Rabu, 11 September 2013

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The future of MCA

Posted: 10 Sep 2013 04:32 PM PDT

The discord between Dr Chua and Liow has long been an open secret. However, it has recently evolved into an increasingly intense war of words. The party election scheduled to be held in the end of this year is undoubtedly the catalyst of their worsening relations.

Soong Phui Jee, Sin Chew

MCA two top leaders have came to an open rupture. President Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek's claim that his deputy, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai had put pressure on him to quit as MCA president has angered Liow who later furiously lashed out at Dr Chua for fabricating stories.

The discord between Dr Chua and Liow has long been an open secret. However, it has recently evolved into an increasingly intense war of words. The party election scheduled to be held in the end of this year is undoubtedly the catalyst of their worsening relations.

After suffering a great defeat in the May 5 General Election, Dr Chua had announced under great pressure that he would not seek re-election. In recent days, however, Dr Chua has been actively visiting and hanging around with grassroots members. It seems like he is working hard to make preparation for the party election and showing no sign of retiring.

Dr Chua is excellent at planning ploys and his greatest advantage is good at organising grassroots and winning their support. In the three-corner fight of the party's election on 28 March 2010, Dr Chua defeated incumbent Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat and former president Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting, proving his ability in gaining party members' support and the strength of his factional forces. If he really wishes to seek for re-election, it will definitely be the biggest impediment for Liow to move up to the next level.

Liow is one of the MCA's new generation leaders and compared to Dr Chua who is ethically tainted, he is mild-mannered and practical. To win the party, however, strength is more important than image. Liow came from the MCA Youth and of course, his greatest support also comes from the MCA Youth. The youth wing alone, however, is not enough to make him the party president. He must fight for the support of party state leaders, Wanita MCA and sufficient Central Committee delegates to get a chance of toppling Dr Chua, who is deep-rooted.

An unchangeable fact is, the influence of MCA has shrunk today. The severe general election defeat has brought unprecedented and unbearable embarrassment to the party. However, its members did not unite to face the external enemies and learn from their mistakes, but have instead been caught in the quagmire of infighting. Not only the leaders have been caught in the mess, causing the loss of struggling spirit, but the grassroots are also low in morale and confused.

Even worse, the decision of not to accept any government posts made the MCA seem to have exiled and marginalised itself, and became a bit part in an awkward position. It has lost the basic right to speak and negotiate in front of Umno while the Chinese community is walking away from it. Its future is indeed worrisome.

There is nothing to fear about failure, but it is fearful to carry no reflection and reform. The MCA is currently caught in such a brutal political reality. No matter who will be elected the party's president, he or she will have to rectify the badly wounded party. Therefore, the MCA needs not only a good president, but also a president and leadership that can save the party, or it would be hard to have optimistic expectations about its future.


'I'm not a seasonal politician'

Posted: 10 Sep 2013 04:15 PM PDT

RESPONSIBLE REJUVENATION: 'You must have been here during Hishammuddin's time,' Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told Rashid Yusof, Farrah Naz Karim and A. Azim Idris at the end of a fast-paced interview at his Home Ministry office in Putrajaya on Monday. Inviting the New Straits Times journalists to take in the sight of the 12th-floor office, he produced the punchline: 'Have I renovated the place in any way?' The interview, which darted from security to foreign workers -- 'we are working for zero illegal immigrants' -- before settling on politics, made a number of references to Zahid's predecessor at the ministry, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein. Essentially, Zahid was keen to crush thoughts and hints of comparison between Hishammuddin's tenure and his somewhat swashbuckling debut as home minister. Comparisons are inevitable ahead of Umno's expanded elections next month, when both ministers will defend their seats as vice-presidents. Here are excerpts of the interview, where Zahid addressed questions on Umno

New Straits Times

Question:  How does Umno filter frivolous candidacies for top posts and the supreme council leadership,  since the elections will be very open?

Answer: There are certain criteria set, which I don't have to repeat, like the requirement to have served in  the supreme council. Apart from that, you cannot filter a contest. If someone is qualified to register as a  candidate, the system is there.

In the case of the three incumbent vice-presidents, we are working together closely. But, we welcome Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam or Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad to join the race.

The three of us (Zahid, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal) have been assisting the prime minister in specific roles and we have what is needed to strengthen the party and provide continuity in the Umno leadership.

We have to cooperate because we are the product of (Datuk Seri) Najib (Razak).

