One of three government ministers involved in a dispute over who should be deputy leader of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) has warned the issue could 'tear the party apart'. But Lim Ah Lek, Minister of Human Resources, did not rule himself out as a contender for the post in the party, the second biggest in the ruling National Front after the United Malays National Organisation. This leaves open the possibility of a challenge to the man nominated by Dr Ling Liong Sik, MCA president and Minister of Transport. Earlier this week, Dr Ling said Dr Ting Chew Peh, MCA secretary-general and Minister of Housing and Local Government, was the most suitable candidate to replace the deputy president, Lee Kim Sai, who is expected to retire before the MCA elections in July. He said the choice of Dr Ting was the result of a 'consensus' among party members and various state branches. But one state, Pahang, has rebuffed Dr Ling by proposing Mr Lim, the local party chief, for deputy president. A report in a leading Chinese-language newspaper said the response to Dr Ling's choice was unenthusiastic in a number of states while another daily declared that the 'Pahang whirlwind of support' for Mr Lim was 'blowing to the federal territory of Kuala Lumpur'. Nanyang Siang Pao questioned the wisdom of Dr Ling, saying he might be 'sowing the seed of another MCA crisis', which neither the party nor the Chinese community wanted to see. In his remarks supporting Dr Ting, Dr Ling said Mr Lim had told him he was not ready for the post. Mr Lim said he was honoured by the pledges of support from party divisions but asked his supporters not to make any more statements on the matter. 'This is a family affair,' he said. 'We must be united and resolve this together.'