MCA Jasin’s Legal Bureau Chairman, Eric Choo shares with us his thoughts on the outcome of GE13.
The outcome of the 13th General Elections serves as a painful wakeup call for MCA. Despite our poor performance in the 12th General Elections, we are not performing any better than how we did in 2008. This unprecedented defeat is a message from the voters to us that, being one of the biggest political parties in the country, MCA must reform and make drastic changes before the next General Election or risks being completely rejected by the people.
For years, this model of race-based political parties forming the coalition of Barisan Nasional has worked, helping us win 12 general elections thus far. However, in recent years, it appears that this model is getting more and more irrelevant in this maturing democracy especially since the 12th General Election in 2008. The people are starting to voice out their discontent and unhappiness with such a model that places unnecessary emphasis on racial politics thus abjuring the social cohesion we have achieved since independence.
And the voice is getting louder that we must move forward as one without the distinction of race and ethnicity. As such, being one of the main political parties in this country, MCA must lead the way and transform itself by rejecting a race-based approach to governance, and adopt an inclusive and non-racial approach to regain its relevance.
Apart from moving away from the race based political model, as part of the ruling coalition, MCA must also be able to formulate policies that are people-centric and truly benefit the people. It is insufficient for us to rely solely on the policies planned and proposed by those who are in the Government. We must be able to formulate and propose additional policies, and even advocate those that are contrary to the policies that are planned and proposed by the Government. On top of that, we must also critically evaluate the policies proposed by the Government, improvise them, and, if need be, criticise them. In these aspects, unfortunately, we have not performed and this is evidenced by the results of GE 13. The reason behind this is that we lack an effective think tank that critically examines issues and policies and advises the party accordingly. This disconnect has resulted in the losses MCA suffered and a party cannot champion issues it is ill-educated on. Hence, the leaders of MCA must seek to revive and strengthen the think tank of the party, and use it for the right reasons and not to further the political interests of those in power.
Parallel to the need to be able to study and formulate people-centric policies, it is sad to learn that a sizeable number of the people believe that MCA has failed to speak out, or failed to be seen to have spoken out against the injustices and wrongs that have been committed by those in positions of power. Our representatives in Parliament and State Assemblies have also been seen to have failed to properly scrutinise the implementation of government programmes and policies which have led to many leakages. In that respect, as elected representatives, there has been a glaring failure.
Examples of these are as follows:-
(a) Failing to respond to the various allegations of corruption and providing workable alternatives to tackle this scourge.
(b) No study on the consequences and impact of the Peaceful Assembly Bill by our MCA wakil rakyats.
(c) Failing to stand up for media freedom and constantly pointing at the inequitable conduct of the opposition especially in Penang, whilst forgetting that this is not a race to the bottom.
There are many more questions like this and it all boils down to how critical and outspoken MCA has been over the past five years. To this end, I must concede that as a member, I, too have not been vocal and critical enough. So leaders and members of MCA alike, we must change our mindset and be more inquisitive and critical, instead of accepting whatever is fed to us as the gospel truth. This is the beginning of our journey for reform — MCA must take a forceful stand against perceived injustices. The tai kor mentality must be replaced with one that is humble and interactive so those we seek to represent will appreciate our efforts.
As a start in this journey of reform, we must push for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to look into the claims of foreign voters voting in our 13th General Elections, claims of indelible inks being washed off and claims of blackouts at polling centres; the Election Commission must also not be spared where its members must resign en bloc to restore the faith of the people in the electoral process. While the counting of votes is transparent with the presence of agents of the candidates, a lot of the problems stem from the electoral roll and a clean-up is mandatory.
While the Election Commission needs to be reformed, the ways of which MCA leaders are elected into office must also be revamped. Direct election is the only way forward for a party of this size, consisting of almost a million members, to be reflective of which way the majority of the party members want the party to head to, instead of leaving such an important decision to be made by the mere 2,300 central delegates. Further, while I have never participated in any of the party elections so far, this move will reduce the impact of money politics which many allege is a normal occurrence in party elections. To this end, the leaders of MCA must realize that if UMNO with over 4 million members is brave enough to do this, why should we, a party a quarter of the size of UMNO, be worried?
Lastly, given such poor performance in the General Election, the present crop of MCA leaders must take responsibility for the results. The former Prime Minister vacated his post after the poor performance in the 12th General Election, and so have Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting and Teng Chang Yeow who have all vacated their party positions for the same reason. It is vital that we do the same immediately after this General Election to make way for new leaders to find the new, right winning formula for the party to regain its pride and to better serve the interests of the people.
Due to the limits within the party constitution, I am unlikely to be able to stand for office in the party or vote in the upcoming party election. It is my hope, however, that party members will consider my proposals above to strengthen the party we all love.
Remember, we are what we vote for.