First UTAR, Then The Spin 

Now that MCA has its Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), what does it plan to do? It does not know. It has not discussed it. It cannot discuss it because there are few who have grave doubts about it. A free flow of discussion is allowed, as in all National Front political parties, if it is only to praise the leader's vision.

Its president, Dato' Seri Ling Liong Sik, knows it would promote Malaysia as a centre of academic excellence. Not so, says its secretary-general, Dato' Seri Ting Chew Peh. It is to enforce party unity, above all. The MCA can be expected to prove itself without doubt how it could mess up what it sets out to do. Its leaders should shut up and work at its setting up, instead of casual words of hope and intent off the cuff.

The site plans are not yet even drawn, but Dr Ling already wants to attract students from overseas. The Chinese community had wanted a university for Chinese who could not enter local universities. He is good at spinning a tale: he is sure UTAR would be the most sought out to study. It would, he tells us with a straight face, spur economic growth, tourism, housing and retailing businesses. Of course, UTAR is not to curry favour with the Chinese community. But his secretary-general has other designs.

Dr Ling hits out at those, like PAS, which questions political party-run universities, as UTAR, would be. It is sour grapes, he says, pointing to the educational institutions PAS runs. As usual, the Rotting Fish Head cannot think straight. He does not understand the import of what he says.

Since MCA has been in the governing coalition since 1952, an important partner in the National Front coalition since the demand for Merdeka University was made circa 1969, why did it take MCA this long to get a licence to run a university? UMNO was against it. Interestingly, no senior Malaysian minister has endorsed it. The education minister, whose ministry issued the licence is strangely silent. If anything, it shows how isolated MCA is in the National Front.

This means something went awry. The licence itself was issued a year earlier for Dr Ling to announce it at a propritous time. In the light of the Nanyang Press blunder, and the corresponding pressures from the Chinese community, he brought out the letter which he had intended to release it to ensure his re-election next year. Because this is clouded in an MCA central committee rump led by the deputy president, Dato' Lim Ah Lek, challenging his every move, UTAR is right in the thick of internal MCA pressures.

The community welcomed UTAR, as did the DAP, for having got the university. But the government is sanguine of further support. The community would have to bear the burden. If as Dr Ting says UTAR is to strengthen MCA, it would face an uphill task. TAR College is different: it gets considerable government aid. That option is not on, as far as is known, for UTAR. So, fundraising is important to sustain it, and the community must be involved. Once MCA could, like UMNO, represent the community. It does not now.

What Dr Ling should have done, if his intention was not political, was to appoint high ranking committees, drawn from the Chinese community and chosen for their standing not their political orientation, and involve them in the effort. So far, all he has is a piece of paper allowing the MCA to set up a university. He should involve the community in the detailed negotiations with the government.

Until then, UTAR must be no more than the piece of paper it now is. MCA leaders from the president down should shut up and start building bridges with the community they deliberately destroyed. There is a problem, of course. MCA must first fulfill its promise to sell off most of its shares in Nanyang Press. He has made too many moves to show he is boss, and not for the benefit of the community he claims to represent. The future of UTAR is inextricably linked to MCA's continued control of Nanyang Press. And MCA must take the blame for that. Not the community.

M.G.G. Pillai