FROM 13 to 19 Dec 2008, the Chinese press highlighted the issue of the Kuala Terengganu by-election; reactions towards the restructuring of Warta Mandarin; and the continuing New Era College dispute.
Morality in Kuala Terengganu
Oriental Daily’s 14 Dec interview with PAS deputy president Nasharudin Mat Isa by Xie Zhong Yang provided a glimpse of PAS’s by-election strategy. In the interview, Aiming at MCA internal conflict, PAS to gain Chinese votes, Nasharudin did not rule out the possibility of using Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek’s sex scandal to gain Chinese votes in Kuala Terengganu.
The October MCA party election saw the unexpected combination of Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat winning the presidency and Chua winning the vice-presidency. Both were making contradicting remarks even before the election and more recently in regard to Chua’s comments on ketuanan Melayu.
Nasharudin said, “All these events make us (PAS) believe that Chinese Malaysians are tired and have lost confidence towards this Chinese-based party claiming a membership of millions. MCA is now caught in a leadership crisis.”
He said MCA is bound to face many problems after electing Chua as its deputy president. This is because not only PAS, but the entire nation is unable to accept a morally-tainted leader.
In other words, PAS will be staking the moral high ground to try to sway Chinese voters with universal values.
Regarding PAS Selangor’s suggestion to ban alcohol sales, Nasharudin said the issue may be used as a strategy by the Barisan Nasional (BN) and MCA in the by-election. However, he felt that its impact on Kuala Terengganu Chinese is minimal. Nasharudin said, “PAS has always respected Chinese Malaysian customs and allowed Chinese Malaysian culture to flourish.”
During the 8 March election, the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat saw a three-cornered fight between the BN, PAS, and independent candidate Maimun Yusuf. Umno’s late Datuk Razali Ismail won the seat with a 628-vote majority.
Many note that, taking into account the 931 spoilt votes and 685 votes for Maimun, PAS could have won the seat on 8 March.
Nasharudin admitted that the three-cornered fight led to PAS’s defeat, but stressed that the party would not prevent Maimun from re-contesting because Malaysia is a democracy.
Nevertheless, Nasharudin was tight-lipped about the core votes for PAS and Umno. It is reported that Umno and PAS each have control of between 20% and one-third of the vote. Therefore it is crucial for each party to gain votes of the undecided, including Chinese Malaysians, to win the seat.
MCA and media freedom
Li Zheng Xian’s 14 Dec commentary, MCA should promote laws to protect media freedom, in Kwong Wah Yit Poh questioned the MCA’s courage to make its voice heard.
Li wrote that lately, the Information Ministry seemed to be shunning Chinese viewers. Apart from cancelling What Say You, RTM2′s current issue talk show, the ministry slashed the duration of the Mandarin news from one hour to 30 minutes in the name of restructuring RTM.
The restructuring of Warta Mandarin caused a furore among politicians from across the political divide. The MCA, claiming to represent Chinese Malaysians, started attacking the Information Ministry.
Li further questioned, “As a BN component party with four ministers in the cabinet, could it be impossible for BN to settle the issue behind closed doors?”
“If the MCA were able to do so, the party leaders would not resort to press releases slamming the ministry,” wrote Li.
Therefore, Li concluded that no matter how the MCA performs in the general election, its position in BN and the cabinet remains the same.
Li also suggested, “If the MCA is concerned about the people’s right to be informed and the protection of media freedom, it should publicly clarify its reasons for taking over Nanyang Siang Pau. The takeover was very much against the will of Chinese Malaysians.”
On the new MCA president, Li said, “He (Ong) was very much against the takeover. Given his current position, he should assure the public that the government will not interfere with media freedom. Ong should promote the Freedom of Information Bill.”
Li ended his commentary with a question, “As the second largest component party in the BN and Ong’s track record as a politician who values media freedom, the MCA should propose laws to protect media freedom. The problem now is, is the MCA courageous enough?”
New Era College dispute
China Press commented on the recent developments of the New Era College dispute in its 14 Dec editorial, Do not walk the extreme path for the sake of Chinese education.
The New Era College dispute has persisted for a long time. The college and Dong Jiao Zong (DJZ) are not budging from their respective positions. The conflict has become the concern of Chinese-education advocates. Many desire to see the conflict resolved and New Era College turn over a new leaf.
However, it was regrettable that both the college and DJZ not only pointed fingers at one another but have also sued each other for defamation.
Things got worse at Lim Lian Geok’s memorial on Sunday, 14 Dec. Ten students from New Era College turned up and read a self-prepared speech before the grave of the Chinese-education defender. This worsened the situation.
“In conjunction with the 23rd annual memorial of Lim Lian Geok, both parties should learn to be tolerant and solve the dispute by peaceful means, just as politicians come together to pay respects to Lim irrespective of political affiliation,” suggested the editorial.
“Since it is very unlikely for Dr Kua Kia Soong to extend his contract as college principal, students and parents should accept Prof Pua Eng Chong as the new principal of New Era College. They should also learn to observe his performance and not to criticise him before he even becomes the principal,” said China Press.
China Press maintained that the foremost concern now is to allow New Era College to function normally.
On 17 Dec, a meeting called by Hua Zong (Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia) decided to form a coordinating committee to mediate the New Era College dispute.