Why is MCA shouting itself hoarse?

I am just wondering why the MCA (Malaysian Chinese Association), the Chinese-based partner in the ruling Barisan Nasional government, is reacting so hysterically over PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang’s Private Member’s Bill to enhance punishments under Syariah law for Muslims. Wasn’t the latter expected?

Didn’t BN partners read the signs when Umno started courting PAS earlier on for rural votes? PAS’ ultimate goal is to set up an Islamic state and it is open about it. PAS has not lied about its intention. So, when Umno started warming up to PAS, why was MCA quiet, only to make noise now when an Umno minister moved up the tabling of the bill earlier than scheduled?

They may argue, earlier on it was just talk but now by the moving up of the bill for debate it is an imminent reality especially since Muslim Members of Parliament are unlikely to vote against it. The fear is real: If Pas succeeds this time, it will seek more piecemeal legislation to lay the foundations for an Islamic state in every alliance it makes. That’s PAS strategy and it makes no bones about it.

That strategy was untenable in its partnership with Pakatan Rakyat because the DAP was vociferously against it. Sometimes to the point of being plain rude, I admit, and that didn’t sit well with the very Malay Hadi and his equally very Malay radically conservative supporters. The DAP lost an ally because of its lack of negotiating skills in dealing with people very different from them. PAS left the alliance and the DAP paid for it with the loss of Malay votes.

In the current scenario, it is unlikely that PAS is going to withdraw the bill since Umno also has a hand in it. The point is can the MCA stop PAS? Not, it if can’t stop Umno. And, that is the more important question. Can MCA stop Umno?

If it does, it would seem that Umno is weak and in no way is Umno going to capitulate if by doing so it looks weak, especially since the MCA is also a weak representation of Chinese support in the BN. The MCA and MIC (Malaysian Indian Congress), representing the two largest minority groups in the country, were unable to deliver the votes in the last general election. The Chinese and the Indians have largely abandoned the BN, so have the urban Malays.

Umno’s survival now depends on the rural Malay vote and having PAS as its ally is an attempt to draw some of that vote to itself. Everyone knows it, so does the MCA. Why the vociferous outbursts now?

According to news reports, the decision to move up Hadi’s bill was not discussed by the cabinet or the BN partners. That, perhaps, irked the MCA most: an issue as important as this was not discussed by Umno with its partners.

Well, should that surprise anyone? Umno has always made decisions in order to remain in power. Why should MCA think it will now put the interests of the nation before its own? If by a twist of fate, MCA succeeds, the party may win back some support but I doubt it would be much because the Chinese have realised that reforms and a better democracy will only happen if the opposition Pakatan Harapan wins. It’s the same with the Indians.

The voters who may be vacillating would be the semi-urban rural Malays. Umno will do whatever to get their support, and the MCA has no choice but to accept it. I am not sure if resigning from cabinet posts will force PAS to retract its bill. If it wants to remain in the BN, MCA has to compromise in the BN tradition of consensus “among friends”, which would mean some accommodation of PAS’s interests, exactly what it doesn’t want. The MCA is in a very hard place now!

The only people who can prevent an Islamic state in Malaysia are the bumiputra voters in West Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak — if they are willing to let go of a fistful of RM and not vote for the BN. That is left to be seen.

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