Separate CNY celebrations: Why MCA, Gerakan are sending the wrong message

Commentary by Zainal Epi
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor toss a ‘Yee Sang’ dish during the MCA Chinese New Year open house in Kuala Lumpur February 16, 2018. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 ― MCA and Gerakan are doing a disservice to Barisan Nasional (BN) by hosting separate Chinese New Year celebrations last Friday.

Just last month, the two parties representing the Chinese community within the ruling coalition had pledged to work together in championing the rights of the community.

While parties may be working together in attacking DAP-led Penang government and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng over the underground tunnel issue, they have yet to see eye to eye on other issues.

MCA and Gerakan’s main political nemesis, the DAP has taken away much of their influence among the Chinese community.

In the 2008 general election, both BN parties lost much of their core support base to the DAP.

For MCA, many of its lower and middle-income Chinese supporters jumped ship in the 1990s to support the DAP.

Gerakan’s Chinese members on the hand once comprised of English-educated Malaysians with a open open-minded outlook.

Somewhere along the way, both parties took a more Chinese-centric stance, and in effect attempted to play a political game which the DAP has been very good at for a long time.

This inadvertently resulted in massive losses for MCA and Gerakan at the 2008 general election.

Since then, MCA and Gerakan have been “searching for their lost souls”, trying to regain that core support from the Chinese community many, many years ago.

Both parties have now realised that they have to work together as they are aiming to wrest the same voter demographic as the DAP for the 14th general election.

But last Friday’s Chinese New Year celebration told a different story, when both the parties went their separate ways in holding their own open houses.

Instead of being together or holding the event together as one, they held separate events, sending a different message to the community and to Malaysians at large.

The coming general election is very vital for the two parties to show to their coalition partners that they exist not just in name but in influence as well .

The two parties desperately need to rejuvenate and work hard to remain relevant to the Chinese community.

The Chinese community does not see MCA and Gerakan as platforms that can champion their causes despite BN’s philosophy of equal treatment for all Malaysians, and the DAP has been very consistent and instrumental in “driving the wedge” between the community and the two parties.

Attempting to regain their support and influence, both the parties have pledged to cooperate and work together for the benefit of the community.

Can the two parties actually work together under the demanding new era of political needs and aspirations or both merge and become one party that truly represents the needs of the Chinese community?

It is a do-or-die situation for both BN parties. If they do not get their act together soon, they will eventually fade away from the country’s mainstream politics.