertwined with that of the party. MCA seeks to represent the Chinese community. As I see it, a strong and confident MCA is an asset to the Barisan Nasional coalition. It is after all a partnership of equals, led by UMNO. Part of Chua’s strategy is to build a strong party by involving and engaging the increasingly educated young as well as tapping the wisdom and experience of the party elders.

Chua’s economic agenda starts with a statement that “Economics is without a doubt one of the areas closest to the heart of the Malaysian Chinese.” It is rightly so, as it is the engine that drives every other sphere in society. I expect to see many concrete programs with Chua’s presidency of the MCA. He promised a Master Plan within his first year, to be formulated by the community, NGOs, and the best and brightest minds within the country and abroad.

Chua’s education and culture agendas are also interesting. He is committed to excellence in education. He wants it to produce minds that can explore, adapt and be creative as well as “to continually learn and grow in a dynamic global environment of continuous and rapid change.” Chua’s aspirations are consistent with Vision 2020 and existing national policies and programs. In this sense, he is not advocating something new. Instead, he brings his community’s hopes and aspirations into sharper focus. He based his cultural agenda on the need to strengthen the Chinese identity. A community that is proud of its history, heritage and tradition is vital for a strong and developed nation.

Chua’s manifesto reflects the concerns and wishes of the Chinese community. The nation should seek to accommodate them within our national programs. The time has come for the rest of the country to recognize and appreciate the contributions and sacrifices of the Chinese community in Malaysia’s development since independence.

The next President of MCA must be able to have the full support of his community so that he can represent their views and concerns in the national dialogue to build a united Malaysian community. This will require suaveness, patience, diplomacy and strategic compromise. We should leave the MCA body politic to make its choices between the incumbent president with no expressed strategy and his challenger who has presented a manifesto that is all embracing and comprehensive.

By ensuring that its forthcoming party election in August 2005 will be clean and transparent, and by offering its members clear viable choices for the leadership position, MCA will be leading our country into a new era of democratic party contestations where the best man can win. That could only be good for our country.

Sallam,

Din Merican

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