The sacking of Neo Yee Pan from Cabinet shows that UMNO has the reserve power to interfere in MCA affairs to the extent of deciding who is to be the MCA President

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary- General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, to the Petaling Jaya Old Town Branch Committee members at DAP PJ Hqrs on Thursday, Sept 26. 1985 at 8.30 p.m.

The sacking of Neo Yee Pan from Cabinet shows that UMNO has the reserve power to interfere in MCA affairs to the extent of deciding who is to be the MCA President

Under the guidance of Ghaffar Baba, the MCA ‘three kingdom’ power struggle has entered the new phase of branch, divisional and national elections. According to initial reports, the Tan faction is having the upper hand, followed by Neo, faction, with the Mak faction with hardly any base or support.

In the l9months of A power struggle, the A had taken strange turns arid twists, bringing the reputation of the Chinese community in Malaysia to an all—time low. This is because the Neo, Tan and Mak factions of MCA are engaged in a purely power struggle, in utter disregard of the basic rights and future of the Malaysian Chinese whom they profess to champion and represent.

When the MCA power struggle first started, the Tan Koon Swan faction raised the banner of Chinese rights, self—respect and dignity, accusing the Neo Yee Pan faction, and in particular the four MCA Chinese Ministers, of being subservient to UMNO ‘Big Brother’ in the Cabinet and Parliament, resulting In the wide ranging loss of the rights and future of the Chinese community.

When the MCA crisis dragged on month after month, and the Tan Koon Swan 1tion found the expenses of the ‘rebellion’ a heavy one when they could not achieve a speedy success to topple the Neo faction, the Tan faction began to make their first turn and twist.

In a very surprise move, the Tan faction gave open and public support to the Malacca Chief Minister, Datuk Abdul Rahim Thamby Cik’s plan to demolish Bukit China in Malacca, excavate the graves and dump the earth into the sea for reclamation, and develop the ancient cemetry hill for commercial profit.

The Tan faction’ a Bukit China stand was clearly motivated by its desire to win UMNO support in the MCA power struggle. This gave the Neo faction the opportunity and the right to accuse the Tan faction of selling out the rights, self—respect and dignity of the Chinese community for its own factional interest.

Then in August, in the abortive coup d’etat, which clearly had the prior knowledge and even blessing of the UMNO leaders, Mak Hon Kam and Tan Tiong Hong tried to unseat Neo Yee Pan as Acting President. When they bungled the plot, and could not get a quorum to have a lawful meeting of the M CA Central Executive Committee, the Mak faction went ahead to illegally claim the Acting MCA Presidency. This gave both the Neo and Tan factions the opportunity and the right of accusing the Mak faction of betraying the MCA and Chinese political interests.

Although Neo Yee Pan was sacked as Minister, he went round the country talking about the danger of ‘phantom MCA leaders’ and influence, by ‘outsiders’. The MCA power struggle seemed to have turned full circle, with the chief villain at the beginning of the power struggle assuming the mat-tie as the foremost defender of the rights, dignity and self—respect of the Chinese community.

In actual fact, the accusations which had been made respectively against each of the three MCA factions still stand unrebutted, namely:

• The original Neo The Pan faction, with the four MCA Ministers, had feiled to stand up for the rights of the Chinese community, Wt had instead allowed an unprecedented erosion of these rights;

• The Tan Konn Swan faction was prepared to agree to the Bukit China demolition in order to win UMNO support in the MCA power struggle; and

• The Mak faction was prepared to do the dishonourable thing of stabbing Neo Yee Pan in the back, so that Mak could take over the MCA, although there would have been no Neo- Tan power struggle in the first place if Neo had appointed Tan Koon Swan instead of Mak Hon Kam as his deputy in MCA.

The Malaysian Chinese are of course interested and curious to know who will emerge the winner in the MCA ‘Three Kingdom’ power struggle, in the same way as the people at large are interested to know who will win in any race.

But what really concern the Malaysian Chinese is not who is going to be the winner, but the issues involved in the MCA power conflict, and in particular Barisan Nasional and UMNO’ s intervention.