We were from Umno Youth. We have worked together over the last three general assemblies. Shafie took charge of the Umno clubs, Hishammuddin addressed issues and I handled the media. We were well-coordinated.

Question: There must surely be rivalry for the top-ranked VP post?

Answer: No, because we are not concerned (about) which one of the three positions (that) we get.

Shafie, during a speech in Taping, said anyone else can have the No. 1 and 2 positions and that the third spot is good enough for him.

Yes, we will be happy to be retained as VPs. That is good enough.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was the third VP and he became the deputy.

Question: Is it really healthy for the incumbent VPs to make pacts? Don't you think you are shrinking the space for democracy?

Answer: Anybody is free to make pacts. Others going for the post(s) can do so, too. It is not formalising an alliance; it is merely an understanding among us.

Question: What is the mood in Umno right now? It was clearly the biggest winner in the last general election, contributing 89 of 133 seats that Barisan Nasional won. But, it has not projected the persona of a big winner.

Answer: The mood ... I don't really know. How do you study the mood of 148,500 delegates?

But, I am positive that they would like to have leaders who can strengthen the party and are actively implementing government policies.

Question: How do you go about strengthening the party?

Answer: Number one, the party members, in general, are very complacent, partly because the Federal Government still belongs to BN and we are the backbone of the coalition. Even the candidates who lost are complacent because the Federal Government is still under BN.

They are still fighting among themselves. They keep the allocation for the general election just because they were not fielded as candidates and they want to use the money to contest in the party polls.

How can they do that? We have had enough of these so-called warlords.

Question: But, they (warlords) are still there... some of them contested and won.

Answer:That's the problem. This issue has to be arrested as it goes against Umno's ambition of rejuvenating the party.

Question: There is nothing to compel them to call it a day?

Answer: This problem is not just happening in Umno. My friends in Pas and PKR say it is also happening there.

Question: The concept of retirement doesn't seem to apply to these politicians.

Answer: They will when they lose.

Question: Although age is a big factor, some who are 68 or 69 still think they're vibrant with vigour and are young and fit. Why can't they offer themselves?

Answer: I'm already 60. I feel young... at heart.

Question: Regeneration and rejuvenation of Umno seems to be the catchphrase leading up to the party polls.

Answer: I'm very confident of it because at every general assembly election, 40 per cent will be new faces, be it at the divisional or national level.

Question: How did the story about you contemplating the No. 2 post come about, so much so, that you have had to deny it?

Answer: It was a blogger from Sabah who wrote it, when there had not been a single word said on the matter. This was an attempt to put me at loggerheads with Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. He (the blogger) does not know my relationship with Muhyiddin. We have been buddies for a long time.

Don't they know it is not a nomination system? Under this registration system, if I refuse to contest, who can possibly force me to?

Question: So, under the previous nomination system, one was sort of compelled to contest upon getting the required nominations?

Answer: In past nominations, I was encouraged to go for it (No. 2 post), but Najib, whom I had served as political secretary, advised me against contesting and I didn't. It is even more crucial now that the top two posts are not contested.

We need to maintain the status quo, as a split in support for the president and deputy president's posts will weaken the party.

Contesting any posts below that is fine.

Question: What would you say are your strengths that Umno members should consider in voting for the VPs?

Answer: I would say it is my grassroots support because I'm not a seasonal politician. If I have a ministerial programme, I will always meet with the grassroots. I don't meet them only when the election is looming. You can see for yourself those waiting outside my office now; these are unscheduled sessions that I will oblige.

On paper, my appointments would be with about five groups, but those who come through my door every day when I am in the office are more than that.

I have at least 15 appointments with different groups. I never turn them away. It is just a matter of them having the patience to wait for their turn.

Question: You must surely be aware that you have somewhat been the 'flavour of the month' since you came to the ministry.

Answer: That is not my intention or objective. To me, whatever responsibility given to me, I have to translate into very serious action.

When I was in the Islamic Development Department (Jakim), people said whoever was minister in charge of the department would be out after a month. But, when I was there, what did I do? You know my track record when I was there.

I came in as someone without a degree in Islamic studies. I was a banker and I started my career in banking. I injected new elements of modern management into a religious organisation. I did it successfully. I revamped so many departments under Jakim.

However, the mileage is not for me to claim, as I believe it should go to the prime minister because he is the head of government.

