MCA SAGA 4: In a span of five years, MCA saw three presidents come and go, but they still lurk on the fringes.
Behind the screens, they manoeuvre to get themselves back into the driver’s seat or wait to pounce on any weaknesses of the current leaders or breathe fire in proxy fights.
Taking pole position is Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting who many political observers believe is backing the tag-team of deputy president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and Youth chief Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong.
Liow has already declared his intention to go for the number one post as his boss, Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, has announced he would not be seeking re-election in the Dec 21 party polls. Wee may settle for the number two slot.
But the character of the alliance may change if Ka Ting’s elder brother, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan, a central committee member, decides to vie for a higher post.
Despite his tame demeanour, Ka Ting is regarded as a hardy fighter and strategist always on the prowl to ensure that Chua is out of the picture.
“Ka Ting was the one instrumental in getting a group of party veterans to hold a joint press conference urging Chua to step down,” said a political observer.
The 15 MCA elders who turned up included former presidents Tan Sri Lee San Choon and Tan Koon Swan, former deputy president Tan Sri Lim Ah Lek, former Senate president Tan Sri Michael Chen, former deputy president Tan Sri Lee Kim Sai and former treasurer-general Tan Sri Lau Yin Pin, who was also the chairman of Insap, the party’s official think tank.
The “clan” members strongly urged Chua to resign immediately to take full responsibility for the party’s dismal showing in the 13th general election.
Party insiders said Ka Ting still wields some clout in the party given his appointment as special envoy to China and his diplomatic role in resolving the bird’s nest issue with China.
“He impressed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak with his political skills,” said an insider.
Ka Ting could have returned as MCA president in the 2010 party polls had the then president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat stood down.
In the keenly contested election, Soi Lek garnered 901 votes while Ka Ting took 833 votes and Tee Keat, 578 votes.
Tee Keat has hinted that he may step into the ring again and fight for the coveted top prize.
“Of late, he has been making the rounds meeting party leaders, possibly to test the waters,” said an observer.
Party insiders pointed out that he still has pockets of support, and is living up to his image as an outspoken leader. Even if does not put on his boxing gloves, he may yet use his influence to determine the eventual winner in the event of a close contest.
At the close of nominations on Sept 16, Tee Keat won a central delegate’s post in the Kubang Pasu division uncontested, thus giving him a ticket to the party’s central elections in December.
Also on the radar screen is Koon Swan, once a bright star in the corporate and political worlds. He became president in 1985 when he beat the incumbent Datuk Dr Neo Yee Pan after a protracted party crisis.
In the same year, his business empire fell apart when he was convicted and jailed in Singapore for criminal breach of trust and share manipulation. He subsequently gave up his MCA post.
His fortunes may have waned but political observers noted that he has now become a reference point for many aspiring top leaders hoping to tap into his wealth of experience and insight.
In the run-up to the Dec 21 polls, he may well whisper some words of advice to whoever he is backing.
Come election time, all these former presidents will definitely have their say in how MCA will be run – either by them again or their men.