October 21, 2008
It was indeed my distinct honour to be in the company of Dato’ Chua Jui Ming, Datin Chua and his close friends at dinner in Kuala Lumpur last night. The former Minister of Health was most relaxed after his credible performance at the recently completed Malaysian Chinese Association’s Presidential elections.
Although he did not win the MCA presidency, Jui Meng polled 4O per cent of the votes. It is indeed an achievement considering the fact that he no longer holds any party office since 2005.
In politics, having a position of influence is vital for one’s political career. He, therefore, wields considerable sway in MCA affairs because the party membership remembers his contributions to MCA and our country. After all, here is a dynamic and intelligent leader who has a 30-year plus involvement in national politics with 22 years of experience as a Member of Parliament, 15 years of service in government, 9 years of which as Cabinet Minister for two terms.
As I engaged myself in intense conversation with him, I could not help but notice that Jui Meng was able to articulate his views clearly on major issues affecting both the MCA and our country.
His vision and ideas are reflected in his 2008 MCA Presidential Candidate manifesto titled “Rebuild The Party/Return to Relevance/Realise Vision 2020.” Bloggers and readers of this blog should visit http://www.chuajuimeng.com for the full manifesto. I propose to highlight some key elements of the Jui Meng manifesto, hopefully to stimulate some discussion for the benefit of all of us who are concerned about our current national malaise and the future of our plural, culturally diverse, and resource rich country.
A lawyer by profession, Jui Meng opens his mainfesto with the following statement: “The results of the General Elections this year should serve as a wake up call to our Party. MCA has been labelled irrelevant and out of touch with the aspirations of not only the Malaysian Chinese community but the nation as a whole”. He also adds a warning to MCA members by stating in clear and concise language that ” I now predict that unless MCA reforms and transforms within the next 3 years we will face an even worse defeat at the next General Election”.
I take Jui Meng’s call for reform to mean that if MCA adopts the UMNO culture of money politics, patronage, and cronyism, as it is inclined to do before and now, the oldest Chinese party in Malaysia of Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Tun Tan Siew Sin would be badly beaten in the 13th General Elections and rejected by Malaysian Chinese. It is obvious to me that his call was listened to and accepted by about 40 per cent of the delegates, the rest being happy to accept the status quo which the new President, Dato Ong Tee Keat, represents.
Although Tee Keat talks tough, it is not likely that the new MCA President will “rock the Barisan national boat” and challenge the dominance of UMNO in the BN coalition. So Jui Meng’s appeals to MCA that “March 8 was our wake up call; let MCA arise to a new dawn on October 18”, will fall on deaf ears.
If Jui Meng had won, he would have embarked on the path of reform centered on 3 ideas: a) Rebuild the MCA; b) Return to Relevance; and c) Realise Vision 2020 and Bangsa Malaysia.
There is a need for MCA to overcome its Post May 13, 1969 Syndrome. It involves a transformation of the MCA mindset of a subordinate to UMNO. This syndrome has prevented the MCA from playing a more active role, as in a partnership of equals I presume, in formulating and deciding key policies that impact on the nation and the Chinese community.
Jui Meng adds that the MCA must not be afraid to “offend UMNO and lose our positions and privileges if we speak out against policies that are obviously detrimental to the unity and development of our nation”. As for MCA itself, he argues in favour of a change of focus when he said that [O]ur leadership’s focus must be on major issues, on a national policies. Enough of being heroes of small issues”.
In his Return to Relevance part of the manifesto, he states that the party leadership “must also reach out and reconnect MCA with the community”. The details of how Jui Meng proposes to do it are in the manifesto and need not concern us here.
His Realise Vision 2020 segment is perhaps the most daring and controversial articulation of his Vision for a United Malaysia. It may have cost him a lot of votes from the reactionary and conservative elements within MCA. But the fact that he prepared to challenge the status quo and risk his chances for the presidency, I think, speaks volumes of the character and integrity of Jui Meng.
The MCA must fight and help realise Vision 2020 for all Malaysians, a vision that seeks to unite all Malaysians and to create a confident united nation with strong moral and ethical values living in a community that is democratic, liberal and tolerant, socially equitable and progressive with a resilient, robust and competitive economy.
His boldest statements in his manifesto relate to Article 8 (i) and (ii), Article 11(i) and (ii) and Article 12 (i) and Article 121 of the Federal Constitution. On the NEP, Jui Meng said that it should be replaced by an affirmative action policy which is focused on poverty eradication and be based on needs.
I told him that I was taken up by some of his ideas which relate to national unity and social justice and would read his manifesto in full and promised to be in touch. I asked Jui Meng, “what’s up next for you, Dato?”. His spontaneous response was “Din, Datin and I are going to take a short break. But please remember, politics is in my blood and my business of bringing about change in the way we run the country will continue.” He left me wondering what he might do next?
It is a sad fact that in a country where mediocrity is the culture and incompetence is indeed the norm to be tolerated, we lose good men. They are not listened to, are often regarded with suspicion or even demonised as national security risks and traitors to the nation. As such, they not only face rejection but also persecution and brutal treatment under the Internal Security Act. Yet only few good men with the dynamism, integrity, and courage to attract committed followers and supporters are all we need to transform our nation.
To this wonderful group of men, I would include Dato Chua Jui Meng. If Jui Meng is MCA’s loss, whose gain will it be, I wonder.—Din Merican