It was a case of political history repeating itself for the second largest Barisan Nasional (BN) component party MCA when its leaders again had to call for an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) to solve a political crisis.
MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat has called for the party EGM, expected to be held at the end of this month, to endorse the party presidential council’s decision to sack its deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek following his involment in a sex scandal in early 2007.
Following the sacking, Chua supporters launched a signature campaign to get one third of the party delegates to request for an EGM to overturn the decision.
However, Ong seems to have made a pre-emptive strike by calling an EGM even before Dr Chua’s supporters could submit the EGM requisition to the party.
Under the party’s constitution, the EGM must be held within 30 days after the directive is issued by the party president while the notice of the EGM has to be issued to the delegates 21 days before the date of the EGM.
However, the party constitution does provide the power for the notice period to be shortened by half.
“The way I look at it, the president wants to settle this issue once and for all. Looks like the EGM could be held as early as Sept 13 or a week after Hari Raya on Sept 27, before the party’s AGM scheduled on Oct 11 to be officiated by the Prime Minister.
An EGM before the AGM would be good avenue to sort this issue once and for all,” MCA veteran leader Datuk Yap Pian Hon said.
For political observers and analysts, what is happening in MCA is almost similar to what had happened in party in the early 80s.
Former MCA secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Ting Chew Peh said the current scenario is almost similar to the crisis the party faced in 1984 over the issue of phantom members where the acting president at that time, Neo Yee Pan sacked vice-president Tan Koon Swan and 13 other leaders and members from the party.
The crisis started when Neo sacked Tan and Datuk (now Tan Sri) Lee Kim Sai of their posts as Federal Territory MCA liaison chairman and Selangor MCA liaison chairman respectively on March 17, 1984.
On the same day, Datuk Mak Hon Kam, in his capacity as the Party’s Disciplinary Committee chairman, announced the immediate expulsion of 14 leaders and members from the party including Tan, Lee and other central committee members such as Dr Ling Liong Sik, Datuk Kee Yong Wee, Wong Choon Wing and Datuk Wong Mook Leong.
The announcement shocked not only the party but the whole Chinese community which prompted members throughout the country to urge the party to retract the expulsion orders.
Within 48 hours after the expulsions, more than 1,499 delegates sent in a joint petition calling for an EGM to be held to nullify the expulsion orders and to appoint a special committee to probe and handle the phantom membership issue.
However, this was ignored by the incumbent leadership which refused to hold the EGM forcing the Tan faction to bring the issue to court where the party fell into a state of near anarchy and the leadership criticised from all corners.
The crisis only ended in Nov 24, 1985 when a delegates’ meeting was held and successfully elected a new leadership under Tan Koon Swan with (now Tun) Dr. Ling Liong Sik as the Deputy President and Datuk (now Tan Sri) Lee Kim Sai as party Secretary-General.
The MCA current crisis also resembles what happened eight years ago when a crisis erupted following the party leadership, headed by Dr Ling, decided to purchase Nanyang Press Holding Berhad.
The crisis split the party into two factions, Team A vs Team B with one faction headed by Dr Ling and included Dr Chua, favouring the decision to purchase Nanyang Press Holding Berhad while his deputy Tan Sri Lim Ah Lek who headed the other faction, which included current president Ong, was against the takeover.
The issue was resolved only after Dr Ling called for an EGM where the majority of the delegates endorsed the purchase of Nanyang Press Holdings Bhd by the party’s investment arm, Huaren Holdings Sdn Bhd.
A total of 1,176 out of the 2,207 delegates who cast their secret ballots voted for the deal while 1,019 were against the takeover of Nanyang Press, which publishes the Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press dailies.
Huaren has over the years reduced its stake in Nanyang Press Holding Berhad to a marginal stake as Sin Chew Media group has taken over the ownership.
Party insiders said the decision to call for EGM could prove to be the biggest challenge that Ong will have to face since his involvement in the party as any failure to win over the delegates would spell the end of his political career.
“If the delegates fail to endorse the PC (Presidential Council) decision to sack Dr Chua, it would mean that the entire PC has to resign as it was a collective decision to sack Dr Chua.
“Similarly, if the EGM endorsed the PC decision to sack Dr Chua, it would spell the end of Dr Chua’s political career. Not only that, his supporters also will be wiped out from the party,” the insider said.