IPOH, June 25 — MCA may be a candle in the wind after the May 9 general election, but its Perak grassroots leaders insist the wealthy party can still be of service to the country.
Kampar MCA division secretary Daniel Wa told Malay Mail that the party still has members committed to its original goals and "will stick to the party’s vision, especially now as we are the Opposition and we have nothing”.
"In fact, it will be a good time for us to clean up the party from those who wanted to profit from MCA when it was in government. Those kind of people would now be inactive or jump to another party,” he added.
Wa rejects the notion that MCA’s political existence is merely as a vehicle to maintain assets it accrued during its heyday years in the Barisan Nasional (BN), which was the ruling coalition for over 60 years until its shock electoral defeat last month.
A report by Chinese vernacular paper Oriental Daily in 2015 estimated MCA’s assets at RM3 billion, including a 43 per cent stake in The Star Media Group Bhd, which publishes national paper The Star.
The party’s investment arm is known as Huaren Holdings Sdn Bhd and some of its other assets are believed to include Wisma MCA and Menara Multi Purpose in Kuala Lumpur, the latter which was reportedly bought for RM375 million.
MCA is also linked to Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), but Wa asserted that the party did not control the education institute’s management or take money from its funds.
There have been suggestions that the Chinese-based party exit BN, or quit politics altogether, including from other divisional leaders. Its Kluang division chief Gan Ping Sieu was among those who have publicly urged MCA’s top leadership to give it serious consideration.
MCA won only one parliamentary seat, courtesy of its deputy president Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong who retained his Johor constituency of Ayer Hitam for the third term in GE14. Two other party men, Teh Chai Aan and Lee Ah Wong, won in the state constituencies of Titi Tinggi in Perlis and Cheka in Pahang respectively.
The party’s electoral performance has been on a sharp decline over the past 14 years as ethnic Chinese voters drifted towards multiracial parties like DAP and PKR.
In Election 2004, MCA secured 31 parliamentary seats. The number plunged to just 15 in the 12th general election in 2008 and was more than halved again in the subsequent GE to just seven parliamentary and 11 state seats, earning it the sobriquet as the "seven-11 party” by its detractors in the DAP.
Its performance in this past 14th general election represents a new nadir for the party that had been for a short spell in the 1980s run the government when Umno was deregistered.
Perak MCA Youth chief Ting Tai Fook said a mass exodus from the party would not achieve anything.
To Ting, Malaysians have not rejected MCA, but are only against some of its leaders who carried the party logo.
Perak MCA Youth chief Ting Tai Fook said a mass exodus from the party would not achieve anything. — Picture by Marcus Pheong
"I didn’t join MCA to accumulate wealth. I still open my service centre until now and I never regret serving the people,” he told Malay Mail.
"If the party is rotten, we can’t leave and let it be. We must stay and rectify it. If everyone leaves the party, the party will be gone,” he added.
Political observers like UTAR political science lecturer Teh Boon Teck said MCA still has hope if its leaders can prove their sincerity to serve the public and can attract younger members.
"Former MCA treasurer-general Tan Sri Tee Hock Seng estimated that the party’s assets were worth RM 2 billion three years ago, while other reports put it at around RM3 billion.”
"This can be used to support the cause and transform the party instead of shutting it down” Teh said.
"If the current leaders make use of party assets wisely and don’t start a conflict within the party for the assets, there is still a future for MCA,” he said.
He added that MCA must also prove it can stand up to Umno’s dominance.
Like Wa, Teh said the Chinese party’s electoral defeat provides an opportunity for a spring clean.
"MCA’s loss will also be a good chance to get rid of opportunists. Those who stay will be the ones who serve sincerely.
"As the saying goes, ‘when the big waves recede, we know who is swimming naked’,” he said.