Presidential address by MCA President Datuk Ong Ka Ting at the 50th General Assembly at Wisma MCA on Sunday.
FIRST of all, please allow me to express our sincere gratitude and highest respect to our beloved Prime Minister and chairman of Barisan Nasional Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad for opening our 50th General Assembly this morning.
I would also like to express our thanks to our Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is also the deputy chairman of the Barisan Nasional, for his valuable presence at this opening ceremony.
Likewise, I would also like to thank all the Barisan Nasional leaders, MCA veterans and all the party delegates for your attendance at this auspicious occasion.
Ladies and gentlemen, the MCA General Assembly this year is special and of historic significance because this will be the last time that our beloved Prime Minister will be opening our general assembly as the president of the Barisan Nasional.
Dr Mahathir has in fact opened the MCA General Assembly every year since 1981 and here once again, I wish to express, on behalf of the MCA, our sincere thanks to our prime minister.
Although two years have passed since the Sept 11 terrorist attacks, we continue to witness tragedies resulting from sporadic attacks launched by terrorists.
Indeed we live in a very unsafe world because these terrorists are able to carry out their attacks anywhere in the world, causing untold damages to property and loss of lives.
The tragic attack on an international hotel in Jakarta last week only serves as a chilling reminder of the danger we face.
Ladies and gentlemen, we must reject terrorism at all costs. We must snuff out terrorism in whatever form it takes because it endangers peace and stability of the world and brings about extensive and crippling damage to the economy of the nation as well as the region as a whole.
The MCA gives full support to our Dr Mahathir in taking an uncompromising stand at international forums against any form of terrorism, whether it involves individuals, organisations or nations.
However, we must recognise that it is more important to find out the root cause of terrorism and violence. Unless the international community pays serious attention to this issue, terrorism will continue to exist and will be difficult to erase all together.
In actual fact, terrorism has nothing to do with race or religion. It is a violent reaction to persecution, discrimination and injustice, and is motivated by hatred and revenge. Thus those superpowers in the West must learn to respect the sovereignty of smaller countries. The military actions taken by the United States and its allies, such as the invasion of Iraq, is against international law and is bound to provoke even more terrorist attacks in the world.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are a peace-loving people. Our leaders have been playing active roles in safeguarding world peace.
The tremendous success of the Malaysians for Peace movement was an eloquent testimony to this sentiment.
The objective of the movement was to send a peace signal to the world and it enjoyed the overwhelming support of the people.
The Chinese community had not been less enthusiastic in voicing their concern. A total of 800 Chinese guilds and associations, together with 230,000 Chinese have put their signatures down to express their support. Together with other communities, we have made our voices heard.
While the world economy is still mired in a state of instability, the Malaysian economy has performed well. This is most encouraging and we must give credit to the bold and effective recovery measures taken by the Barisan Nasional Government.
We have made swift recovery from the crippling effects of the Iraq war and the SARS outbreak and are looking forward to a 4% growth this year.
This is better than the region’s average growth rate. One of the strong indicators is the robust activity and the rebound of prices in the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange. More foreign direct investments are flowing in. More buyers are crowding the malls as people’s purchasing power improves. All these are vital signals of a healthy economy. The MCA will spare no effort in helping the Government to strengthen our recovery, in promoting growth and development in all sectors of the economy.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are seeing the good results of the RM8.1bil economic recovery package announced by our prime minister on May 21 which provides the private sector with tax incentives and other stimuli, more liberal rules and regulations to attract investments from within and outside the nation.
The prime minister announced a robust 4.5% growth in the second quarter of the year. This is the most convincing proof that the recovery package is working well in achieving its objective.
In addition, the Cabinet committee chaired by Abdullah to enhance our national competitiveness has held several meetings to map out new strategies to improve performances in various sectors.
Government agencies are taking steps to better co-ordinate among themselves, to enhance their efficiency and capacity in order to better serve the investors.
This is the only way to enhance our competitive edge. The committee is also working on new strategies to improve the performances of all sectors of the economy, especially in sharpening the competitive edge of the small and medium-size enterprises (SME) in the face of the severe challenges brought about by globalisation and the advent of science and technology.
We have to prepare ourselves to face the impact of the World Trade Organisation and Asean Free Trade Area on our market and economy.
All this while the Government has provided various kinds of incentives to promote the growth of the SMEs so that they can contribute towards the national economy.
We have taken note that the SMEs always bear the brunt of any economic downturn. For their long-term development, there is an urgent need not only to relax the terms and conditions of loans to the SMEs but also to provide more funds to expand and modernise them to explore a wider market.
