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19 October, 2008

Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting - Restore confidence in Barisan

Sunday October 19, 2008

‘Restore confidence in Barisan’

Policy speech by MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting at MCA's 55th annual general assembly Saturday.

ON behalf of the MCA party, I convey my deepest appreciation to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Prime Minister and Barisan Nasional chairman, for being here with us once again and for officiating MCA’s 55th annual general assembly on this auspicious morning. I also welcome and extend my gratitude to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, the Deputy Prime Minister and Barisan Nasional deputy chairman as well as to all leaders and representatives from Barisan Nasional component parties for attending MCA’s annual general assembly this morning.

Honoured ladies and gentlemen,

Ong speaking at the MCA annual general assembly Saturday. - Glenn Guan / The Star
It is a historic moment to have Barisan Nasional chairman Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as our honoured guest who will officiate the MCA general assembly. This is because this is the last time he will officiate MCA’s general assembly and this is also my last MCA general assembly as president of the party.

On behalf of MCA, I wish to take this opportunity to convey my highest appreciation to Datuk Seri Abdullah for all the help and support he has given to the MCA thus far as Prime Minister in tackling the various challenges faced by the Chinese community specifically and also the Malaysian community on the whole.

The MCA appreciates the Prime Minister’s sincerity and determination in his commitment to continue several important efforts before he retires.

Among them are the judicial reform, the reform and enhancement of anti-corruption efforts and reforming the police force.

The MCA welcomes the Prime Minister’s commitment to these important efforts and hopes that component parties will be truly involved in an effective manner to fix all current weaknesses in these three fields so that we can restore public confidence in Barisan.

I previously represented MCA in raising several suggestions in Parliament on April 30, this year, on these three issues:

> MCA suggested that the Government enhance the judiciary system including setting up a Judicial Commission that is truly independent so that issues regarding the appointment and promotion of judges can be done in a transparent manner without taking into account race or religion. The Barisan government should enhance the judiciary system to restore the people’s confidence.

> The MCA hopes that efforts to curb corruption especially the restructuring of the Anti-Corruption Agency via the setting up of the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Comm-ission will be truly effective in preventing and combating corruption. It is high time for us to act firmly without taking into account which side is involved in the corruption, be it political leaders, influential people or those in high positions. The performance and achievements of organisations such as the ICAC in Hong Kong should be used as a reference in our efforts to improve ways to combat corruption.

> Security problems and the effectiveness in combating crime is closely related with the efficiency of the police force and public awareness. The Government should have a more open attitude towards the 125 suggestions by the Royal Police Commission to create a police force that is more efficient, transparent, not corrupted, professional and fair. One reform that will convince the people is to reconsider the suggestion to set up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).

Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, please act firmly in bringing changes and reforms to these three important issues. The rakyat are really anticipating it. MCA will continue to be with our two leaders in making these reform efforts a success.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Malaysians of various races have sent us a strong signal through the voting trends in the results of the 12th general election on March 8. From the feedback received by the MCA, the rakyat have a negative perception towards the Barisan government in various aspects during the last general election. Among them are:-

> They are not satisfied with the problem of corruption and misuse of power by politicians and government officers. Those entrusted to hold this trust seemed to have broken the trust of the people. There is also a very negative perception towards the non-transparent manner in the awarding of government contracts and there were also leakages in the use of government allocations when implementing development projects, acquisitions or services.

> They feel disgusted and angry that a handful of politicians in Barisan had been arrogant and passionate in making statements or speeches that were racially-motivated or had threatened other races. There were also some politicians who became very wealthy not long after holding a party position or being made local councillors.

> Many people are also worried about their safety and the safety of their loved ones especially when they kept reading crime-related news like cases of snatch theft, robbery, break-ins, assault and murder.

> The increase in the price of goods and higher cost of living following the higher fuel prices even before March 8 has inconvenienced the people especially the low and medium income earners, a group which represents the majority of our population.

> The handling of religious issues by the authorities often show that the freedom of religion is not practised as stated by government leaders including the Prime Minister.

> Many non-bumiputra traders, entrepreneurs, developers or investors constantly feel frustrated because they feel constrained and they are not being treated fairly by certain ministries, departments or government agencies in the issuance of licenses, permits, loans or tender opportunities.

The relevant authorities seem to enjoy using excuses of government economic policies based on prejudicial interpretation and narrow-minded thinking. In this event, the MCA has corrected several issues at the Cabinet level or through discussions with the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister.

Among the examples are the relaxing of government procurement and services policy to enable non-bumiputras to participate in the activities for limits below RM50,000 per item and to prevent the authorities from attempting to impose guidelines to curb foreign investment in the distributive trade.

If we want to ensure that our economy grows at a satisfactory rate, we must ensure that all traders, entrepreneurs and investors, small or big, are able to participate in all sectors in the economic development of our country.

The implementation of an affirmative economic policy should be based on a principle that does not sideline others and it should be done by making the economic cake bigger and by encouraging joint ventures between races. The implementation of this policy should not limit any trader or investor who tries to expand their business or investment based on success achieved by their own efforts.

The Barisan Government should re-look and re-evaluate the various weaknesses or misappropriation in the implementation of the economic policy which is different from what was promised to our multi-racial community. It is time the Government liberalise the economic policy to make Malaysia truly competitive.

