Gang Fight In The MCA
The MCA president, Dato' Seri Ling Liong Sik, buys a newspaper group up for sale, and a gang fight between its grandees breaks out. The "Gang of 32" takes issue with the "Gang of 8" and it is over who should be consulted before mortgaging the party to the banks to buy it. The venue is the media, and Malaysians get a rare glimpse of how a leading member of the governing coalition conducts its affairs. It does not; it leaves that to its elected dictatorial president with powers to supercede its constitution.
Any one who flouts or challenges him is put to cold storage. Not the Mafia way, but close: he can be expelled, as Anwar Ibrahim was in another political party, without due process. It works so long as members are suitably frightened of the presidential carrot-and-stick powers and jooin it not for principle but for what you can get out of it.
So, Dr Ling had the MCA in his back pocket, and none would dare take it away from him for fear of being charged with political sodomy and worse. He bought the Nanyang newspaper group without consulting those he must, ignored the party rules, finds elegant reasons to justify it. When the Gang of Eight, led by his deputy president, Dato' Lim Ah Lek, rebelled and got much support from the ground, he ignored it and when that was no longer possible, he got his Gang of 32 to confront.
That did not work either. So he ate his own words. He is forced into a corner. He calls for an extraordinary general meeting. He now believes in the power of the people, and takes the high moral ground -- whatever that means in the company he keeps -- and calls for an EGM to make legal which on the face of it is illegal.
The Gang of 8 runs around the country, dropping legal and political bombshells, arguing that the deal would lead the MCA to perdition. "Remember Lunas" is its battle cry, referring to the by election that starkly reminded the National Front and the MCA that to win elections, the people must vote for them, and they would not if the leaders take them for expensive rides.
The gang argues the newspaper purchase violates the constitution. Not so, says the Gang of 32's lawyers: it is perfectly legal, the Gang of 8 barks up the wrong tree; but we also learn that all the solemnly appointed bodies like the Presidential Council and its investment arm trustees are there to tell the world the MCA operates with due dilligence, but in reality is to rubber stamp the President's wishes and desires. The MCA has learnt little from its past. It is no wonder than that every MCA president since the mid-1970s has gone out under a cloud. But it is clear he can be removed kicking and screaming.
The EGM, called in a rush, could go either way. The deal could be approved. But the Gang of 32 feels the heat. They would not be let off the hook if it is or if it is not. The President's awesome powers allows him to cock a snook at the delegates who elected him: before the EGM is held, he seeks friendly parties to take the newspaper off his bloodied hands and off the hook.
We are expected to jump in joy that a group of community leaders and business men has offered to buy the Nanyang newspaper group at ten cents more than what the MCA bought it for, all 72.39 per cent of the share capital. They would probably buy it. But they must then, under the law, buy up the shares they do not own. Which means they must half as much more for the shares they do not own.
This gang fight is needless and unnecessary. The long and short of it is he miscalculated the mood horribly and disastrously. Dr Ling is an autocrat whose sell by date has expired. So, it is not about newspaper purchases but about how to put the bandicoot to pasture. He remains by the Grace of Mahathir. The Gang of 8 insists he should by the Grace of His People. The newspaper fiasco became a weapon to push him out.
Like his mentor, he tries to stay in office by ignoring the wishes of his people but by laws and the party constitution to threaten, cajole and hector. The Gang of 8 makes it seem that the people are out to throw him out. Not so. They could not care a fig who owned the newspapers. Dr Ling and his Gang of 32 knew that. But he forgot that he stayed on too long. Whatever happens on Sunday, whether the Gang of 32 or the Gang of 8 wins, the grand loser is its irrelevant autocrat. He seeks a graceful way out. But that option he does not have.