'Umno has been daring, proactive'

Posted: 10 Sep 2013 04:11 PM PDT

MOVING FORWARD: Some have suggested that the upcoming Umno election will be stiffer than the 13th General Election. After all, how the party election pans out will have a direct impact on who will administer the country. However, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, who is seeking to defend his vice-president's post, is confident that the members' wisdom will pull the party through. He speaks candidly to A. Jalil Hamid and Yushaimi Yahaya on a host of issues, including matters pertaining to his family ties with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his hopes and aspirations for Umno, which forms the backbone of the country's leadership

New Straits Times

Question:   Is Umno at a crossroads?

Answer:  Not Umno but the country is at a crossroads. Crossroads are  being faced by a lot of countries out there. Some countries have gone through it and survived. Some are still going through it while some have not survived.

From Umno's perspective, it is critical as it is the backbone of the country's leadership. If we look at other political parties instrumental in gaining independence for their countries, only the PAP in Singapore is still around.

While we congratulate ourselves for having survived, we also have to be aware of the challenges faced by parties that have been around for so long. As Umno leaders and members, we must understand that there is a new generation now. The world is borderless.

The gap between rural and urban is so apparent. All world leaders have to face religious and racial squabbles.

Yes, it's critical, but we are grateful we are still being given a chance to move forward. That is why I feel very strongly that the party's wisdom shown since independence will continue to prevail as we have a lot to do after the party election.

You have to be confident of your ability and have faith in Umno. Without Umno, we would not be where we are today. We don't have to be apologetic. In fact, we should be very proud.

Question: The saving grace is that Umno performed better in the last election than in 2008. As one of the major contenders in the Umno election, what are your hopes and aspirations?

Answer: It is not a saving grace. Without being apologetic, I think Umno is strong. We won more states and seats. Despite the allegations of rigging and 40,000 phantom Bangladeshi voters, not a single petition filed by the opposition touched on this.

All that was nothing more than spin. What it means though is that we had won fair and square. If we had been emotional, our country could have been destroyed.

Just compare it to Egypt and Australia. (Don't) change for the sake of change. They changed Mubarak for Morsi in the name of democracy. Now, Egpyt is still unstable. How many people have died? Are you telling me that Egypt is better off? I don't think so. Try explaining that to the families of those who died in the streets of Egypt.

Compare that to Australia, that went through a transition that showed democracy in Australia is quite mature.

Let's compare the two situations -- where do we want to put Malaysia? This is not to scare anyone, but it is happening in front of us.

I think Umno has done very well and now faces the test of a party election. Will we be stronger? That will depend on the maturity of our members now that 150,000 of them can decide.

Question: Your thoughts on the emergence of many challengers to the vice-president's post?

Answer: I have contested many times. Normally, it is worst at the divisional level as it tends to get extremely personal.

I had contested for the Pemuda and vice-president's posts before. What is different now is the number of candidates offering to become vice-presidents.

For the first time ever, there are hardly any personal attacks. I don't see that many cliques or members ganging up. In fact, it could be a lot more intense, what with social media at their disposal.

It used to be chain letters. That was more personal. I remember how Datuk Onn (Jaafar, Hishammuddin's grandfather) was not spared, and neither was my late father (Malaysia's third prime minister Tun Hussein Onn).

The culture of hurling chairs and tables has stopped. Ninety-nine per cent of the branches have had their meetings and they went well.

How can you even resort to money politics? Who can buy 150,000 members? From the transformational aspect, Umno has been daring and proactive. The changes that we have made will only strengthen Umno.

Question: What is causing this new-found maturity?

Answer: I don't know if it is the maturity of the members, or the party, or the leadership, or the realisation that we cannot be lax after the last general election. We have been working hard. Some may not have realised that we are going through a massive reform.

I hope MCA, MIC and Gerakan will learn from this as they have to do some soul-searching themselves.

Question: If you are re-elected, what would be your priorities? Your comments on your family ties with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak?

Answer: I was not appointed a minister just recently. People forget that I was with (Tan Sri) Rafidah Aziz under the international trade and industry ministry. I was with (former Gerakan president Tun Dr) Lim Keng Yaik at the primary industries ministry. I was also with the youth and sports, education and home ministries. I am now handling two ministries, one in an acting capacity.

So, in offering myself as Umno's vice-president, people can assess me from those days. This is not about a position that can be bought or pawned. Umno is not like that.