It was in this context that the Government offered the RM8mil micro-credit package for both the SMEs and small farmers.
The move was much welcomed and the MCA is proud to have played an active role in helping eligible applicants in securing the much-needed loans for the expansion of their businesses.
The SMEs who are mostly Chinese-based risk being swept under the waves of globalisation.
In order to survive, they need to modernise by making maximum use of the Internet, improve the quality of their goods and services, harness the best production and management technologies and train their workers in order to keep abreast and stay ahead.
The Government’s proposal for national service has been well received by all walks of life.
The Chinese community has responded positively to the programme as a result of the extensive publicity campaign in the media as well as the many dialogues with Chinese guilds and associations and religious bodies initiated by the MCA.
The Chinese community has fully understood the objectives of national service and is fully prepared to participate.
The MCA is in full support of the programme as a vehicle for character building and of instilling a sense of patriotism in our youths.
By going through the training programme, our youths would be made to understand and appreciate the importance of racial harmony.
Under the excellent leadership of Dr Mahathir,the Barisan Nasional has become the strongest and longest ruling coalition in the world. He has led the Barisan Nasional through five general elections with overwhelming victory. This is a record that we are proud of.
More importantly, Malaysia has been developing so fast under his wise leadership that it is now one of the most advanced developing nations in the world.
Even though we are a small nation, we are respected in the four corners of the world. We are regarded as the voice of the developing nations on many international issues.
For all these, we salute you, Mr Prime Minister, Sir, for your bold vision, far-sightedness and dynamic leadership, your sense of justice and fair play.
Dr Mahathir is well respected by other world leaders. I recently attended two international conferences, the World Ulama Conference and the World Chinese Entrepreneurs Conference, in Kuala Lumpur.
I have witnessed how much the participants appreciated the wisdom and views of Dr Mahathir and how much they wished that he would continue to champion the cause of developing nations because of his international stature.
The Chinese community has been supportive of Dr Mahathir because he has shown that he is concerned with the issues and problems faced by the Chinese and he has taken steps to solve them.
Now he has made it clear that he would step down as the prime minister in October. We are sad at his decision because he is an outstanding leader, a leader that all Malaysians are very proud of.
Ladies and gentlemen, at this juncture, allow me to express our whole-hearted support for our well-respected and beloved Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who will succeed Dr Mahathir as the new prime minister and Barisan Nasional chairman.
The MCA has full confidence in Abdullah as a dynamic, far-sighted and moderate leader and we have full confidence that he will continue the vision of Dr Mahathir in building a united and harmonious multi-racial Malaysia.
Ladies and gentlemen, the MCA has gone through some drastic changes in the past year. The succession problem has been solved in a rather smooth and stable manner.
A new leadership was born with the co-operation and support of the grassroots. Here I must express my sincere thanks to all our members who have proven their political maturity and have made this possible.
Once again, I express my thanks and respect to past president Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik and past deputy president Datuk Seri Lim Ah Lek.
They resigned at the peak of their political career to allow the emergence of a younger generation of leaders. Their sacrifice has made them our role models.
Their significant contributions towards the nation, society and party have been valued not only by our party members but also people outside the party.
I must also thank the prime minister and deputy prime minister for their valuable advice and assistance in solving our problem.
Dr Ling had been the president of the MCA for 17 years. Under his dynamic leadership, he not only laid the strong foundation of the MCA but also lifted the party from the doldrums of the 80s to a new height.
Among his many achievements, his contribution towards education was the most outstanding. Even though now that he has withdrawn from politics, he is fully committed to the development of Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar) and Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman (TARC). We salute him for his love and sacrifice to the party.
Ladies and gentlemen, we all know that it is difficult to build and even more difficult to safeguard or maintain what we have built. I sincerely hope that all our members will give their full support to the new leadership so that the MCA will grow from strength to strength to face the many challenges ahead.
In the past two months, my deputy Datuk Chan Kong Choy and I, together with central committee members have attended the state annual general meetings in various states. We have also been invited to take part in many of their activities.
I am happy to say that unity and team spirit are strong while the past internal strife is gradually receding. The atmosphere is heartening.
It reflects that our members are all for unity and stability. We believe in consolidating our strength and we reject factional struggle. This is something very encouraging to us.
I must emphasise here again that if we are to build a strong, united and well-trusted party, our leaders at all levels must have a big heart.