The issue which emerged clearly in the sacking of Neo Yee Pan as Cabinet Minister is that UMNO has the reserve power to interfere in MCA affairs to the extent of deciding who is to be the MCA President.

The explanation by Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed that the Barisan Nasional has the right to intervene in MCA’ s power struggle when it threatened to jeopardise the stability of the
Barisan Nasional is a very weak one, for he never conceded that the MCA and other Barisan Nasional component parties have the similar right to intergene in any UMNO power struggle if this threatened to jeopardize the stability of the coalition.

The sacking of Neo Yee Pan from the Cabinet, although he was still the legally—recognised MCA leader, even in the eyes of the Registrar of sets the clear precedent that the UMNO President, as Prime Minister, could arrogate to himself the right to decide who is to be the MCA leader, or who should not be the MCA leader.

In a genuine coalition government, the grime Minister’s prerogative to appoint a Minister is restricted by the understanding that it is up to the component parties to decide as to whom of its leaders should be Cabinet Ministers.

Thus, if is the MCA decision that its President or Acting President should be the senior MCA Minister, it is not within the prime Ministers prerogative within the framework of a coalition government to sack him a Minister without interfering in MCA’ S internal affairs as Neo Yee Pan case was clearly a case of outright interference in MCA affairs as Neo was sacked not because of his Ministerial performance but because of the power struggle.

The Tan Koon Swan and Mak Hon Kam factions should have stood as one with Neo faction to oppose the sacking of the Acting MCA president from Cabinet on a matter of principle, as it would set a dangerous precedent for the future, but the Tan and Mak factions were only interested in their sectional interests and advantages!

Is Tan Tan Koon Swan aware of what he had done when he gave tacit consent to the sacking of the – MCA Ministers by the Prime Minister without consultation and prior approval from the MCA leadership?

Should Tan Koon Swan be elected as the next MCA President, is he conceding that the grime Minister has the right to choose whichever MCA leader or MP to be Minister, Deputy Minister, without having to consult with MCA leadership, and that the Prime Minister can sack any MCA Minister because of MCA power conflict without having to consult with the MCA leadership?

Ghaffar Baba, the Chairman of the MCA Ad Hoc Committee and Barisan Nasional Secretary, had tried to convince Malaysians that the Barisan Nasional is a coalition of equals. He said that the strongest component party, UMNO, has the same three representatives in the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council, as the weakest component party, the PPP.

While this may be true, everybody knows that the voice, weight and influence of the three PPP representatives on the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council is even less than that of an ordinary UMNO leader who is not a member of the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council.

The tragedy of the MCA power struggle is that in the matter of UMNO interference in the MCA’s internal affairs, the Gerakan should have taken a stand to oppose any such outside meddling in internal party affairs of another party. But as the Gerakan president, Dr.Lim Keng Yaik, said a day after the Barisn Nasional Supreme Council meeting on August 17, the Gerakan was getting very impatient to take over the role of MCA in the Barisan.

For this reason, the Gerakan was prepared to agree to the UMNO’s interference in the MCA internal affairs, not realising that also set a precedent for UMNO’ a future interference in Gerakan’s internal affairs.

This is in fact the most disturbing and most important aspect of the MCA power crisis: that the three MCA factions of Neo, Tan and Mak as well as the Gerakan all concede to UMNO the right to inteffere in their party affairs, but none of them dare to claim the reciprocal right to interfere in UMNO’s internal affairs under similar circumstances.

If UMNO possess the reserve power to interfere in MCA or Gerakan’s internal affairs to the extent of deciding who should or should not be the party leader, then the people can understand why the MCA and Gerakan have no independent power or influence to decide government policy, In policy councils, the MCA and Gerakan’s role is not to participate or help decide, but to say ‘yes’ when the policy had already been decided, whether it be One Language-One Culture Policy, the National Culture Policy of Assimilation, the New Economic Policy or its extension to become a New National Economic Policy; or the Policy and Process of Islamisation.

Dr.Lim Keng Yaik is at least a realist — all the Gerakan could do is to take over MCA role in the Barisan — to be the the biggest component party to say Yes’ to everything decided by UNNO!