How to lose even more Chinese votes

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The arrest and charging of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng over suspected graft has attracted more than its fair share of commentary from rival politicians, much like carrion attracts vultures.

The case, perhaps the most high profile corruption case in Malaysia since Khir Toyo, has become a cause celebre for parties like MCA and Gerakan because Guan Eng’s party, the DAP, commands a sizeable following amongst the Chinese community, the same community that outright rejected Gerakan and MCA in the past two general elections.

The two BN parties are now concentrating on pouring scorn on DAP for asking the public for donations to pay for the RM1 million bail set by the court. The full amount was collected within 21 hours. While the question of what happens to the money once the bail bond is returned to DAP is extremely pertinent, the attacks that DAP has been subjected to by MCA, Gerakan and some figures in Umno over the donation are plainly spiteful. They do little to convince the public that Guan Eng’s melodramatic arrest was not a political attack.

Whether Guan Eng is dirty or not is something yet to be proven, and while we have had our reservations about the lack of transparency regarding the development of Penang and his often brash style of attack politics, it was absolutely the public’s choice to donate towards his bail. Furthermore, DAP is not the only political organisation in the world to ask for public donations to raise bail. In fact, because it was set at such a high amount, it is likely that some people donated out of pure outrage.

MCA and Gerakan do not win anything when they attack the donation. It makes them seem petty, especially since enough noise has been raised to ensure that DAP couldn’t make that money somehow disappear without any accountability.

It is understandable that MCA and Gerakan would want to take down their biggest political rival, but they must understand that simply attacking adds nothing to their good name, which is already in shambles because the community they are supposed to represent has abandoned them.

With GE14 drawing near, MCA and Gerakan must make their case for continued relevance to their fellow BN component parties and to the voters. This requires them to make firm policy decisions, to act first in defence of the Chinese community, and to remove the impression that they are subservient to Umno.

Fierce attack politics worked for DAP because it is outside the BN system and is seen by its supporters as championing the rakyat’s cause. The establishment cannot adopt the same tactic by virtue of its institutionalised power, and MCA and Gerakan are part of the establishment. They must show that they have the dignity befitting the anointed representatives of one of Malaysia’s major races.

MCA and Gerakan have won themselves few fans in this Guan Eng debacle. If they are to gain any significant momentum going into the next general election, if they expect to win back the support of the Chinese community, they have to reinvent themselves dramatically, and that means doing a lot more than simply attacking DAP.