I read with great interest yesterday on the so called “unity” of MCA and Gerakan in facing the coming General Elections. Although their talk of unity is a national one, their main focus has got to be Penang where the two parties each had had a Chief Minister before in the past . After failing to win a single seat in the 12th and 13th General Elections in Penang, it seems they are now putting their hostility and hatred of one another aside and is vowing to work as a team.
One may ask about that so-called hostility between them and how did it start in the first place? To understand that, let us go back to history. MCA from the time when it was part of the then three party political coalition known as the Alliance Party together with UMNO and MIC, had always claimed to be the sole voice of the Malaysian Chinese citizens in the government. Due to a falling out between the then MCA President Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu and the Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Dr. Lim left to be part of as well as lead a “non-sectarian” opposition political party known as Gerakan. After Gerakan managed to win the Penang State Government in the 1969 Malaysian General Elections, Tun Dr. Lim ousted Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee and became new Chief Minister of Penang.
All that would have been fine if that had been the permanent political arrangement between those parties especially if Gerakan had remained in the opposition. If Gerakan had remained in the opposition, then MCA would have had the chance to reclaim the Penang Chief Minister’s post in the following General Elections. However, as we all know by now, Gerakan ended up forming and joining an enlarged Alliance coalition which came to be known as Barisan Nasional. With the presence of Gerakan now holding on the CM position and now being on the same team with MCA, Gerakan was able to negotiate with UMNO that the CM’s post would remain permanently with Gerakan in the event of a BN victory in every subsequent election.
UMNO knew that the presence of Gerakan within the BN would be to its advantage. Gerakan was encouraged to solely concentrate their efforts on only the Chinese community and the Penang CM’s position was kept permanently with Gerakan in subsequent elections. This move effectively took away MCA’s sole chief executive position within Malaysia, which severely weakened the MCA. UMNO also took away the Finance Ministry from the MCA and until today, the highest ministry an MCA President could claim would be the Transport Ministry, which UMNO then also started to weaken by consolidating many functions of public transport from the Transport Ministry and placing them under the Prime Minister’s Department.
With the presence of Gerakan, MCA could no longer claim to be sole voice of the Malaysian Chinese community hence, UMNO took full advantage of the situation to further weaken the MCA from making demands towards them. Any subsequent MCA leader who dared stand up against UMNO was purged through UMNO supported replacements within the party. These UMNO replaced new MCA leaders would ensure that MCA would make no demands and will only deliver the Malaysian Chinese votes and never question UMNO’s directions. Former strong Gerakan leaders were also slowly replaced by new UMNO supported “yes men” which would ensure that while the Penang CM’s post was held by Gerakan, real power would be wielded by UMNO like a puppeteer behind a puppet.
Since 2008, while both parties now no longer hold the Penang CM’s position and are led by UMNO “yes men”, they still harbour that hostility and hatred towards each other. What is the basis of that hatred, one might ask? The answer is their mutual greed for power and dominance over the Malaysian Chinese community’s support. Both will want to impress UMNO in the coming elections by delivering Malaysian Chinese votes to prolong UMNO’s ‘divide and rule’ policy just so that they would be subsequently rewarded. It has now become like two servants trying to outdo one another to impress their mutual master.
So why are they now talking about working together? Because both are now out of power and have nothing to lose in their quest to regain the Penang State Government. Should their propaganda and politics manage to win them the government, no doubt a power struggle between them will once again start in order to secure the Penang CM’s post. However, if one wants to really look into any possible similarities between MCA and Gerakan in this new alliance, one can find that they are mutually similar in their subservience to UMNO no matter who wins their power struggle and would never deny UMNO anything in fear of losing their positions. Even if it means bartering the entire state of Penang to UMNO as a Federal Territory in return for more rewards. Therefore if there would be a name for this new union, one can only call it the Union of Subservience.
Chris Lee Chun Kit is a City Councillor at the City Council of Penang Island (MBPP) representing the DAP