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Chinese Malaysians want strong voice, not top post
PERENNIAL ISSUE: There are numerous leaders but no one leader championing the diverse community
THE bogeyman is back. Yes, it is the issue that keeps popping up to haunt Malaysia every so often -- will there ever be a non-Malay or non-Muslim prime minister?
Plenty has been said on this issue, with everyone having an opinion but no answer.
There is a vast difference between what is theoretically possible and what the reality is. With everyone trying to score political points by making provocative statements, the line between possibility and reality becomes blurred.
But perhaps, as Oon Yeoh wrote in his column for The Sun on June 12, the race or religion of the PM is a non-issue as most non-Malays do not aspire for this anyway.
This is partly because the Chinese believe that a Malay PM has already been hardwired into the Federal Constitution.
But the Chinese community is also wary because it does not have a strong leader who can represent and champion the diverse community. As I have said before, there are numerous leaders within the Chinese community, but no one leader of the community.
In terms of political leadership, MCA and DAP are both jostling for this position. MCA was historically regarded as the voice of the community, due to its role in negotiating for the Chinese after Independence.
However, the party has since lost that coveted role. The Chinese have grown increasingly dissatisfied with MCA, perceiving them to have made too many concessions to Umno and stayed silent against the hardliners in Barisan Nasional.
With too much in-fighting and leadership problems, the party has lost its influence within the government and is too weak to push for any significant changes.
Discouraged and disillusioned, the Chinese have abandoned MCA, despite the party having achieved a lot for the community over the years.
Therefore, the de facto alternative party for the community is DAP, which puts Lim Guan Eng in the obvious position of being the leader of the community.
However, Lim himself has never claimed to covet the PM's role, and has repeatedly made assurances that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will be the PM-in-waiting, should Pakatan Rakyat win the elections.
As the opposition's sole Chinese-majority party, DAP is in an awkward position. It is not sure what it wants to be -- by frequently pitting itself against MCA, it seems to want the role of leading the Chinese community, but at the same time, it is trying to position itself as a multiracial party by courting Malay leaders.
However, MCA and DAP leaders are both missing the bigger picture. The Chinese are not voting for DAP because they support the opposition but because they want a strong negotiator for the community.
We should not get blindsided by the term "opposition". Even with the Chinese voting for DAP, Umno still holds the majority of the votes and, therefore, the ruling power.
MCA negotiated with Umno for the rights and the position of the Chinese after Independence -- that is what the community wants DAP to do now, since MCA can no longer fulfil that role.
If DAP can act as a negotiator for the Chinese, to constructively discuss the community's needs and wishes with Umno, then this will change the way BN deals with DAP.
When the BN acknowledges that there is a strong voice for the Chinese community who is not interested in power-grabbing, but simply in engaging with all Malaysians for solutions, there will be room for negotiation.
The Chinese in Malaysia have no designs on the Number One position in the country. They just want a party that understands their issues and has the power to unite the community -- not against the rest of the country, but simply to speak in a stronger, clearer voice.