Ong Ka Ting heading a delegation of “major”  Chinese organization leaders to meet Najib on national service is evidence of worst political marginalization of MCA and MCA President in 46 years of Barisan Nasional/Alliance politics

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaSaturday): The new MCA President, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting announced in Rawang yesterday that he would be heading  a delegation of leaders of the  country’s “major” Chinese organizations to meet with the Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on 4th July to reflect the views of the Chinese community on the issue of national service. 

He said at the meeting with Najib, the Chinese organization leaders can express their views and opinions to help the government make a success of the national service programme to promote national unity.  (Nanyang Siang Pau) 

Something is very wrong about this announcement although it was  intended to give the impression of a major breakthrough by the new MCA President who is so politically influential  that he could so quickly arrange for  dialogue with the Defence Minister on the national service training  programme with him heading the delegation of the “major” Chinese organizations. 

Firstly, any such meeting if it is going to be useful and meaningful,  should be held before the National Service Training Bill is rammed through Parliament and passed with the minimum of parliamentary debate and public discussion.  Why didn’t Ong arrange for such a dialogue and exchange before the passage of the National Service Training Bill last Wednesday – instead of trying to “close the stable door after the horses have bolted”?  Did any MCA Minister or at least MCA MPs speak up  in Parlaiment to ask for the deferment of the debate or passage of the National Service Training Bill until a dialogue had been held with the “major” Chinese organizations? Why did all MCA Ministers and MPs blindly voted against the motion by DAP MP for Batu Gajah Fong Po Kuan  last Wednesday proposing a six-month deferment of the vote on the National Service Training Bill? 

Secondly and more seriously,  Ong did not seem to realize that his announcement that he would be heading a delegation of the country’s “major” Chinese organization leaders to meet Najib on the national service programme provided  the best proof and confirmation of the critique about  “the worst slide and lowest point of MCA political marginalization in the Barisan Nasional/Alliance coalition – with the most light-weight Cabinet post for the MCA President in 46 years since Merdeka in 1957”. 

Ong seemed to have forgotten that he is a member of the Special Cabinet Committee on the National Service, chaired by Najib,  and which  included the  Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim and Tan Sri Bernard Dompok,  Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein, Women and Family Development Minister, Datuk  Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Dr. Shafie Salleh and Deputy Home Ministers Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin and Datuk Chor Chee Heung.  

As a “senior” member of the Special Cabinet Committee, Ong should  himself   be meeting with the leaders of the Chinese organizations fully empowered to represent  the government in a dialogue on the national service programme, committing the Cabinet to accept  views which are good for  the country while giving reasons for rejecting proposals whether because they are  misguided, misinformed or impracticable. 

There had never been a case  in Malaysian politics in the past 46 years since Merdeka where  a Cabinet Minister, who is leader of a component party of the coalition, heading a public delegation   to make representations to  another Cabinet Minister, making an utter mockery of  the cardinal principle of collective Ministerial responsibility! 

This is why previous MCA Presidents, whether Tun Tan Siew Sin, Datuk Lee San Choon, Datuk Neo Yee Pan or even Datuk Seri Ling Liong Sik had never led any public delegation  to have a dialogue with another Cabinet Minister, whether from UMNO, Gerakan, MIC or even MCA, to make representations about a government plan or proposal. 

It is  unthinkable for any UMNO Minister, whether  UMNO Deputy President,  Vice President or ordinary UMNO Supreme Council member, to lead a public delegation  to dialogue with his MCA Ministerial colleague on some government programme or policy for which they are collectively responsible as Ministers. 

The only time in Malaysian politics there was some  semblance of  such a ludicrous situation was in the 1980s when a MCA Deputy Education Minister led a MCA Youth delegation to meet with one of the heads of departments in the Education Ministry over an issue concerning Chinese primary schools  – which became a laughing-stock in Malaysian politics of  a government superior leading  a delegation to publicly plead with  his subordinate officer! 

There is now a similar confusion and reversal of roles – with the new  MCA President interpreting his role as that of a Cabinet-level  Michael Chong or  postman, and set to head a delegation of “major” Chinese organizations to dialogue with his Cabinet colleague on national service, forgetting  he was himself a member of the Special Cabinet Committee on national service. 

Ong should be explaining  why he had not earlier sought the views of the “major” Chinese organizations on the subject to be incorporated into the report and recommendations of the Special Cabinet Committee on National Service and is only now arranging for them to have a dialogue with Najib. 

Although the Dewan Rakyat has passed the National Service Training Bill last Wednesday, it is still not law as there are three stages to be completed: passage by Dewan Negara, Royal Assent by the Yang di Pertuan Agong and its gazette.

The honourable and proper step for  Ong is not  the indignity of heading  a delegation of “major” Chinese organization leaders to meet with Najib on the issue, but to get the consent of the Cabinet to allow the Dewan Negara to postpone the second reading of the Bill and to establish a Joint Parliamentary Select Committee on the National Service Training Bill with representatives from both Houses of Parliament to allow for meaningful  consultation and the fullest involvement of the civil society on the National Service Training Bill before it becomes law and implemented. 

The Joint Parliamentary Select Committee on National Service Training Bill should conduct nation-wide public hearings, where the leaders  of the “major” Chinese organizations can present their views without having to do so through the MCA President.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman