I rarely write about politics but when I was asked by some close friends why they should vote for the MCA and therefore, Barisan Nasional, I thought I should take a stand and say a few words.
In fact, the Chinese in this country face this conundrum every general election for the simple reason that the DAP fields most of its candidates against the MCA each election.
Many of my friends have always thought that one day I would join the DAP. I do not blame them.
As a boy, I was already interested in politics. In secondary school, I borrowed Lim Kit Siang's book, Time Bomb, from a Malay teacher. It contained fiery speeches made by him in parliament. At the Tunku Abdul Rahman College, I won with a huge majority in student representative elections after taking on the incumbent, who was the preferred choice of the college authorities.
I remember one particular general election when Kit Siang, the late V. David and Chan Kok Kit turned up at the Yong Peng High School to campaign. Their speeches, even though delivered partly in Hokkien before a huge crowd, were fiery and they received loud cheers and applause.
I was fired up by Kit Siang as I shared his anti-establishment feeling. I was inspired and I admired his intrepidity in taking upon the government.
But over the years, as I grew older and more experienced, my views on Chinese politics in the country have also undergone some changes.
My respect for Kit Siang, notwithstanding, I not only did not join the DAP but its anathema, as I began to question whether Chinese interests can be best protected by the DAP or the MCA.
Of course, if not for a domestic injunction imposed by the home affairs minister, I would have been in politics earlier. But whatever it is, my family comes first.
On that score, how we vote is important for the sake of our family and the next generation.
I have again watched the fiery Kit Siang on an Internet news portal.
Kit Siang said in his speech in support of the DAP candidate for the Petaling Jaya Utara parliamentary seat, Tony Pua, that to punish Umno, we must vote out the MCA incumbent, Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun. He went on to complain about the weak Chinese leadership in Penang after Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu.
Wait a minute. Is that how the Chinese in this country should vote? If it is the case that to take on Umno, one should vote against the MCA, then the same applies that to punish Pas, one should vote against the DAP.
If the DAP, which preaches a Malaysian Malaysia, cannot even defend this simple principle by continuing to co-operate with Pas in the Barisan Rakyat, then it has lost every credibility to speak up for the rights of the Chinese in this country.
I have also come to the conclusion that the DAP should bear part of the responsibility for the decline of Chinese political clout. Kit Siang should not lament a weak Chinese leadership in Penang when he had no qualms in removing a strong and charismatic Chinese leader in Chong Eu. I hope it is not making the same mistake in diluting the Chinese political clout in Penang by positioning all its generals there.
Having also worked hand-in-hand with many other races in the business world for many years reminds me of the concept of power-sharing practised by Barisan Nasional. It is the best form of government in a multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious society like ours.
My family and I have always subscribed to the belief in the politics of moderation rather than confrontation. We believe that to change things, it is more effective to do it within the system than outside.
We know that in a country like ours, with its racial, cultural and religious diversity, it is not that easy to govern. Yet in the last 50 years, save for the May 13, 1969 incident, we have generally experienced peace and stability.
Whenever Umno hits out at the MCA, the party suffers in the eyes of the Chinese. Likewise, when the MCA hits out at Umno, the latter suffers in the eyes of the Malays. This is the price to pay if we are unable to co-exist. But the will by all the component parties in BN to co-operate for the common good in the last five decades speaks volumes of the friendship and moderation among the many races. This is a feat which many countries cannot emulate.
I then chanced upon this interview shown on the same Internet portal where four Chinese in Kuala Terengganu were interviewed.
How true indeed that one will not appreciate the status quo unless he is deprived of it. In the video clip, four Chinese were asked whether they would vote for Pas in Terengganu. These are their replies:
Tam Kin Heng, gingseng seller: "BN baik sikitlah. Dia membangun, jalan pun semua OK. Saya undi BN."
Tan Eng Hock, temple caretaker: "Pas itu janji tak buat. Dia janji-janji tak buat. Dia janji sahaja. Tapi Barisan dia janji, ada buat. Macam tengok dia buat Terengganu sekarang banyak maju, bangunan-bangunan semua naik. Pas tak buat. Buat apa?"
Chong Kein Lean, housewife: "Macam Paslah, tak ada harapanlah. Gelap. Sekarang Barisan bagi semua pun OK. Undi siapa? Inilah... Biru... Barisan."
Linda Yoong, retiree: "I prefer Umno. (Under Pas), the town seemed so quiet. You see, the karaoke joints were all closed down. At night-time, there is nowhere to go. Now at least more outsiders come here."
I hope the Chinese in this country will not have to feel this way again.
Speaking about freedom and rights, the improvement and awareness process takes time, not overnight. But one ought to give credit when it is due.
It cannot be denied that the Abdullah administration created the space and room for much intellectual activity in this country.
The Royal Commission on the Lingam video clip would not have been possible if he had not listened to the stakeholders in the administration of justice.
Speaking about the economy, the Chinese smallholders in new villages are also enjoying a boom in unprecedented high commodity prices. Our ringgit is also at its strongest in the last 10 years.
Like many other graduates of TAR College, we Tarcians are grateful to the MCA. So, whenever I play the Chinese MCA election song, Treasure and Strive, it carries a special feeling of gratitude for it also summed up the struggles and achievements of the MCA. When translated, it goes like this:
"We really want to accompany you
To walk the next half of the century
To work hard because our roots are here
So that our children will not suffer
As we face the winding roads in the years ahead
We need you to give us more encouragement
Even in times of wind and storm
We will be your guardian in the rain
For the past difficult years
We thank you for standing by us without abandoning us
For the many years ahead
Let's cherish and work hard together
No matter how heavy the storm
We'll stick together throughout
We will never run away from fear
We'll be with you forever
Stop vacillating and searching
For your choice is here."
All in all, with a shrinking Chinese population and voting power, the need for a strong Chinese representation in the government outweighs all other considerations.
Every MCA seat matters. So, just change? No, not if we get shortchanged.
This article was first published in the New Sunday Times on March 2, 2008.