MIC and MCA gone vertigo

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

MARCH 2 — There are four Chinese ministers and one Indian minister in the Malaysian Cabinet presently.

Since it is about two entities obsessed with race, that information is central to comprehend their loss of balance recently. On how they verge on being non-entities.

So, these five ministers walk into a Cabinet meeting.

Their ethnicity standard ratio for the executive except none of them are from the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) or Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC).

For the first time when Barisan Nasional (BN) is in power, both parties are out of the Cabinet. Umno are well represented, even with the deputy prime minister.

Their egos are devastated as four of the five are from DAP — Umno’s long-time foe now in bed with it.

Naturally with this hanging over their heads, MCA and MIC are not mistaken to feel being in this government is only a Pyrrhic victory.

The unity government has a healthy majority, so MCA-MIC’s three — Wee Ka Siong (Ayer Itam), Wee Jeck Seng (Tanjung Piai) and M. Saravanan (Tapah) — just make weight.

Which explains why in the aftermath of the general election last November, with a stalemate and the spectre of a hung parliament real, MCA-MIC were keener to side with Perikatan Nasional (PN) over Pakatan Harapan.

Things were expected to be better for MCA-MIC under PN. The Ismail Sabri Cabinet had Wee bits from MCA — Ka Siong helming transport and Jeck Seng a deputy — while MIC deputy president Saravanan as human resources minister.

Most importantly, no DAP.

Seeing their erstwhile enemy seated at the main table and them waiting outside is torment.

Thaipusam at Batu Caves is a key event for MIC to rally Indian support. Instead this year, DAP’s V. Sivakumar, and human resources minister, delivered the annual address at the podium with millions of Indians at the grounds and elsewhere paying close attention.

His predecessor Saravanan had to stand beside him on stage as supporting cast. MIC as second fiddle to DAP. The moral victory is monumental.

The die is cast, but what can they do?

They are certainly cornered.

But despite the rage inside, they both have to bide their time inside BN and thereafter inside the larger unity government. They have to since they have no Plan B.

For now, existence inside the Anwar administration determines their long-term viability. It forces the unpalatable question, has their time and relevance passed already?

What, nothing good to say, to prop up them two?

Well, some upsides.

Just like Gerakan, MCA has a nice headquarters. Smaller but in the city centre, neighbours the new MRT station to pad up the current Ampang Park LRT, a stone’s throw from the Petronas Twin Towers.

Good real estate, and also Huaren Holdings with its portfolio of companies, including media.

Then, the new PM attended MCA’s Chinese New Year Open House after 25 years.

Both MCA and MIC were invited to the unity government secretariat formation meeting, unlike Muda. How about that, after 60 years, retirees MCA-MIC are still ahead of Muda.

Yes, both parties are scraping the bottom of the barrel. When it comes to their political prognosis.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim speaking at the Chinese New Year Open House of the Malaysian Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCCIM) in Kuala Lumpur, January 28, 2023. — Bernama pic
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim speaking at the Chinese New Year Open House of the Malaysian Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCCIM) in Kuala Lumpur, January 28, 2023. — Bernama pic

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim speaking at the Chinese New Year Open House of the Malaysian Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCCIM) in Kuala Lumpur, January 28, 2023. — Bernama pic

Unity here, unity there

Speaking of fortune, more positives emerged lately for the unity government — which is inversely horrible news for MCA and MIC.

The Anwar and DPM Zahid Hamidi’s bromance has led to Pakatan and Umno cementing their ties further.

Major breakthrough in that Pakatan and BN agree to avoid multi-corner fights in the upcoming six state elections. Which ups victory odds in Selangor, Penang and Negeri Sembilan, and gives them a chance to dent PN in Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu.

But in this developing relationship, between BN and Pakatan, MCA-MIC are the odd ones out.

Look at Selangor to realise how dim things can be for the two ethnic parties.

Umno continues to contest won seats like Sungai Panjang and Sungai Burong. Then it usurps former Bersatu seats won when they were with Pakatan in 2018, like Batang Kali and Permatang. Put together, Umno could contest 12 seats out of 56 in Selangor.

But what can MCA and MIC benefit from the seat split?

They would want Pakatan-held seats, and there’ll be a mini-revolt if strongholds like Bukit Lanjan, Damansara Utara or Teratai are handed over on a plate to either MCA or MIC.

In wheeling and dealing, MCA-MIC are probably the biggest losers.

The overall prospect is grim. If a Chinese or Indian party lacks gravitas on the west coast, especially in Selangor and Penang. To be a non-factor like Parti Rakyat Malaysia and Parti Cinta Malaysia.

How the mighty fall!

If during the negotiations, MCA-MIC asserts their demands, Pakatan might whisper to Umno that both parties are electoral liabilities and better off to use DAP.

The thing is and it pains to say the obvious too often, the assessment is accurate.

All these must grate both party presidents, Wee and SA Vigneswaran, when they hear about the latest initiative, statement of intent or photo op involving Umno and Pakatan.

An unexpected departure of Umno from the unity government is hard to fathom.

Salt to wound, Zahid is not alone in his commitment to Pakatan. Even those purged by Umno, like Khairy Jamaluddin, stated a willingness to support Anwar’s government.

A new tomorrow for those set on yesterday?

Unlike Tony Blair resetting the UK Labour Party in the 90s or pick any right-winger masking intolerance as pragmatism — Trump, Le Pen or Meloni, anybody? — in recent times, MCA and MIC are hamstrung.

These ethnic-centrists prefer to lead minorities and they rely on the dominant party to do the rest. That used to be Umno, but these days Umno is distracted in order to sustain a heartbeat.

The ethnic overdo is nasty but effective, if it appeals to the population’s majority race.

The two parties are like a Blur song, out of time.

On top of it, they’ve lost their quid pro quo arrangement with Umno.

The classic arrangement was, They’d bring the Chinese and Indians, and for that Umno brings them the Malay support. The murmurs for Umno to give up on both parties lingers.

The two leaders and their respective top leaderships have limited capacity to change the game to their advantage. To be fair, where was the scope to change for demographically self-limited parties?

When they have only been hammers, they look for nails in all problems.

One trick ponies cannot refuse their one skill. For MCA-MIC, everything reassuring are historical recollections and not their current values propositions. Because history is where glory was for them and today is just a longing for the past.

If at the end of the state elections, MCA-MIC only have two or three seats in total, after over 200 races are counted, the two parties might want to consider retirement plans.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.