Run-Up to GE14: Will MCA benefit from DAP’s attacks?

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on April 23, 2018 - April 29, 2018.

Yes, we are out to get them, but not only MCA. Basically, we are out to get the whole of Barisan Nasional. That is the nature of rivalry in politics if we want to win power. That doesn’t refer to MCA alone, but other parties as well.” — Teo

If we want to play the sympathy [card], first of all, who gave us the opportunity — assuming your allegation is true?” — Wee

Ng says the jiaomie issue is irrelevant to her

I’ve been following the news and I don’t like this kind of talk. But I also don’t think MCA has done enough, given its long history, especially for Chinese education” — Wong

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IN the past two months, some MCA-controlled newspapers have published several articles highlighting that DAP has proclaimed it is on a mission to “annihilate” MCA in the 14th general election (GE14), and what it will mean for Chinese voters in a political reality without the Malaysian Chinese party.

The reports were based on what is now regarded as a controversial statement by Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching on Jan 30, in particular, the term jiaomie — meaning annihilate — which she used in the first two paragraphs. For the record, Teo, who is also DAP international affairs secretary, had said: “Many people have asked, with DAP being so aggressive recently, is it planning to jiaomie MCA?

“DAP, with the determination that it must succeed or die trying in this election, will put in its best efforts, together with the Pakatan Harapan coalition, to win enough seats so that it can form a new government, implement a new administration, and bring new hope to the people. That is the ultimate goal of DAP in the upcoming general election. To jiaomie the component parties that support Umno, including MCA, is but part of completing this historic mission.”

Contacted by phone, Teo, who sounded rather put out on being asked to clarify the issue yet again, said, “Yes, we are out to get them, but not only MCA. Basically, we are out to get the whole of Barisan Nasional (BN). That is the nature of rivalry in politics if we want to win power. That doesn’t refer to MCA alone, but other parties as well. And we are not the only party who will take on MCA.”

Are voters still asking her about it? “I think it [still] happens lah, otherwise you won’t call me as well,” she acknowledged. But she said the issue had been spun and used against DAP. “[From the same article] the headlines used by Sin Chew and Malaysiakini were totally different. Some people used it to their advantage to suit their needs and agenda.”

On the impact of her statement, she said, “If they [Chinese voters] want to believe the headline used by Sin Chew, then they would say the words used were too harsh. But my intention in writing that article was not to say DAP would go all out to get MCA, which I have also stated on Facebook. I have nothing more to add to the issue.”

MCA and Gerakan leaders have slammed DAP and Teo for the statement, calling it the height of arrogance. They said if MCA and Gerakan are eliminated, that would spell the end of Chinese representation in parliament, which they believe would be detrimental to the community.

In what seems to be damage control, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang issued a statement last Wednesday to give “full assurance to MCA and Gerakan that DAP [has] no intention whatsoever to eliminate MCA and Gerakan” when he announced the DAP candidate for Labis.

“The placement of DAP candidates in Ayer Hitam, Teluk Intan and Labis is not because DAP intends to eliminate MCA and Gerakan, as DAP is fully aware that we are incapable of performing this feat, apart from the fact that it is never the intention or objective of DAP to eliminate MCA, Gerakan or any political party in the country,” he said.

Ayer Hitam is the home ground of MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong while Teluk Intan is being defended by Gerakan chief Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong. The incumbent in Labis is Datuk Chua Tee Yong, one of the four MCA vice-presidents.

Placing candidates in these three areas and other constituencies is prompted by one imperative — to help Pakatan Harapan win at least 120 parliamentary seats in GE14 and end the uninterrupted Umno/BN rule in the country, Lim added.

The very next day, he issued another statement to stress that no party can eliminate MCA and Gerakan for “political parties can only commit suicide or self-destruct from their own betrayal of their founding principles”.

“MCA and Gerakan leaders [who are] baby-crying that the DAP wants to ‘eliminate’ them is an index of how inconsequential, irrelevant and marginalised both political parties have been reduced to from their great days in the past,” Lim said.

