The MCA president believes that Pakatan and its supporters are building castles in the air with regard to their ambition of capturing Putrajaya.
For most, this is an impossible task, but the die-hard supporters remain adamant that the coming 13th general election would sound the death knell for Barisan Nasional.
However, MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek believes that the Anwar Ibrahim-led coalition and its supporters were building castles in the air.
Simply put, he said this was nothing more than a “sweet dream” and was optimistic that BN would fare better this time around.
But on MCA’s performance, the president chose a more cautioned response when asked if he was confident of roping in the votes, especially from the Chinese electorate.
“I wouldn’t say I am confident but I would say it would definitely be better than 308 [last general election],” he told FMT in an exclusive interview.
On critics claiming that MCA had become irrelevant, since the majority of Chinese voters were seen as pro-opposition, Chua trained his crosshairs on a popular target for all MCA leaders, DAP.
Delving into the political history of Malaysia, he argued that DAP had only performed well in the last general election.
“And suddenly everyone says that ‘Oh, DAP is great!’ After 40 over years, they have made a breakthrough, formed a government in Penang and everybody just condemns MCA.
“I say that the voters have the right of choice. If they feel MCA should be condemned to be irrelevant, they have the right to choose so,” he added.
Chua also said he had yet to finalise the party’s candidates list for the coming general election but added that like in previous elections, it would comprise between 30% and 40% of new faces.
“It has always been the tradition in the party to give the younger generation an opportunity,” he added.
Asked if his political nemesis and former party president Ong Tee Keat would be given the green light to defend his Pandan parliamentary seat, he replied: “I always said it openly. Whoever is a winnable candidate should be a candidate.”
Still in their ‘ethnic cocoons’
On the observation that the younger generation was gravitating towards multiethnic as opposed to monoethnic parties like MCA, Chua said the nation was still not prepared for colour-blind politics.
Furthermore, he revealed that both MCA and Umno had carried out separate surveys which proved this point.
“We have done a survey and Umno has done one as well. But we don’t publish those surveys. I have done an online survey, hidden under other names,” he said.
“The irony is that in the beginning, all the youngsters want a multiracial party. But at the end of the ‘leading questions’, all of them go back to their basic animal instincts, everybody talks about race. It is consistent, I have done two surveys.
“When I shared with the PM the results of the surveys, he said, ‘Yes, that’s their [Umno] finding ]as well]. Do not think we never thought about being multiracial. The survey was very clear. At the end of the day, the Malays say that they are comfortable with Umno, they feel that the time is not ready to dismantle everything. It is the same with the Indians and Chinese.
“But at the beginning of the survey, all were very multiracial, what we call ‘intellectual discourse’ about all the goodness of multiracialism. At the end of the day, they turned back into their own ethnic cocoons,” he added.
Reaching out to more Indians
Chua stressed that while MCA was a Chinese-based party, it was however reaching out to all races, adopting a multiracial approach to politics.
The MCA service centre, he pointed out, was open to all races.
And under his watch, the MCA president said, the party had reached out to more Malaysian Indians compared to the previous leadership.
“Since I became the president, I have reached out to the Indians more than any other person has done. If you look at the Tamil press, I appear there reaching out to the Indians more than any other MCA president has done.
“I have given out money to the Indians more than any other MCA president has. I am not trying to be proud or arrogant, but this is to show that we reach out,” he said.
“For our 1MCA medical fund, we have spent RM6.5 million benefiting 1,100 people in the last one year; 25% of them are not Chinese and there are more and more Indians [benefiting].
“My 1MCA education fund, there are a lot of Indian [recipients], my Microcredit for Youth, also a lot of Indian [recipients], [education institutions] Ktar and Unitar, if you go there, you will see a lot of Indian students,” he added.
Quizzed on why urban voters were turning their backs on BN, Chua said Singapore was also facing the same problem despite its government having performed well.
“I think it’s a combination of many factors. People are more educated and more demanding. They don’t want to be just contented with basic rights, they want more,” he added.
However, Chua said these concerns were difficult to tackle in any developing nation.
Below are excerpts from the interview:
So by reaching out to more Indians, is MCA somewhat usurping the role of MIC?
Chua: I wouldn’t say usurped the role, I would say multiracial. But I think people don’t believe that DAP is multiracial. In 40 years, (DAP stalwart) Lim Kit Siang has never stood in a constituency where the Chinese voters are less than 60%. If you are multiracial, why don’t you stand in a multiracial seat? All the 45 seats DAP is going to stand in, are basically very Chinese-dominated seats. And you tell yourself, we are multiracial.
So when I debated with (DAP secretary-general) Lim Guang Eng, I told him (that in terms of) packaging, self-promotion, creating false impressions and spinning, among the 30 over political parties in this country, DAP will win the Oscar hands down.
If you look at all the state chairmen in DAP, none of them are non-Chinese, why? Are you telling me Malays and Indians have no role at the state level? Why is not (Ipoh Barat MP M) Kulasegaran not made a state chairman? Why is Karpal (Singh) not a state chairman?