We must be open-minded, magnanimous and accommodating. We must remember our one and only principle, that is, the party is to serve all of us. Our only motivation should be for the overall interest of the party and people and not so much for ourselves. We must care for our party members, the masses and nation. That should be our only motivation.
Ladies and gentlemen, in dealing with party disputes, we must be open-minded, patient and accommodating. We must be prepared to listen to unpleasant words and hurtful criticism for the sake of the party.
Party leaders at different levels must prepare to face the Chinese community as well as others.
More importantly, we must prepare to serve our people and safeguard their interest more effectively.
The MCA central committee in line with the aspiration from the grassroots agreed that from this term on, the tenures of party president, the chairman of MCA Youth and chairperson of MCA Wanita would not exceed a maximum of nine years in order to ensure a more transparent and smoother leadership change in future.
This is also aimed at ensuring the renewal process of the party and to avoid any power struggle. It is hoped that with such certainty, the party president will have a clearer timeframe to plan and implement his vision.
The party will usher in a new phase of growth and development with the change of leadership every nine years. A resolution is now on the table to amend the party Constitution to effect such changes and I appeal to all delegates at this general assembly to give their full support to the amendment.
This historic decision will lead the party to a more democratic, more transparent and more healthy growth.
Furthermore, the MCA will make even better efforts to attract more qualified and educated youths to join our party.
We need new blood, not only to harness their expertise and talents so that they can contribute in the various fields of endeavours, but also as a continuous process of nurturing new leaders.
Although our membership has hit the one million mark, our members are also ageing. Some are dormant and no more active in politics. There is as such an urgent need to inject new blood, new vitality and a breath of fresh air into the party.
We must continue to strengthen our organisational structure and harness the energy of our members. This is the most effective, in fact, the only way, to strengthen the party.
At present the MCA network has been set up all over the country. It could be said that wherever there are Chinese, the MCA has an outfit there to serve the people.
Now with the constituency change, the MCA has 25 more divisions. We need to strengthen our networking in these new areas in order to consolidate our political force and better serve the people.
We all know that the next general election is around the corner. The MCA must be fully prepared to face the new challenge. We must be geared up for another resounding victory, not only for the MCA but also for Barisan Nasional.
The MCA won the 1995 and 1999 general elections with overwhelming victory mainly because we were united and stable. We enjoyed the full support of the electorates based on our excellent performance and services to the people.
The pragmatic and people-friendly approach adopted by the party has won the support of not only the Chinese but also the non-Chinese electorates.
It has to be admitted that the recent leadership struggle had somewhat tarnished our image and dented our integrity. But on the whole, we had not neglected our political struggle and our service to the people.
We had not wavered on our stand on major issues affecting the Chinese community as we continued to seek fair and reasonable solutions.
The MCA will not waver on education issues such as the development of Chinese primary education, shortages of teachers and university recruitments.
The party has spared no efforts in the development of Chinese primary schools, especially their expansions and relocations. We have an excellent track record on this and we will continue our struggle until the mission is accomplished.
The MCA has fought and secured scholarships for talented Chinese students to enable them to further their studies in the best universities overseas. These are the breakthroughs and I am convinced that the people will once again give MCA candidates their overwhelming support in the coming elections.
The MCA will work towards strengthening the bonds with other component parties of Barisan Nasional. We will work as a family in order to face the challenges from the Opposition and other quarters. The MCA will also work for a closer relationship with other Barisan Nasional parties by defusing or reducing any potential conflict.
I believe only by working together in sincere unity that we can enhance the strength of Barisan Nasional and raise the chances of another thumping victory for the Barisan Nasional. I believe it is also the aspiration of the Chinese community for the MCA to maintain a good relationship with other Chinese-based parties in the coalition.
Prof Yang Fujia, chancellor of the University of Nothingham in Britain, told the 7th World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention in Kuala Lumpur recently that institutes of higher learning would become the engine of economic development in the 21st century.
He said and I quote: “In the year 2000, eight research universities headed by Harvard and MIT, contributed US$7bil (RM26.8bil) to the local economy growth and provided 8.5 million job opportunities.
“The universities supplied 320,000 graduates to the job markets and also provided re-education opportunities for 250,000 working people. In the past 50 years, the MIT alone has nurtured 4,000 technology-based companies.
“Meanwhile, higher learning institutes around Boston also helped a big group of enterprises in solving their problems and provide consultation services. The scientific climate they created for Boston is like a giant magnet that attracts intellects from all over the world to gather there.”
