PETALING JAYA, 12 Nov 2008: The MCA’s surprising new line-up is party president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat’s way of consolidating power, political observers said.
Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall chief executive officer Tang Ah Chai said the new line-up reflected Tee Keat’s unique style of leadership as a lone-ranger in the MCA.
“Breaking the norm by appointing new faces is a way to consolidate his power base,” Tang said in a phone interview today.
However, others said Tee Keat’s appointments and his sidelining of deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek could weaken the party in the long run.
On 11 Nov 2008, Tee Keat announced the party’s new line-up following the MCA’s mid-October elections.
Tee Keat broke convention by not appointing his deputy as a state chief or party disciplinary committee chief. Instead, the popular Soi Lek was appointed to head the party’s government policy monitoring bureau.
Tee Keat also appointed Senate deputy president Wong Foon Meng as party secretary-general to replace Datuk Ong Ka Chuan, whom Soi Lek defeated for the deputy presidency. Foon Meng was also appointed Selangor chief.
MCA Youth vice-chairperson Yoo Wei How was appointed the party’s organising secretary while Youth organising secretary Gan Hong Su was appointed deputy national organising secretary.
“Though the president has the prerogative (to make these appointments), excluding the deputy would certainly tarnish the party’s image in the long run,” Puchong MCA vice-chairperson Datuk Theng Book told The Nut Graph.
He added, however, that Tee Keat’s appointment reflected the strong influence of former MCA deputy chief Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy. Both Tee Keat and Chan were both considered Team B leaders, who are deeply rooted in the party’s Youth wing, during Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik’s presidency.
“The people appointed (on 11 Nov) are mainly from Team B and the Youth wing,” said Theng.
Wong and Yoo are both considered Chan’s close allies. Yoo was Chan’s former political secretary.
A party divided?
Theng said MCA members were unhappy that the new line-up could further divide the party.
“Tee Keat should close ranks after the party elections,” said Theng.
Besides Soi Lek, former secretary-general Ka Chuan, who was appointed as history and documentation bureau chief, is also being sidelined.
Observers say the insignificant post held by Ka Chuan, the elder brother of former president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, reflects his weakening position in the new leadership. Ka Chuan, who is housing and local government minister, might even lose his ministerial post.
Theng said that if the MCA was not united, it would have difficulties being treated as an equal in the Barisan Nasional.
Still, Tang said protest from Soi Lek and Ka Chuan or their supporters would not be likely in the short term.
“The MCA’s political power lies in party posts that come with ministerial positions. But neither Soi Lek nor Ka Chuan have both party and government posts to weaken Tee Keat,” said Tang.
However, even though Soi Lek may keep silent for now, Tang said he was not likely to do so in the long term.
Theng also said Tee Keat cannot ignore the Ong brothers because both are Members of Parliament (MPs). ”The MCA’s biggest asset now is its 15 MPs and Tee Keat cannot afford to lose any of them,” Theng said. He noted that half of these MCA MPs were considered to be in Ka Ting’s camp.
Tang also did not believe that the party’s new line-up would enable it to have a stronger voice in the BN.
“(Senator Tan Sri) Tee Hock Seng, who was made party treasurer, has many government contracts,” he said, noting that such close links between political and business interests may not enable the MCA to speak up for fear of losing business opportunities.
Still, others would rather wait and see how Tee Keat’s line-up performs. Former MCA vice-president Datuk Yap Pian Hon said Tee Keat’s team should be given time. “It is too early to draw any conclusions now.”