Sunday, October 18, 2009

Malaysia: Staying relevant

IT is a contrasting tale of two parties, senior members of the Barisan Nasional coalition that had been issued a dire warning by the electorate at the general election last year.

An increasingly confident Umno, after several stops and starts since last year’s general election and the morale-boosting Bagan Pinang by-election win, pushed through some welcome reforms at the general assembly this week, notable of which was empowering its 146,500 members, rather than 2,510 delegates, to vote in leaders in the 2011 party election. Notable, as it aims to put a stop to the practice of self-serving politicians from vote-buying. The nomination quotas for contesting party posts, which was viewed by many as keeping down good men, has been done away, and several leaders have called on the party to be inclusive, to serve all Malaysians.

There is, however, a rather knotty problem in MCA where recent events involving the tussle between the two top leaders have hog-tied the party.

Will there be an Alexandrian solution, or will an MCA Alexander emerge to cut the Gordian knot and lead the party out of the morass that it has worked itself into? The EGM vote of no-confidence, by a narrow 14-vote margin, has president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat on the horns of a dilemma: notwithstanding the earlier rhetoric about getting a resounding mandate at the EGM, the president, under the party constitution, can only be removed by a vote from at least two-thirds of national delegates. Another EGM has been called for to resolve the debilitating leadership crisis.

That there have been Machiavellian manoeuvrings are not in doubt but responsible members must recognise that the party was founded to serve the community.

The community cannot be served by a party with a fractured leadership. Thewarring factions, including the “third faction” that showed its hand at the EGM, have made their play and the party is the poorer for it. Members must close ranks and get the party moving again, lest it becomes irrelevant.

The party, founded 60 years ago, has served the community well, and has been part of an effective government since independence. It is too early to conclude this tale of two parties. For Umno, the euphoric events of late have been but a Usain Bolttype 100m win. For MCA, the healing must begin immediately, members must close ranks and put the party on the starting blocks. Umno and MCA must prepare for, as BN chairman Datuk Seri Najib Razak has said, the next general election, the gruelling marathon where the electorate will decide if they are relevant. EDITORIAL: New Straits Times

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