By Tay Tian Yan
MCA is heralded into a big unknown although I would try to avoid using a description to suggest “gloominess”.
Its humiliating defeat in the last general election (GE13) may not be rock bottom yet for the party.
Just as many believe that MCA is beginning to crawl out of the pit, future political developments could sink the party deeper into the valley of despair once again.
I’m not being alarmist, but if the situation doesn’t turn for the better, this will be the scenario the party must deal with.
I am of course talking about PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s private member’s bill, otherwise known as the RUU355 amendment.
MCA has made its stand very clear when compared with other political parties, even the DAP.
MCA is strongly against the bill because it contravenes the Federal Constitution and may be a stepping stone towards hudud.
Umno has not softened its stance, indeed it is prepared to collude with PAS. The party also has not shown any willingness to compromise with the MCA.
To win the hearts of Muslim voters, and for its own political survival, Umno must work with PAS. In terms of political reality, nothing is more important than survival.
Even though MCA has attempted to dissuade Umno by citing the “BN Spirit” and the Federal Constitution, Umno’s response has not been been serious: “This has nothing to do with non-Muslims’ rights. It’s not hudud!”
Hadi’s bill will be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat in March. There is no turning back for now.
Such is the political reality that there are four scenarios awaiting MCA:
1. Accepting the amendment
This will help prevent a split in the ruling coalition, but MCA will be the one to suffer the most. Its rivals will not miss this golden opportunity to hit out hard at the party for “once again” kowtowing to Umno, and for sacrificing the interest of the Malaysian Chinese community.
The Chinese community will not be that understanding, either, and some of the votes that have earlier returned to the BN could be gone forever. MCA’s image and support rate will only plunge.
2. No backing down
From the perspectives of Umno and mainstream Malay-Muslim society, if MCA firms up, it will be seen as trying to create trouble.
Some in Umno already feel that if MCA can’t even understand this and would not be bothered about Umno’s survival, then a decisive split will be the natural option to take.
Anyway, Umno can always look for new partners, including other Chinese-dominant parties.
Once this happens, either MCA will be expelled from BN or the coalition will be heading for complete dissolution, and Umno will set up a new ruling coalition that excludes MCA.
MCA will then face the powerful onslaught not only from DAP but also the new ruling coalition. The party will lose the support of Malay voters and its future prospects would be bleak.
3. Team up with others to force Umno to give in
The support of at least 112 MPs is required for the Shariah amendments to be passed in the Dewan Rakyat. Umno’s 86 seats plus PAS’ 14 only make up a hundred MPs.
Without the support of other parties, Hadi’s bill will not get through. As such, to ensure its adoption, the support of other ruling parties such as BN components in East Malaysia and opposition/independent Muslim MPs is essential.
MCA can try to rope in these MPs to oppose the bill. Of course, Umno can also do the same.
4. Persuade Umno to defer the bill
The impact of the bill is momentous and there is no way Umno should overlook the possible consequences. A collapsed BN will not do the party any good but will further strengthen PAS.
If MCA can persuade Umno President and Prime Minister Najib Razak and his party to defer the tabling of the bill to at least after the general election, things could turn out different for MCA.
As Umno and PAS have pledged to work together towards it, any change will not come easy.
Among the four possible scenarios above, only the last two are favourable to MCA and will go well with the Chinese community.
But, this is much easier said than done and will take a lot more wisdom and effort from our politicians to fulfil.