The MCA has made several outstanding achievements over the past decade under party president Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik. However, since three years ago, it has been beset with internal squabbles. In the second part of the interview conducted with The Star's Foong Pek Yee, Dr Ling gives his diagnosis of the situation.
Q. What is the root cause of the problems in the MCA today?
A. MCA did very well until end of 1999. Problems began to surface soon after the general election in December that year over the distribution of ministerial posts.
The MCA has four ministerial posts. There were two “vacancies” for the three vice-presidents then. (The other two went to Dr Ling and vice-president Datuk Chua Jui Meng).
Somehow one vice-president will not get it (the ministerial post) and there will always be discontentment as a result of that.
I had to fall back on the results of the party elections.
Of the four vice-presidents, Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn got the highest votes, followed by Chua, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting and Datuk Chan Kong Choy.
The other two ministerial posts were formerly held by deputy president Datuk Seri Lim Ah Lek (then Human Resources Minister), who did not defend his Bentong seat, and Gopeng MP and party secretary-general Datuk Seri Dr Ting Chew Peh (then Housing and Local Government Minister).
Ah Lek's post was taken over by Dr Fong and Dr Ting's by Ka Ting while Kong Choy remains a deputy minister.
Q. Has the unhappiness triggered other problems?
A. Of course. These include the emergence of Team A (led by Dr Ling and which has 31 central committee members) and Team B (with nine central committee members including Chan and led by Lim).
Problems and new challenges will continue to surface but I am glad the whole community is with us.
Q. Have the problems fizzled off by now?
A. Generally our members do not want unruliness in the party. Since the new disciplinary board, comprising five very experienced and wise party veterans, took over last August, there is a marked difference in behaviour within the party. People are now more aware that there is this board which will act, if necessary, in the interest of the entire party.
Q. Do you have any retirement plan after some 16 years at the party helm?
A. I may just wake up one day and feel I have completed my agenda.
Q. There have been speculations and rumours on your retirement as party president – are you aware of these?
A. Yes. I just ignore them.
People will eventually find out that not everything is true. Interest on such rumours or speculations is waning as everybody is getting tired of them.
Q. But can such rumours or speculations undermine support for you?
A. I don't think people bother about such rumours or speculations. They kept hearing the same thing which never came true.
Q. Is there still Team A and Team B in the party?
A. In any organisation, there are always different factions.
Q. Is the MCA leadership united now?
A. There is bound to be factionalism. What is important is our ability to hold on to what we have been successfully doing. During our party meetings, there is always 80% of us coming to a consensus. Our decisions are always positive, constructive and forward-looking.
Q. What does it take to make the MCA strong and are there signs of these factors?
A. Leadership and ground support. The ground (grassroots members and the Chinese community) must be very clear in their minds as to what they want the party to do and their stand on issues – and we can make decisions with their support.
The ground is also increasingly tired of squabbles in the party.
Q. What is your main agenda for the new year?
A. Building Utar into a world-renowned university. It will provide Malaysians another choice in high quality education and enable us to contribute towards making the nation a centre for educational excellence. We are on the right and fast track and the ground-breaking ceremony for Utar campus in Kampar, to be officiated by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, will mark yet another milestone in our achievement. Utar, which received the Government's approval in July 2001, opened its doors with about 700 students six months ago.
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