Members who vote will not base it on what we promise. It may be true for newcomers, but for people like us, who have been in the government for so long, we do not have a place in Umno if people dislike us.

It has nothing to do with being Najib's cousin. When I was leading before this, it was not because Datuk Onn is my grandfather or Hussein Onn my dad.

One must remember that when I was chosen to be in the government previously, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was not my grandfather. When I was helming the education ministry, Pak Lah (former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) was not my father. Lim Keng Yaik was not my cousin. So, why are family ties a consideration now?

It is not about what I am offering. The delegates know their leaders. If they don't, they are not qualified to become delegates themselves as they are leaders at branches and divisions.

Some 150,000 members can decide the party leadership this time around. What would be their considerations? Money? Blackmail? Revenge?

I am not perfect, but Umno's history has proven that when placed in a corner, we will make the best decisions. If the best decision is to not include me, then I am willing to go without a position.

I have done my best. I have led for more than 20 years. It is also the same with Najib. If people don't like him, then just remember what is happening in Syria and Egypt.

If our leaders are not commanding or intelligent, then why would United States President Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping visit Malaysia in October? Umno can't be all that bad for the leaders of these two powerhouses to come to Malaysia, can it?

Question: But there are still those who hurl claims of your family ties.

Answer: Alhamdulillah, I have no sex or corruption scandals. I am thankful to Allah if it is only my ties to Najib.

Issues such as leadership performance, family ties, money politics and corruption are not new for all of us. It is not just me -- it is the same for Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal (the trio are the three Umno vice-presidents seeking re-election). We have gone through everything. If that is the best they can throw at me, I am thankful as I cannot decide that I am Najib's cousin. I cannot do anything about it.

Question: On calls, including from former prime minister Dr Mahathir, for a no-contest for the posts of president and deputy president?

Answer: I hope there will be no contest for the top two posts as party stability is crucial. I agree with Tun M. This is not a play thing, contesting for fun. Try administering the country and party in the present climate. I do not see the top two posts being contested, alhamdulillah.

At the vice-president level, an additional two or three candidates do not matter, as long as there are no personal attacks, money politics and other unsavoury tactics. I feel that Umno's highest echelon is safe.

The jostling for Umno supreme council posts, however, will be intense. It can have positive effects or the reverse.

We have to understand that this is the first time we are going through an election after amendments to the party constitution. It is impossible to know everything as the grassroots will decide the fate of the council.

Whoever wants to be candidate must go down to the branches. That is us becoming more inclusive. In the context of democracy, Umno fully embodies it. Name me another political party that does this?

The wings must also carry out their responsibilities. Wanita, Pemuda dan Puteri are important as they are the future of the party.

Those who offer themselves as candidates in the wings must have the vision and plan how to bring the young into the party. In the haste of campaigning, don't forget that the leaders chosen must translate their elections into support from people outside the party or we will be in a serious situation come the 14th General Election.

Question: Some were hoping to see new faces in the Cabinet line-up and have suggested that old faces are still there. Your thoughts?

Answer: That's inaccurate. Many old faces are not there.

Khairy Jamaluddin is there. Rahman Dahalan is there. These are new faces. Before that, they did not hold any positions. Can't we recognise that? However, KJ has to deliver. Rahman has to deliver now that he is in the cabinet.

Question: Some are of the opinion that the opposition allows more room for young leaders to come up the ranks.

Answer: The opposition can do whatever they want to. We do not know what will happen when they are given the chance to lead the country. The stakes are higher. The opposition has nothing to lose. They can project new leaders, or even "babies" if they like. Their task is easy. They say the country is topsy-turvy, they say there were 40,000 phantom voters and they will always attempt to discredit us, but as the government of the day, we have to be responsible.

If we want to push young leaders up, they must be responsible leaders. If we give inexperienced leaders the chance, and they abuse it, the country will fall into chaos. Those we project must prove their worth.

On the other hand, we have given the chance for young leaders to grow. The menteris besar of Kedah and Perak were from Pemuda. Khaled Nordin, Idris Haron? I am helming two ministries. The prime minister, too, was from Pemuda. So were Zahid and Shafie.

People accuse us, but the reality is that this is an untruth. Now, we need to find leaders from Puteri. Pemuda has proven itself, as we have menteris besar, a home minister, a defence minister. (Deputy Prime Minister) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was a Pemuda leader himself.


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