Attempt to end feud in Malaysia

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 December, 2009, 12:00am

Thirteen top committee members of Malaysia's main Chinese party resigned yesterday in a bid to force fresh party elections and end a debilitating leadership feud.

The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), a member of the governing coalition of Prime Minister Najib Razak, has struggled to settle the row among its three top leaders - party president Ong Tee Keat, deputy Dr Chua Soi Lek and senior vice-president Liow Tiong Lai. The feuding culminated this year in efforts by Ong to have Chua thrown out of the party, for his inadvertent starring role in a hidden-camera sex video.

Eight more members of the MCA's 31-member central committee must resign to trigger the fresh party elections.

'We hope to persuade eight or more members to resign. We need fresh elections to end this long, divisive crisis ... to reunite the party and prepare for the next general election,' said Liow, leader of one of the MCA factions who led yesterday's resignations. 'This crisis must not prolong even a day longer,' he said. 'We must all face the delegates again for a fresh mandate to recoup the credibility and dignity of the MCA.'

The last MCA election last year returned the three strong-willed and ambitious leaders. But within months of that election, differences emerged among the three key leaders. Political analysts said the spark was general unhappiness over the distribution of post-election largesse and patronage.

Najib, who is in favour of fresh MCA elections, met the faction leaders several times this year to end the squabble but without success.

As the biggest Chinese partner in the ruling 13-party National Front coalition, the MCA is tasked with delivering the Chinese voters who make up 25 per cent of the 13.7-million-strong electorate. However, in last year's polls most Chinese voters backed the opposition coalition led by Anwar Ibrahim on the back of his promise to promote racial equality, social justice and meritocracy.

Anwar's coalition won five state governments in those elections, but the National Front clung to power nationally, with a 30-seat majority in the 222-seat parliament. A year and a half later, opinion polls show Najib's popularity is on the rise on the back of major reforms he is making to promote equality and meritocracy.

'Najib wants to quickly end internal strife in Barisan [National Front] component political parties and prepare for an early general election. The unending strife in the MCA worries him a lot,' political scientist Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said.