Sunday, July 8, 2012

A clash of David and Goliath

Pandan is one of the hot seats in the next general election. MCA stalwart Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat defended the seat for the ruling party despite the 2008 political tsunami. But now that he is being increasingly isolated in the party, can he retain his seat? Tan Choe Choe takes a look at the constituency


Ong is reluctant to comment on all the feedback, “not because I want to be evasive, but there is always the silent majority. In real politics, if you were to make such a move to go independent or cross over, you’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some. It is never easy or simple to judge whether it must be one way or the other.”

Only one thing is for certain with Ong — he will contest: “It is my right.”

“If I want to be selfish and think only of my own winning chances, I would have opted out a long time ago, more so after certain leaders showed me the door.

“When I joined the party in 1981, it wasn’t because of any enticement or promise of a position.

“I walked in as a young graduate, knowing nobody in MCA, (but) determined to do something for Malaysians. If you look at the basic tenets of the party, there’s nothing wrong with it.

“So is it fair that I leave now, simply because some leaders show me the door? I don’t think so.”

Having said that, he said he was not going to be a “passive sufferer”.

“I have showed great restraint. But when the time comes, if I have to cross the bridge, I will cross it.”

His party leadership remains silent on whether they want him to leave or stay.

Universiti Utara Malaysia political science lecturer Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani said: “They haven’t said anything because they want him to leave.

“He is a winnable candidate because he has character, personality, and is a good leader who is liked by the people.

“But the next election will be a battle between BN and Pakatan Rakyat, so independent candidacy is not on the agenda of many voters. If he goes independent, it is highly unlikely he will retain the seat.”

PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli has been indicated as the man that Pakatan Rakyat will field in Pandan to wrest the seat from Ong, a development that Monash University political science professor Dr James

Chin and Azizuddin think is a mere challenge or ruse to get Ong to cross over.

But in a telephone conversation about his candidacy in Pandan, Rafizi said: “Yes, as it is now, it’s confirmed, unless there are any last minute developments that require me to stand elsewhere.”

But he said he didn’t really want to stand.

“I’m almost 80 per cent a corporate man, just 20 per cent a politician.

“But I subscribe to the cause for change, so after going around for talks and ceramah, I can’t give an excuse, when it comes to election, that I don’t want to stand. That’s just untenable,” he said, adding that he had never set his heart on any seat.

“If the party feels that I can contribute more by not standing, I would be more than happy.”

Admitting that he will be going up against “a giant”, Rafizi described their upcoming battle as “more than a clash of David and Goliath” because Ong been in politics for over 30 years.

“He was the former president of MCA and he’s been in the area for more than 22 years. He knows practically everyone there.”

“So we’re sending a very genuine call to him. We know that he’s got a good track record on reforms, but he’s in the wrong party.”

This statement gives credence to the perception that he is baiting Ong to cross over, an opinion shared by Azizuddin and Chin.

Azizuddin said: “He is teasing Ong, like if you don’t contest as our candidate, I will challenge you. However, if Ong contests as a BN candidate, PR will definitely field a candidate, though I don’t think it will be Rafizi.”

Chin, too, believes that Rafizi has another seat in mind, but thinks it is premature to name it now.

“Rafizi is a strong contender. But the seat he wants is not Pandan.”

Ong, however, does not think he will have an easy victory if he goes up against Rafizi.

“I have never had an easy passage since my first election in Ampang Jaya in 1989. Every battle is hard won. I will not underestimate my rival.”


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