KUALA LUMPUR: The continuing slow down in the economy is hitting Malaysians, from all walks of life, hard.
The 650,000 oil palm smallholders in the country, for instance, are living on half of their income because of falling prices of the commodity, said MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.
The Ayer Hitam Member of Parliament said his constituency which is a predominantly agricultural community in Johor is adversely affected.
That is not all.
“One eatery owner selling fish balls in Yong Peng told me recently that his business is down by half,” he said of the small town famous for its fish balls. The area was a rising star in tourism before the May 9 polls.
Dr Wee said tourist arrivals from China to Malaysia is also plunging.
Citing the October golden holiday period in China where a huge number of its citizens holiday abroad, he said Malaysia saw about a 35% drop in China tourist arrivals, while a neighbouring country enjoyed a rise.
“Tourism is a big income earner, with its many spin off businesses for the country. The world is welcoming tourists with open arms especially from China to help drive their economy,” he said.
He pointed out that the “uneasy” bi-lateral ties between Malaysia and China under the Pakatan Harapan government has not augured well for the economy, and in turn impacted the people’s livelihood.
Dr Wee who is going for the MCA presidency in the party polls on Nov 4, said he was duty bound to represent the party in Parliament to highlight issues affecting Malaysians.
“When MCA talks about trade with China and the economy it is not just for the Chinese community. The economy affects all Malaysians, whether you are in business or an employee,” he said in an interview at Wisma MCA here on Wednesday.
Dr Wee – the sole MP from MCA which won only one parliamentary seat and two state seats out of the 129 seats contested in the 14th General Election – sees his new role as “challenging and motivating”.
“Many people feel it is important for me to use the platform to revive MCA’s image in the process to reform the party.
“Political parties need the government’s attention to resolve issues and help the people.”
Saying the Pakatan Harapan government has fallen from the 50 out of 100 marks he gave it after it took over the federal government, Dr Wee said the ruling government dwelt on things that are of no immediate urgency – such as the proposal for students to wear black shoes to school and the third national car project.
He ticked off Pakatan Harapan for being a non-performer and playing the blame game in putting everything wrong on the previous Barisan government.
The Ayer Hitam MP, 50, is in a three-cornered fight for the president’s post with Kluang division chairman Gan Ping Sieu, 52, and Bruas MCA Youth chairman Ngoo Teck Keong, 31.
Dr Wee said there were various issues raised in the party polls. One raging question is whether MCA should leave or stay put in Barisan Nasional after GE14.
“MCA’s position in Barisan will be decided in the party’s annual general assembly on Dec 2. The new leadership (from the Nov 4 polls) will decide on how to bring the issue to the assembly,” he stressed, quashing talks that he is for MCA to remain in Barisan.
On whether a resolution on “stay in or exit from Barisan Nasional” would be tabled for the central delegates to vote in the party assembly, Dr Wee said: “This is a simplistic way of handling an important issue with far reaching consequences.”
Dr Wee also emphasised that MCA would continue to hold fast to its principle of not supporting parties whose values and ambitions undermine the freedom of any groups or belief.
Starting off as the Alliance with three core parties – Umno, MCA and MIC, it fought and gained independence in 1957. The coalition changed its name to Barisan Nasional in 1973.
It grew to a 13 component party coalition that went into GE14 but lost the government. Eight of the parties exited from the coalition to date, leaving behind Umno, MCA, MIC, myPPP and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah.
MCA remains the second largest Barisan component party after Umno. Controversies surrounding Umno that ranged from allegations of corruption and power abuse, as well as arrogance and disrespect towards the Chinese community contributed to MCA’s downfall.
The MCA leaders who have been perceived as being “submissive” to Umno have compounded the Chinese community’s unhappiness with the party.
MCA party members are split whether to stay on or exit from Barisan.
The Umno leadership under its president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who attended the PAS muktamar recently is seen widely as Umno wanting to work closely with PAS – and to many MCA members this unprecedented gesture has upset the Chinese-based party’s stand for moderation, inclusiveness and a nation that upholds the Federal Constitution.
Dr Wee said he would accept whatever decision on MCA’s status in Barisan at the Dec 2 AGM.
“The road ahead for me and the party is to be a constructive opposition with the rights and interest of the people in mind.
“Likewise, I have to depend on the support of our (MCA) members and the people to carry on,” he said.
On an update on his campaign trail, Dr Wee said he had visited 167 out of the 188 MCA divisions and that he would visit the rest in the next one week.
“Response is overwhelming but I still have to put in more effort.”
Some 35,000 divisional delegates will be voting nationwide on Nov 4. Dr Wee’s team includes deputy president candidate Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon, vice-president candidates Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker, Datuk Seri Yew Teong Look, Datuk Tan Teik Cheng and Datuk Lim Ban Hong.
Gan’s team includes deputy president candidate Tee Siew Kiong; vice-president candidates Datuk Ei Kim Hock, Datuk Ooi Siew Kim, Datuk Lau Lee and Datuk Seri Dr Lim Chin Fui.
Dr Wee’s side is dubbed WeeMah team and has outgoing president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai rooting for them. Gan’s GanTee team has the backing from former party president Tan Sri Dr Chua Soi Lek.
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