Saturday, May 24, 2003

Malaysia's MCA accepts resignations
of two top leaders

Rival leaders within Malaysia's leading ethnic Chinese political party both quit on Friday in an effort to safeguard unity within the ruling coalition with its eyes on a general election expected in mid-2004.
Simultaneous resignations by Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) Party President Ling Liong Sik, who is also transport minister, and deputy chief Lim Ah Lek went ahead despite a late effort by some members to make them stay.
This was announced by Vice-President Dr Fong Chan Onn after a late night MCA Central Committee (CC) meeting at the party's headquarters on Friday.
The meeting unanimously appointed Vice-President Ong Ka Ting as President and another Vice-President Datuk Chan Kong Choy as Deputy President with immediate effect until 2005.
The CC made the decision after two delegations, one led by Dr Fong and another by Datuk Fu Ah Kiow, failed to persuade the two leaders to withdraw their decision.
Their resignations were the formula to the settlement of the leadership crisis in the party.
Commenting on the CC's decision, Datuk Lim Ah Lek said he had done his best to ensure the successful implementation of the peace plan brokered by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
New president Ong Ka Ting, a Ling loyalist, replaced the outgoing leader in his party seat but not automatically as transport minister, the senior Chinese political post in the Malay-dominated government.
The new deputy, Chan Kong Choy, is from Mr Lim's faction.
"It is an extremely challenging assignment given to both of us," Mr Ong said in his acceptance speech.
With Dr Mahathir retiring in October after 22 years in power, the Barisan Nasional coalition wants to halt MCA infighting as members prepare for the polls.
Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is set to take over from Mahathir, can ill afford divisions in the coalition's second largest partner in elections that will be seen as the real test of his credentials.
Some political analysts credited Dr Mahathir with the plan to heal the MCA split, which has seen bitter sniping by rival camps and scenes of chair-hurling mayhem at one party meeting.
"Forget about the factional politics of the past. It is time to consolidate and move ahead," Mr Ong said.
Outgoing president Ling, a 60-year-old medical doctor, entered politics in the 1974 general elections and took the party helm in 1986 after a leadership crisis.
MCA votes gave Mahathir a crucial two-thirds majority in the 1999 polls after his own ethnic Malays deserted him in droves following the sacking and jailing of his popular former deputy, Anwar Ibrahim.
The MCA holds 29 of the 193 seats in parliament.