Dennis Ignatius, a graduate in international relations from the University of Malaya, has served in London, Beijing and Washington. From 2001 to 2008 he was the ambassador for Malaysia to Canada. Below is an article from him :
April 27, 2018
It never ceases to amaze me why a party which has done so little for so long suddenly expects voters to believe that it can accomplish great things if given another chance. Political parties that seek re-election normally run on their record in office over the preceding years not on yet more promises.
Blasé and bankrupt
The MCA election manifesto of promises and initiatives that was released recently no doubt made many Malaysians shake their heads in disbelief; if that’s the best that the MCA can come up with even as it fights for its very survival politically, then they deserve to be obliterated in the upcoming elections without so much as a second thought.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to discuss all ten of their promises. Most – like those dealing with higher education, the digital economy, healthcare, women and youth empowerment – are simply regurgitations of past plans and initiatives that the government never got around to seriously implementing. They don’t need to promise to do such things, not after they have been in power for decades; they should have just done it.
Three of the manifestos promises, however, deserve special attention, if only because they reveal the utter vacuity of the MCA as a political party.
Take the promise of “safeguarding moderation” [promise #1]. Everybody knows that the MCA is but a junior partner in a coalition that manipulates racial and religious extremism to stay in power. Year after year, UMNO general assemblies have been little less than a hatefest spewing forth unadulterated racism, mostly aimed at Malaysian Chinese. Where was the MCA year after year when all this was going on?
There’s no point arguing that the MCA has less influence today due to lack of support from Malaysian Chinese because even when the MCA was at the height of its influence, it did little to mitigate UMNO’s racism. We are where we are today because of the failure of parties like the MCA, Gerakan and MIC to stand up for principle and to defend the legitimate interests of minority ethnic and faith communities from the depredations of UMNO.
To promise, at this stage, to safeguard moderation, after failing to do so for years, can only be empty bombast. It’s a promise that the MCA leadership cannot keep even if they won all the seats they contest in the upcoming elections.
Defending core national institutions
The MCA also promises to “defend our core national institutions, uphold the Federal Constitution and the Rukun Negara… and ensure checks and balances” [promise #2].
Again, why would they expect anyone to believe that they are sincerely committed to and able to fulfil such a promise when they have in fact been instrumental in undermining our constitution, diminishing our democracy and weakening the integrity of our national institutions?
Do they think that Malaysians will not remember that the MCA (together with Gerakan and MIC) voted, supported and defended every single piece of anti-democratic legislation, including the fake news bill, that was rammed through parliament? They couldn’t even bring themselves to support the thousands of Malaysians who took part in the BERSIH rallies demanding for free and fair elections.
Even now, the government of which they are a part of, is involved in a series of moves via the Election Commission and the Registrar of Societies to deprive citizens of a free and fair vote in the upcoming elections. The opposition is being hamstrung at every turn; electoral districts have been blatantly gerrymandered and malapportioned and even electoral rolls have been tampered with.
What is the MCA’s position on these shameful and undemocratic moves by government agencies which are supposed to be impartial? If they can’t or won’t speak up in the face of such egregious assaults on the integrity of the electoral process, how can we expect them to defend our constitution or our core institutions?
With their pathetic record in office, they have simply no credibility to even talk about defending our national institutions or upholding the constitution.
Harnessing Belt and Road Initiative
The election manifesto also makes much about harnessing China’s belt and road initiative [promise #6].
No one will, of course, disagree with this, especially given that China is an important economic partner and neighbour. What Malaysians are concerned about, however, is the utter lack of transparency when it comes to many of the big China-related projects. As the MCA well knows, Malaysia has a long and sordid history of corruption involving public projects; millions of taxpayer money has been lost as a result. Vigilance and transparency is not an option but a necessity.
What people want and demand from the government is a commitment to transparency and integrity when it comes to mega projects, whether from China or elsewhere. The government must do what other democratic governments do: make its case with facts, feasibility studies and data so that taxpayers are assured that they are getting value for money and that public funds are not looted or misspent. Secret negotiations done in the shadows with cronies and then kept from public scrutiny don’t inspire confidence and cannot be accepted.
Malaysians also want to be assured that all public infrastructure projects, again whether from China or elsewhere, prioritises Malaysia’s national interests, Malaysian companies, Malaysian engineering and technical expertise, Malaysian products and Malaysian labour. As it is, too many concessions are given to foreign companies at the expense of Malaysians.
What Malaysians want
It certainly looks like the MCA, instead of trying to understand the sentiments of Malaysians and the angst and anger that animates our citizens these days, chose to rely on some slick strategist to come up with a seemingly smart manifesto that looks good on paper. What it reveals is that MCA (as well as its partners in BN) are hopelessly out of touch with the hopes and aspirations of ordinary Malaysians. If they were, they would at least start by being contrite about their dismal performance in office after decades in power.
Besides, the MCA [as well as Gerakan and MIC] made a choice a long time ago to meekly go along with a racist political partner perpetuating a divisive and exploitative political system; it cannot now pretend to be an independent political actor able to espouse and pursue an agenda of its own. The only agenda that is on the BN table is the UMNO agenda and that has already been rejected by a clear majority of Malaysians.
Malaysians are not too hard to please; what they want is for their constitution to be respected, their democracy to be cherished, their leaders to be honest and sincere and their government to be clean. If the MCA and BN still doesn’t get that, they don’t deserve another term in office.