KUALA LUMPUR: MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik submitted an undated resignation letter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Aug 15 last year, but his offer to quit has not been accepted so far.
At the Barisan Nasional council meeting yesterday, sources said, Dr Mahathir revealed that he received the letter “some time ago” after advising MCA leaders to stop their quarrels.
The Prime Minister also stressed that he wanted to see a united MCA, the sources said.
The party had been mired in a 14-month crisis due to fighting for party and government posts until Dr Mahathir stepped in with a peace plan in April last year.
The plan provided for party elections without contest to mend the rift and help MCA get ready for the next general election, which is to be held by 2004.
Speaking to the press after attending the Barisan meeting, Dr Ling said he first submitted a letter to resign from his Transport Minister’s post in May 2000.
But it was not approved following overwhelming support from the party and Chinese community for him to stay on.
Dr Ling, 59, has held the post of MCA president and Transport Minister since 1986.
Speculation on Dr Ling’s position in the Government and party continued despite the peace plan, the latest being on Monday when deputy president Datuk Seri Lim Ah Lek said he would challenge Dr Ling for the presidency at the next party elections in 2005 if Dr Ling was still the president.
Dr Ling said yesterday he had to give the background on his intention to resign again since the Prime Minister had revealed the undated letter during the Barisan meeting.
“As you know, I have already submitted a letter of resignation (from the Transport Minister’s post) to the Prime Minister in May 2000.
“But then, I was retained by the MCA. The Prime Minister said it is okay for him since 'they all (MCA) wanted you to stay.'
“And we were talking (on this subject again) and I told the Prime Minister that I am still ready to leave. He asked me when and I told the Prime Minister ‘anytime after the official launch of Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar)’ which took place on Aug 13 last year.
Dr Ling said that on Aug 15, he submitted his letter and told Dr Mahathir that he was very grateful for having been able to serve in the Cabinet for so long.
“I am really very grateful to the Barisan, to the PM, to the country. It is only with gratitude that when the time comes to leave, I will be very happy to go.”
It is understood that Dr Ling’s undated resignation letter came up during the council meeting after Dr Mahathir told coalition leaders, including the MCA, not to squabble.
The Government approved the setting up of Utar in July 2001 and it took in the first batch of students in June last year, making it a 32-year-old dream come true for the MCA.
“With Utar, I think I have completed a very large part, if not all, of my agenda. I don’t think I can do much more. So, as long as I am around, I’ll do everything I can,” Dr Ling said, adding that it would take another 10 years before Utar would be completed.
Asked whether it was the right time to resign as the party had hardly started to recover from its crisis, Dr Ling said there was no such thing as perfect timing.
Asked on the party succession – if and when he steps down – Dr Ling said: “This is the party’s internal problem. We will discuss within the party.”
Dr Ling said his undated resignation letter was only on the ministerial post, adding that the party post would be decided within the party.
“The Prime Minister revealed it (the letter) today. So I explain to you the background. I will bring it up at the party’s central committee meeting next Wednesday.”
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