He is not the kind of Chinese party leader that a Malay prefers. Firstly, he is not a good bearer of personal morality which is a must in a conservative muslim Malay society. Secondly, he is too blunt and appears to be an extreme fighter for the Chinese openly, without regard for Malay sensitivities.
Yet, for the Chinese community he is apparently the best solution that MCA has, providing a viable if not a perfect balance against the untainted image of Lim Kit Siang and his son Lim Guan Eng on the other side of the divide. Never mind that his private life is somewhat a liability, but what matters most to the Chinese is his honesty to admit it promptly. This makes him stand out as somebody honest and and does not lie under pressure. This explained how he managed to come back to the helm of MCA, not just as a number two man, but as the very President of the party.
Above all he is a fighter who is willing to take the bull by its horns. He is used to taking political risks and managed to out maneuvre his opponents in MCA, a feat very difficult to accomplish, perhaps only comparable to Deng Shio Ping’s accomplishments in regaining leadership of the Communist Party in China many decades ago.
His political strategy in facing the DAP is simple but not without risk, just as his personality suggests. His message to the Chinese community is clear, ie. vote MCA or else you will not see any Chinese representation in the Cabinet. This set the Chinese mind into some kind of dilemma, akin to Dr. Mahathir’s ‘The Malay Dilemma’, though only on a lesser scale.
The Chinese community is really on the cross road now. They have gone through decades of frustration looking at MCA playing second fiddle to UMNO. But, isn’t this a reasonable position for a Chinese political party, given that they only form 30% of the Malaysian population. Is it fair for the Chinese to expect more than that, given that they already control almost every sector of business in the country?
On the other hand, their action only demonstrates their natural instinct. Unlike the Malays and the Indians who tend to be more loyal to BN though emotional in nature, the Chinese are a naturally calculative community of voters. Their votes go to the party that serves their interest best, just as in doing business.
The Chinese community has been consistent supporters of MCA since Merdeka except in the 1969 and the recent 2008 general election. The recent voting trend away from BN only happened in the face of a split in Malay votes, which for the first time presented a chance for a Chinese based party to play a pivotal role in the Federal Government.
Such a strategy was attempted in Sarawak with the hope that their smaller Pakatan partners PKR and PAS would fare well enough to topple the BN state government. But, alas it was not to be. The Malays/Melanaus instinctively reacted decisively to DAP’s challenge and the Dayak Bumiputera communities stick to BN, the party they can trust and are comfortable with since independence.
With the national voting trend and results of popularity surveys now shifting toward Barisan Nasional, the pre-election warnings, my blog articles included, to the Chinese not to elect themselves out of the government has come true in Sarawak. There are now only two Chinese BN representatives in Sarawak DUN, thanks to the Malay and Dayak voters in their constituencies.
The Chinese has been used to the situation to keep the cake and eat it too. In this way they gained important positions in the Cabinet even by voting against BN, and no amount of persuasion by PM seems to change their heart. It may not be too extreme to say that the Chinese only want to win and not willing to compromise willingly.
But Sarawak is only a state in the country. It is not a national problem to stay out of the government for a term. However, for the whole community to opt for the opposition and to deliberately remain outside of the National Government may be viewed as a direct challenge to the Malay political dominance. We can only imagine where this will lead to and its long term impact in fermenting interracial prejudice and tension between the Chinese and the rest in the country.
[The above is written based on my analysis of data from twelve previous by-election and the recent Sarawak State Election. My predictions in the above elections have been very accurate(please refer to articles in the archives of this Blog), after taking into consideration political sentiments of the racial groups covered in these elections. Looking at the current general political sentiment in the country, any attempt to unseat the BN government is likely to fail. For this reason any minority racial group that decides to go against this trend is likely to lose out].