 

‘When people want to kill you, what will you do?’

When Wee was asked if the party was playing up the jiaomie issue to gain sympathy votes, he responded, “If we want to play the sympathy [card], first of all, who gave us the opportunity — assuming your allegation is true? It all started with the statement by Teo Nie Ching. When people want to kill you, what will you do? You have to go for survival. You have to go talk to the Chinese community. ‘Come on man, this party has been there for so many years, don’t tell me it hasn’t done anything. For education alone, we’ve formed two universities, we raised funds for them and gave them money to run, and they have produced many graduates. No other party in Malaysia can do that. Don’t you think there’s some value to this party?’ These are the things we tell the people. You may not be happy with MCA, but MCA is not a party that has not done anything.

“If you’re overly optimistic, think Pakatan Harapan can take over, and you put all your eggs in one basket — what if you can’t ubah? Then you have no representation for the next five years in the government. That is very bad. Five years ya, my friend.”

MCA information chief Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker thinks many Chinese have realised that killing off MCA would be of no benefit to them. “People are starting to think what can DAP do better than MCA, and many are realising that even with nearly 40 MPs, DAP has done much less than what MCA has done.”

Political analyst Azmi Hassan believes this “brazen” DAP strategy may turn off Chinese voters, “especially the older ones who are used to seeing MCA take care of their needs”.

Hence, he reckons MCA may end up benefiting from this DAP offensive. That, coupled with a stronger Umno election machinery, may help rejuvenate instead of obliterate MCA in the general election. “I don’t foresee MCA faring worse than GE13 [this time]... Since 2013, there seems to be an upward surge in Chinese support for MCA, if results from the Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar by-elections are taken as cues.”

In the 13th general election, MCA won only seven parliamentary seats, compared with 15 in GE12.

 

Some uneasiness yes, but...

Certainly one Chinese voter, a 75-year-old grandmother of five, thinks the words Teo used were “a little overboard”. “There is no need to say such things. DAP won’t succeed in killing off MCA anyway. MCA is too big lah, with many members. I know many aunties who are their members too. I think this is just empty talk lah, election talk mah,” said Tham Yee Wan, who hails from Cheras.

Having said that, she confessed — rather conspiratorially — that she voted for the opposition in the previous election and was hesitant when asked if she would be moved to vote for MCA this round. “I don’t think MCA will need to count on little old me to survive,” she quipped.

First-time voter Wong Jun Sheng, 25, also didn’t like what he terms as “pitching Chinese against Chinese”, from what he understood of DAP’s mission.

“I’ve been following the news and I don’t like this kind of talk. But I also don’t think MCA has done enough, given its long history, especially for Chinese education. Talk of helping UEC gain federal government recognition — it’s not new and we have yet to see anything coming out of it,” he said, referring to the Unified Examination Certificate, a standardised test for Chinese independent high school students.

Another first-time voter, 27-year-old chiropractor Cheryl Ng, said she was not aware of the jiaomie mission. When told about it, she dismissed the issue, saying it — as well as MCA — was irrelevant to her. “Isn’t MCA dying anyway?” she asked, and revealed that many of her friends who were “MCA kaki” have abandoned the party. Asked if she would consider voting for MCA if it faces obliteration, her reply via WhatsApp was: “Nope. Haha!”

While the issue may evoke some sympathy among the older generation who are used to having MCA around, Prof Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia thinks it is unlikely to influence younger folk. “It depends on MCA, [on] whether it can convince how important is the presence of the party in the Cabinet. As for now, it’s difficult to see that this strategy will backfire on DAP,” he said in a text message.

Ti, however, believes conventional support from the older generation and communal associations is returning to MCA. “The more critical professionals who are open-minded and not politically or emotionally aligned [to the opposition] are coming back too because they can see MCA’s relevance in the BN government as a moderating role from within.”

“But will the return of Chinese votes be enough to cover for the loss of Malay votes — that is the question,” Ti said, referring to some Malays who may see MCA as an obstacle in their hope of a bigger Islamic influence in the governance of the country.