Besides these examples mentioned by Prof Yang, numerous bio-technology companies are also found near Yale University with most of them dependent on Yale.
In Manchester, previously known as a city of textile, Prof Yang noted that almost all the textile workers had switched jobs. The iron and steel city of Sheffield in Britain used to have a workforce of 40,000 and now there are only 3,000. Of the 16 coalmines in Newcastle, only one is left. All these cities have now been turned into “city of universities.”
Prof Yang emphasised that “economy is people!” In other words it is the human factor that ticks. Where do the people come from? From the field of education of course.
Ladies and gentlemen, today we face the challenges of knowledge-economy. All knowledge-based enterprises cannot do without institutes of higher learning. The Silicon Valley in the US depends on Stanford University and University of California at Berkeley. Likewise, the Triangle High-tech of Washington depends on North Carolina University, State University of North Carolina and Duke University.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the K-economy, the locomotive of economic growth is the universities. The MCA is in the right direction in establishing Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman while at the same time, promoting Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman.
After listening to the talk and examples given by Prof Yang, we now understand how much Utar would mean to the Chinese community in the new era of K-economy.
The development of Utar has been swift. At present, we already have an enrolment of 3,800 students and by next year, total enrolment, including those taking preparatory courses, will touch 10,000 students. Construction of our main campus in Kampar will be accelerated in order to accommodate the growing number of students. The MCA will spare no efforts in making Utar an excellent university providing high quality tertiary education to meet the needs of the nation. This will be our significant contribution towards the development of the nation.
The MCA has through our education master plan provided affordable tertiary education for our youths in Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman and Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman. We hope relevant authorities will offer scholarships to attract more non-Chinese to these two institutes in order to promote racial understanding and harmony.
I want to place on record our sincere thanks to the Barisan Nasional, especially to our beloved prime minister because without the support of the Government, it is impossible to establish and develop both institutes so rapidly. The MCA also wants to thank all our supporters to the various education programmes initiated by us.
Malaysia has grown to become the 18th biggest trading nation as we entered the 21st century.
Under the World Trade Organisation, Malaysia has agreed to abolish certain trade policies aimed at protecting the local industries.
We are actively carrying out market reforms in order to attract more foreign investors. It can be said that WTO will definitely impact our SMEs. We are now faced with the question of how to cope with the challenges brought about by WTO, especially China’s entry into WTO.
Globalisation is merging the world economy into one through the free flow of trade and investment.
This is a mega trend that will impact developing countries as it brings about higher efficiency, increased productivity, better products and lower prices.
It also brings about new investment funds, new technology and management skills. We in the developing world must prepare ourselves to face the challenges.
Globalisation also made the world more interdependent. It will certainly enhance communications and mutual understanding and it facilitates and promotes cultural exchanges. But let us not forget that globalisation also means the rapid spread of contagious diseases, like in the case of the SARS, the outflow of talents as well as funds. These are the new challenges that we have to face.
As I have said earlier, globalisation is both a challenge and an opportunity. With China’s entry into WTO, our businessmen should take advantage of their cultural and linguistic advantages to explore the vast market there.
The MCA think-tank will shortly be charged with the task of brainstorming the challenges we face in the 21st century. We hope to examine all these issues in depth and come out with new strategies to equip the Chinese community with the right attitude and approaches.
The Barisan Nasional Government is currently undertaking steps to reform our economic and education systems to lead Malaysians to the world stage in the new century. The world is changing fast in an explosion of new knowledge and technologies. We can no more rely on yesterday’s answer to tomorrow’s problem. The new environment demands a bold and visionary leadership to take our members and the Chinese community at large to a brave new world. The Chinese community must learn to think out of the box, to equip themselves with a broad vision, to be progressive and far-sighted. Only then can we face up to the challenges of the new century.
Ladies and gentlemen, our nation is in the process of being transformed from a traditional to a modern state, from regionalism to internationalism. Many policies and measures have been taken to conform to international mode, to be in line with the international environment, to fit into international markets and conventions. Under such circumstances, it is imperative that the Chinese community must change.
We must equip ourselves with a progressive mindset and broad vision instead of being restrained by old tradition.
Ladies and gentlemen, when the world is changing, we cannot remain stagnant.
In order to keep abreast with changes, we must continue to upgrade ourselves, learning new knowledge, new skills and new approaches.
We must keep modernising and reinventing ourselves. But above all, remain united, proactive and focused so that we can march forward into the new century. This is the way forward, this is the way we can contribute towards the party, the community and the nation.
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