But Karpal is national chairman… Speaking about Karpal, he recently said that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is still in the shadow of Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the latter is the de facto PM…
No, I don’t think that’s true. We deal with the PM, he calls the shots. You cannot deny the fact that Dr M was here (in power) for 22 years, just like in Singapore, nobody could break away from Lee Kuan Yew. These are all the old warriors who don’t die, they just wither away, it’s a very famous English saying.
But in your opinion, do you think Dr Mahathir holds that kind of influence over Najib?
No, but I think he has a big influence in Umno.
Speaking about Umno, there is still this perception that MCA is forced to bow down to the pressure of the ‘big brother’, that they can never break free…
That (perception) is created by DAP. About Kedah, why is DAP not making noise about not being represented in the monitoring committee? Why is PAS imposing its Islamic values on non-Muslims in Kelantan and Kedah? Why is DAP not making noise? Lim Guan Eng never dealt with this issue when I debated with him and called him a political eunuch. He never bothered to answer it, becaues that’s the truth.
How about MCA’s position with regard to Umno?
The MCA’s position is, every leader has his own style. Those days they may think that by accommodating everybody, then the country would be peaceful. Today, people want a bigger space for dissent. I’m one of those who is more vocal. Since I became president, six police reports have been lodged against me. One is for sedition, another is ‘menghina Islam – contempt of the official religion, I have been called for investigation.
Now we have a prime minister going around promoting the 1Malaysia concept but at the same time we have groups like Perkasa stoking tension…
Of course, in this country, I mean this is a democratic country. If everybody believes in whatever the PM says, then there is no election… PAS has held demonstrations at MCA here. My MCA building has been painted red. I’m not angry. Because that’s what democracy is all about, if you want to criticise people, be prepared to be criticised. So what is so great about Perkasa? Perkasa doesn’t represent the Malays.
Do you think Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali has any influence at all?
I don’t care what Ibrahim Ali says at all. I mean we do what we believe in. I have responded to that so many times. Is he the prime minister? Why are people so enchanted with Perkasa? Because everybody is so enchanted, that’s why they are still alive.
I dont think it’s echantment, but rather the perception that Perkasa enjoys a certain degree of immunity and is seen as an extension of Umno – to say what Umno is unable to say.
No. I think, in the same way you look at Bersih, why should it involve opposition leaders? Why are they given the space to speak, why? Don’t you think it’s been hijacked? Same thing. So I won’t be very excited about all these. This is what we called heightened politicking, intense politicking before the general election.
But isn’t hijacking part of a political strategy – to hijack a popular platform to bring your message across?
Ya, that’s why I say, I’m not excited about it.
I think BN had the same opportunity (with regard to Bersih) but missed it.
Why should they be so excited about Perkasa when they are a small number?
You were saying how DAP is great at spinning..
Let me give you a great example: whenever DAP holds a dinner function, they would put a tin there to collect money from the public. DAP has been in the political arena for 40 years, and now they are a half-governing party; in Chinese we say it, they even have a state and CM, which we don’t even have. They collect so much money, RM300,000 and RM500,000… But I want to ask where does all the money go to?
The question is accountability – CAT (Competency, Accountability and Transparency). Why have I never seen in my political career, a DAP leader giving money to Chinese schools, independent schools, helping the poor, medical funds? Four years, they have been in power, (but) they have not even built a kindergarten of their own, and they condemn MCA.
We collect all our money, we funnel it to Ktar, Utar… if you walk around the country, half the accountants in the country are trained by MCA, irrespective of race. When we collect money, we give medical funds. We are continuing to help people. Why is DAP not doing all this? What is so great about collecting all this money and doing nothing? Using all that money to ensure more of your people will become YB and topple the government? Is that what democracy is all about? Then thank you Malaysians, good luck to all Malaysians.
In your opinion is the prime minister on the right track?
I think the PM has endeavoured to do his best; to be very fair, he is a hardworking prime minister, he tries to reach out to every community, and the Economic Transformation Programme is actually bearing results, it is not just a political slogan. A very good example right now: when a lot of other countries are suffering from economic recession and unemployment, we are still faced with shortage of labour, and the first quarter has just reported 4.7% growth. The Americans cannot even register 1% (growth). The European nations, all developed nations, they always wanted to teach us how to run our country; today they are in the negative. (In) some of the EU nations, youth unemployment is between 25% and 50%, can you imagine it? And once upon a time, these are the people who lectured us saying we must follow them. So if you look at things in the proper perspective, then it is not so bad.
As for his move to repeal the ISA and amend the Printing Act…
I think he has created more space for public dissent and discussion, there is no doubt about it. And no leaders in the world would actually want to remove their own power and Najib would go down in history as one of those (who did it). Whether you like it or not, that’s the truth. No leader wants to remove the power to detain people without trial, it’s so nice. Even the Americans and British also practise it but here in Malaysia we removed it.