KUALA LUMPUR: MCA had not only overcome many major hurdles under the leadership of Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik since 1986 but emerged stronger by the day, said party president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting.
Dr Ling, however, humbly attributed the party’s stability and performance during his 17-year tenure as president to the untiring support from leaders and members who, with one voice and one vision, helped to roll out nation-building projects for the people.
“The party is a far cry from when I first took over in 1986,” he said at a ceremony themed “A toast to 17 glorious years,” organised by the party to pay tribute to him for his contributions to the party, community and nation.
Ong, who took over as president on May 23, pointed out that MCA, under Dr Ling’s wise and resolute leadership, had overcome seemingly insurmountable crises.
“Dr Ling emerged during the party’s darkest hours. The party was plagued by problems which included half a million depositors facing the risk of losing their hard-earned money in the party’s co-operative.
“We were also about to lose Wisma MCA where our headquarters is housed,” he said.
“Today, we are here to pay tribute to a great leader, our honorary life president,” Ong said as he gave a broad outline of Dr Ling’s achievements in his speech at the ceremony.
Ong, 47, is probably the best person to do this as he was Dr Ling’s press secretary for 10 months in 1986 and then his political secretary before contesting and winning the Pontian parliamentary seat in the 1990 general elections.
“We (MCA) have triumphed and we have grown from strength to strength,” he said before revealing some of his private moments with his boss and mentor of nearly two decades.
Ong, who was only 31 then, turned the clock back to 1987 and the height of the co-operative crisis where the party was under tremendous pressure from depositors.
He was very troubled by the situation as those involved were average income earners and could not hide his feelings from Dr Ling, who proceeded to give him some good advice instead.
“He said: ‘Young man, don’t get worried so fast. Learn how to enjoy problems’,” Ong recalled, adding that Dr Ling’s resilience and dynamism were among the qualities of a great leader and this was reflected in the party during his tenure.
Ong said Dr Ling had nevertheless had confided in him about his sleepless nights at the height of the party’s co-operative problems.
“Dr Ling said when he closed his eyes, he saw depositors crying and pleading with him for help to get back their hard-earned money which was meant for their children’s education and their old age. The scenes kept playing on his mind,” he revealed.
The party, which was in deep financial trouble, was about to lose Wisma MCA where its headquarters is located.
Ong said Dr Ling in his determination to steer the party out of the doldrums and for the sake of the depositors, had embarked on a nationwide fund-raising and life membership drive.
The problems were resolved at the threshold of the 1990s, and MCA under Dr Ling’s leadership rolled out mammoth educations projects – the Langkawi Project to help needy children achieve educational excellence, its Centre for Early Childhood Education to enhance the qualify of pre-school education, fund-raising for Chinese independent schools, expansion of Tunku Abdul Rahman College to include five branch campuses to date and Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman.
Ong said the party’s sterling performance was reflected in the tremendous support from the Chinese community, which returned MCA to two big victories in the general election in 1995 and 1999.
He said Dr Ling was always courteous, calm, restrained, patient and positive under any circumstances, adding that this had a profound impact him and was something for him to learn and emulate in future.
The privilege of getting his guidance and words of wisdom was unforgettable, he said, giving the over 3,000 members present a few other glimpses of the good old days.
Addressing Dr Ling, he recalled: “Sir, you told me many times that God is great.
“To do things right and proper and God will decide on the results.”
He said party leaders and members were humbled by Dr Ling’s long list of momentous achievements.
“He has left a legacy almost impossible to match and is a difficult act to follow,” he said.
Ong also paid tribute to Dr Ling’s wife, Datin Seri Ena Ling, noting that she had always been a pillar of strength to her husband throughout the ups and downs of a political life.
Ena, he added, was a shining example of the saying “Behind every successful man, there is a woman.”
“Datin Seri Ena, who is graceful, compassionate and caring, is always by his side, offering unfailing support.
“Her role as MCA’s First Lady for the last 17 years is extremely successful and impressive.”
Later yesterday, Dr ling and wife were honoured at a grand dinner attended by some 3,000 people.