> The issue of building new SJK(C) and the lack of development allocations for SJK(C), SJK(T) and mission schools have also been raised by the Chinese and Indian communities. Before the general election, the Government approved the building of six new SJK(C) and the relocation of 13 SJK(C). Recently, the MCA suggested that the Government fund the construction costs and rebuild these SJK(C) as soon as possible. Besides that, the MCA also suggested that the Government institutionalise the building of new SJK(C) where needed and always provide sufficient allocations.

There are other matters that I do not have the time to raise. Actually, all the issues I have raised are issues that had caused the loss of votes for Barisan in the last general election.

What is worrying the MCA is that although we have raised these issues many times to be addressed by the Government, the solution has not been satisfactory. The situation is worsened when the public have the perception that the power sharing within Barisan is actually not effective or fair.

Umno is seen as a party that is far more dominant than other component parties. The Barisan leadership needs to fix this situation through a practice that includes the involvement of component parties when making all important decisions. It should not be seen as if Umno is the only party that decides on important policies and other parties are only asked to defend it later in the spirit of Barisan. The power sharing slogan that is often spoken of is still seen as a mouthed slogan only. I have led MCA for almost five years and five months. The MCA central committee members and I have worked tirelessly and have discussed these important issues for at least five to six hours during each of our meetings.

Many MCA presidential council meetings have also been held to focus attention on issues that are not only related to the important rights of the Chinese community but also related to many universal issues that the non-Chinese are paying attention to.

We have tried our best to tackle various issues but as long as there is no solution that convinces the people, then we will not get their support.

Prime Minister, I still remember two days after I made the announcement not to defend my position as MCA president,

I went to see you to inform you of my decision as a sign of respect. In that meeting, you said that when I was no longer the MCA president, I will be able to hear more feedback from the common people. You told me to keep you informed of what the people said. I wish to state here that what I have touched on just now is really the feedback that I heard from the people. I did not have to wait until I stopped being the MCA president.

Actually, in the last seven months or so, my life is like an ordinary person, that is without any protocol or being escorted by bodyguards or security guards.

I am always eating and drinking at the same table and breathing together with ordinary people so much so that they are not shy to express their feelings to me. All of us in Barisan must seriously consider the people’s grouses and act effectively to bring about changes.

Barisan must change before we are changed or replaced. From the March 8 general election until now, the people’s perception has yet to change and Barisan reforms have yet to show results.

Half-truth political criticisms have confused the rakyat and have raised many questions.

The recent use of the ISA on those who did not jeopardise the country’s safety has brought a very negative effect towards the Government.

MCA suggests that the Government re-look the ISA in a comprehensive manner. Meanwhile, the use of the ISA that does not follow the objective of the original drafting of the Act should be stopped. This Act is long behind time. It should be replaced by an Act that is not easily misused or causes the people to feel unsafe.

The United States’ financial crisis and its economic effect has not only greatly affected the world economy but can also bring about side-effects to us.

Barisan cannot wait or act slowly. We need to reduce political squabbling in Barisan and within the country. The people are tired and fed up with the tricks and politicking that they read and watch in the media every day.

The Barisan leadership must join forces in providing a more focused leadership and clear direction as well as to be seen as firm and effective in tackling economic challenges and all of its side-effects.

Barisan must also involve experts or professionals and experienced industry representatives to meet and brainstorm ideas so that an action plan can be formulated in a quick and accurate manner. We need to immediately stop giving government contracts or projects through direct negotiations to companies with no solid track record. We need to stop all form of leaks and wastage of government funds and to be thrifty when using taxpayers’ money.

The economic policy has to be further liberalised and the equity condition that limits expansion should be scrapped to enable companies in Malaysia to become more competitive especially given the very challenging economic situation at present.

The Government must re-study the policy on the giving of APs, subsidy and price control. In this context, open market competition should be allowed and at the same time, the Government must channel the appropriate source to the lower income group to ensure they benefit from the expanding economy and are not left out of the country’s economic wealth.

A healthy political culture

Malaysians of all races now want to see a ruling party that is truly clean and trustworthy. The Federal Government formed by Barisan parties must not only be seen as graft-free and trustworthy but it must also be really clean and sincere in its practices and actions.

To successfully restore the image and to give new hope to the people of Malaysia, we need to start by changing and reforming within the component parties of Barisan, especially parties that are the pillars of Barisan - that is Umno, MCA and other influential parties.

MCA’s leadership in the last several years have tried to practise a healthy political culture within the party. A healthy political culture is a culture that is free from corruption and has integrity.

Therefore, I place high hopes that this spirit of a clean and healthy political culture will be strongly supported by all MCA delegates. I am confident that the delegates will realise that any form of unhealthy campaigning such as money politics, twisting of facts and the use of dirty tactics by defaming or hitting below the belt are methods that can damage the party and should be strongly rejected without a doubt.

Today, all MCA members are placing their hope on the delegates to choose a leadership team that is of calibre, integrity, trustworthy, dedicated, honest, effective and one that constantly holds on to pure values. The leadership team that will be chosen has to shoulder a huge responsibility in bringing changes to face the current political challenges that is complex and not easy.

Thus, the central committee that will be formed must always be united and be able to work well with one another.

MCA no longer has the time or space for internal conflicts and bickering within the party given that we are in a political situation that is most challenging.

Datuk Seri, honoured ladies and gentlemen. To be concise with time so that I do not have to repeat my speech all over again in Mandarin after the launch, I will now complete my speech in Mandarin.

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