His hatred of the Pandan MP must have been so intense that it has affected his judgment.
MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek raised more than a few eyebrows recently when he announced that the party had chosen Gary Lim as the party’s election candidate for the Pandan parliamentary constituency in place of incumbent Ong Tee Keat, who has proven his winnability through five consecutive elections.
Within days, he was exposed as having told a lie. MCA’s Pandan division denied that it had chosen a candidate.
In making his ill-considered announcement, Chua offered possible reasons for the division’s rejection of Ong, which now sound like he had spun them out of his imagination.
In the two days between his announcement and the Pandan division’s “clarification” of it, one could almost hear glasses clinking and yells of “yam seng” as the opposition camp celebrated its certain victory in the constituency against an unknown candidate.
After all, Ong was one of the survivors of the 2008 political tsunami that halved MCA’s representation in Parliament.
He would have been a formidable candidate even against the highly visible and popular Rafizi Ramli, the likely Pakatan Rakyat candidate for Pandan.
We can now assume that that Chua was so consumed by his hatred of Ong that he has allowed it to poison his mind, making it unable to differentiate between reality and fantasy.
It should not surprise anyone that his indiscretion has dismayed insiders in MCA as well as other parties in Barisan Nasional. It came barely a week after he had issued a stern reminder to party leaders to keep secret the names of candidates the party had nominated.
Party members are also disappointed that their president has chosen to draw attention to his long-standing feud with Ong even as they were rejoicing over news pointing to a DAP-PKR quarrel in Johor.
In a reaction, Ong has been telling his friends that Chua’s latest gaffe did not surprise him. He said the president had been trying, for more than a year, to put an end to his political career.
If Chua’s intention was to demoralise him and his supporters by making the false announcement before the end of the 15-day Chinese New Year celebration, Ong added, then he was mistaken.
“Probably, he is thinking of himself as a Cao Cao battling a Zhuger Liang,” said the former party chief.
Cao Cao was emperor of the Wei Kingdom and a central figure in the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”. Legend has it that he was at the same time an excellent political strategist and a merciless tyrant. Liang was great as both a military strategist and a statesman.
There is another Ong in the picture – Eric, who despite being chairman of Pandan MCA, was absent from Friday’s executive council meeting to affirm that the division had yet to nominate a candidate.
Sources said Chua had managed to drive a wedge between the divisional chief and the MP.
According to Confucius, those furthering a vendetta should first dig two graves. An MCA insider wisecracked that in Chua’s case, one grave is for himself and the other is for the party. “He will be dragging himself and MCA down into hell in the 13th GE.”
Indeed, Chua has made a public announcement that he would step down as party president if MCA were to perform badly again at the polls.
Party members are bound to hold him to that promise. Dissatisfaction with his leadership has spread to the grassroots.
Critics allege he has failed to introduce structural reforms to strengthen the party, a promise he made when campaigning for the presidency in 2010.
Some accuse him of blatant hypocrisy in promoting the political career of his son, Tee Yong. They note that during the presidential race, he accused one of rivals, Ong Ka Ting, of nepotism in grooming his brother, Ka Chuan, for leadership.
Many observers, including party insiders, say there is no doubt that Chua has failed to fulfil his pledge to restore Chinese support to his party.
Neither is there any doubt that he has managed to make new internal enemies since taking over the party’s leadership.
Whether or not he will survive as a politician is still the subject of conjecture, but one thing is for sure – many are waiting in line for the sweet taste of revenge.
Stanley Koh is a former head of MCA’s research unit. He is a FMT columnist.