A horse must run fast but must not eat hay
August 10, 2010
AUG 10 — MCA President Chua Soi Lek has suddenly found himself the target of vicious attacks. The attacks from the opposition were expected since Malaysian politics is very much based on partisan lines, but ironically some of the most vicious attacks were from his own partner-in-arms, The Big Brother.
I am not going to go into whether what he said has belittled a certain religion or whether what he said has any merits. But whether what Chua has said was a form of posturing to gain the non-Malay votes or from his heart, I thought in the context of freedom of speech, he should be allowed to voice his opinion, as the head of a component party in BN.
A politician from the Big Brother, an ex-MB, told The Malaysian Insider that Dr Chua’s remarks could cause unrest within the country and disturb the “harmonic balance” created by the ruling BN government. “We do not want to start blaming each other, pointing fingers… this leads to religious arguments. This is dangerous,” he said.
The response is expected, as all this while, component parties are not given much space to express their opinion. Anything that implies certain wrong-doings would incur immediate wrath from members of the Big Brother.
It does not matter whether there is any truth in the opinion expressed, but as long as the person in question dares even to touch their “toes”, aspiring politicians from Big Brother will swarm over him like bees and attack.
This has resulted in component parties being subservient to the Big Brother, and this subservience is one of the main reasons why these component parties suffered such a big defeat in the 308 General election.
As long as this subservience persists, it is difficult to see how these component parties can get back the support they once commanded.
Within these constraints, how do you expect the leaders of the component parties to attract votes? The more backlash they get, the more they will get rejected by the very people that used to form their support base.
When the Alliance was first formed between Umno and MCA in the 50s, both had equal number of representatives in their joint council.
The equal representation has over the years been eroded and after the formation of the BN, the admission of more members into the coalition slowly but surely diluted the powers of other component parties.
Even though the pie has been made bigger and bigger over the years by adding more Parliamentary and state constituencies, the distribution of the pie was made so unequal that soon, except for the biggest component party, others had little say in formulating important policies.
This illusion of having more seats than earlier — but in actual fact less and less say in deciding the policies — was used to pacify party members of the component parties.
Over the years, some of the component parties have also adopted amendments in their party Constitution to concentrate the power in the hands of the elite few at the top.
In all these parties, the central committee members (CCs) are all elected, with only a limited number appointed by the heads of the parties. But over the years, important positions in many parties, like that of Secretary General and Treasurer have become the sole appointments of the party heads.
Many, if not all, of these component parties also formed the so-called management councils; in the case of MCA, it is called Presidential Council, and in other parties, it is called Central Working Committee or some other name. The names may differ but the objective of having these management committes is the same — to concentrate the power in the hands of the heads of the various parties.
These management councils consist of members appointed by the heads of the parties, either directly or indirectly. Over the years, the management councils have become more and more powerful, and in most cases, they have become the de facto decision-making bodies, usurping the power of the Central Committees.
Even in the Central Committees which are supposedly elected by national delegates in party elections, the elected members’ say is diluted by that of appointed members, including VPs, Sec-Gens, Treasurers or just ordinary CC members. Those appointed invariably are aligned to the respective heads of the parties.
By doing so, the power in each individual component party became concentrated in the hands of the heads, and grassroots influence has actually been eroded and declined over the years.
When the various heads become so powerful and entrenched in their own parties, they are invariably given government positions and with that, the trappings of power which can be very addictive.
Many of them toe the line in order not to rock their own positions which, in the Malaysian context, often meant not only power but wealth as well.
They in turn dispense goodies within their own parties. Ascendancy within the parties does not depend on merit but rather on how obedient a particular member is.
Eunuch politics was used to kill off those with ideals but who were not particularly subservient. Slowly, within these parties, a culture of “not rocking the boat” slowly takes root.
All these run counter to the principles of democracy. Once absolute power is concentrated in the elite few, the rot started to set in.
This has resulted in the tsunami of 308. After the tsunami, reforms were promised but whatever changes made has been merely cosmetic .
Within BN itself, there must be more tolerance towards criticism from members of the component parties.
Good medicine is often bitter and hard to swallow, but to get well, even bitter medicine must be swallowed. There must not be a knee jerk reaction if leaders of the component parties voice out or point out certain deficiencies.
There must be more consultation and discussion on national policies; these should be undertaken by the whole BN and not by just the dominant party alone.
Within each component party, changes must be adopted to make the parties more democratic. Elected members should be given more say. State leadership should be elected.
By being more democratic, the people’s voices will be heard louder and changes can be tailor made to the aspirations and needs of the people.
We are now living in a different era, people’s expectations are very different from the days of our fathers. The people on the street know about this but unfortunately certain politicians are still living in the era of the past!
The situation now seems to be: on the one hand, component parties are being pushed to get votes, on the other hand, they are attacked whenever they express an opinion that may not suit the ears of members of the Big Brother.
It reminds me of a Chinese saying: A horse must run fast and steady, but at the same time, it must not eat hay!
As is often mentioned and repeated, it is either change or be changed and time is really running out this time!