Monday, 19 October 2009

Roger Tan: Tee Keat must honour his word


Even though I am a life member of MCA, I have always stayed out of politics, mainly because my wife finds politics to be nauseating. I must confess that to date I have not even attended any meeting of my MCA branch in Kg Baru Pandan, Johor Baru.

I doubt if the branch chairman or members even know of my existence! In fact, it was the late Johor MCA veteran, Michael Goh, who submitted in my MCA membership form in 2003.

In a way, I am happy that I am not involved in MCA politics, and so at least I can still say the current Johor MCA leaders from different factions in the party – Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, Tan Kok Hong, Datuk Dr. Wee Ka Siong and Datuk Jimmy Low – are all my friends.

But in this tumultuous time facing the 60-year-old party, I am compelled to say something especially, after Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat’s refusal to resign after having lost the vote of confidence in the October 10 EGM (10-10 EGM).

Ong is now calling for another EGM to decide whether fresh polls for the Central Committee (CC) should be held. Under Article 30.1 of the MCA Constitution, the President can direct an EGM to be held.

It is obvious that his press statement was immediately uploaded to his 
blog last Thursday the moment he knew that the CC members were not with him. Had the CC stood by him by not asking for his resignation, I am quite sure he would not have called for another EGM.

What the CC did by asking Ong to resign was correct. The CC must be seen to be respecting and carrying out the decision of the supreme body which decided on Oct 10.

But what is the point of Ong directing another EGM when he himself has shown no respect whatsoever for the decisions of the general assembly?

The moment he and Chua were elected, he was bent on treating the latter as the 
persona non grata of MCA.

If only he had respected the delegates’ choice of Chua as the deputy president and learnt to work with him by giving his deputy the space and respect, MCA could have been rejuvenated into a formidable force with the talents of these two experienced 
albeit strong-headed leaders working in unison. But that was not the case.

On October 10, Ong lost the vote of confidence. He now says that he is not legally required to step down because Article 35 requires a two-third majority in the general assembly to unseat any party official.

But that was not the song he sang before the 10-10 EGM.

In an interview with 
The Sunday Star on Sept 20, he declared: “Once a simple majority is obtained, I will be left with no choice but to step down. Anyone who argues that I do not need to do so, that only a two-third majority is required to boot me out, I think that is a great lie.”

By resiling from what he had pledged to do before the 10-10 EGM, Ong’s honour, honesty, integrity, statesmanship and credibility as a politician and person have now become an issue.

If Ong had wanted to be bound only by Article 35, he should have made it clear in the resolution prior to the 10-10 EGM.

Instead, he not only jointly called for that 10-10 EGM, but also agreed to all the terms of the resolutions proposed by the EGM requisitionists.

In short, he has legally, politically and morally waived all his rights under Article 35 by his conduct and promise to resign.

Unfortunately, Article 175 of the MCA Constitution and section 18C of the Societies Act, 1966 prohibit the matter from being referred to the courts; otherwise he may just be declared to have lost his presidency.

In fact, he could have saved the party from further in-fighting and possible destruction by stepping down honourably last Thursday so that the vacancy can be filled by the CC. He did not, even though there are constitutional provisions to deal with it.

Since Chua has not been reinstated, Article 40 which promotes the deputy to president upon the latter’s cessation of office does not apply.

Therefore, Article 23 clearly empowers the CC to fill the vacancy. This is reinforced by Article 42.

Of course, the new EGM is to allow Ong to cling on to his position and to have a second bite at the cherry. Since Article 38 defines a CC member to include the president, Ong will remain as president if the EGM votes that no fresh elections for CC are necessary.

But I am not too sure whether such a route will finally resolve or only prolong and exacerbate the crisis. Time is obviously not on the side of MCA to recover as quickly as possible before the next general elections.

It is my considered opinion that the proposed resolution is unconstitutional. One does not need the general assembly to answer the question whether fresh polls for CC ought to be called.

The Constitution only provides two scenarios for fresh CC elections to be held. First, when two thirds or more of elected CC members cease to hold office, for example, by resigning en bloc under Article 41.

Second, when two thirds or more of the elected CC members have been removed from office pursuant to Article 35. Otherwise, even if the EGM decides that fresh CC elections are to be held, it is not binding upon the CC.

For this reason, the CC can stop the EGM by invoking Article 174 which provides that any interpretation by the CC on any provision of the Constitution shall be final and conclusive.

Ong may refuse to call further CC meetings until the next EGM, but one-third of CC members can always requisition for one.

I have no personal stake in this matter. It does not concern me whoever wins the MCA presidency as I am not beholden to anyone in MCA for my livelihood. I am writing this because I detest men who do not honour their word or have the courage to do so. 
A fortiori, I cannot accept my party president to be such a man.

In conclusion, there is nothing inconclusive about the 10-10 EGM as the vote of no confidence was not directed at the CC. Similarly, no impasse would have been created if only Ong had respected the 10-10 EGM decision.

It is pivotal that party officials must always put the interest of the party above themselves and uphold its constitution.

Sadly, human greed and hunger for power often cloud their judgement, making them think that they are both indispensable and invincible when, actually, they are not.

No comments: