Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Party comes first

MCA Vice-President and Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai seems to have emerged as the biggest loser in his party’s leadership crisis, but he tells Terence Fernandez and Llew-Ann Phang that the party is bigger than any individual.

YOU and (MCA president Datuk Seri Ong) Tee Keat were close once. What happened?

We supported each other all this while, and we helped each other. And we had confidence in each other.

We’re still friends but lately, after the 10/10 EGM (Oct 10, 2009). The vote of no confidence (against Ong) was a decision by the delegates. When the delegates made a decision, we needed him to tell us what he wanted to do. He has not told us and instead, he calls us Brutus – backstabbing him. I told him that it is not me. I told him once the delegates made a decision, I need to respect the delegates’ decision. So if you accept the delegates’ decision then I’m supporting you. You must find a way to explain – even if you want to stay, you have to explain why and he didn’t do that.

Instead, he said I am Brutus. A group of us, not only me. I fought hard to make sure he won the 10-10 EGM. But after he lost he said I backstabbed him. It’s not fair to me. I have to tell him that he has to tell the members what he’s going to do next – with the vote of no-confidence, with (Dr Chua) Soi Lek and other issues.

He even told the press initially that he wanted to go. But he says now "because people are pushing me out, I don’t want to go. I want to fight them." I look at it as just finding an excuse and that did not go down well with the delegates, it didn’t go down well with the party. So it looks bad on the party.

The term "Brutus" was used on you, (Youth Chief Datuk Dr Wee) Ka Siong, (Wanita chief Datin Paduka Chew) Mei Fun because your discussions were secretly recorded and passed to Tee Keat.

Not really. There was talk that when we were in discussion, somebody switched on a phone and Tee Keat was on the other end. I was told that but we are very open. While we discussed among ourselves, we also informed Tee Keat so it was not that we were undermining Tee Keat behind his back. It was never the case. The issue we spoke about was about The Star and its relationship with Tee Keat. We also conveyed the issue to him. It is not part of this crisis or animosity.

Since 10-10 and since you tendered the undated resignation letter, have you had private conversations with Tee Keat?

Yes, we have had talks but mainly discussions on how to resolve the crisis.

You told him as MCA has two leaders – both of whom have lost the confidence of the delegates and that would be detrimental to the MCA.

We have to ensure the party’s credibility and dignity. And we should be trusted by the public to get the confidence and support. So if our leadership is in this situation, we feel the leadership should go back to the grassroots and get a new mandate ... to reaffirm the leadership and the party can become stronger. We cannot go on like this – led by two persons who had problems with the EGM which made a decision, which has not been followed. It’s not enforced and the CC cannot enforce it now – basically the CC is paralysed and can’t function. So that makes the party weak. It will worsen as time drags on. That’s why it’s crucial to have the election fast so we can rebuild the party as soon as possible. We are trying to find a way to resolve this. We have come up with many suggestions but at the end of the day, you still need to call one EGM. Whatever formula you can come up (with), you still have to call an assembly to get the support and agreement of delegates.

What is the formula?

To be more democratic, the formula is to go for an election. Or if you think about it the earlier formula he came up with was the Unity Plan. Okay, let Soi Lek come back, we’ll all get united. It’s okay but you start talking about unity, then you start chopping people – people you don’t like. It’s a team. We must have teamwork. I would like to have a collective leadership and collective responsibility. You talk about Unity Plan and on the other hand you decide alone to drop somebody and decide alone on many other things. This is not good for the party and it is not acceptable.

Observers of MCA and sympathisers of Tee Keat are saying that due to the emergence of this third force – the wisdom and motives of the delegates are suspect. Are they making a decision in voting – electing the president and the deputy – based on what’s best for the MCA?

MCA is a democratic party in practice and principle. So we should not cast doubts on this process. If you believe in the democratic process, you have to abide by the process. And after the delegates make a decision, you start casting doubts and start saying it was with bad intentions, then you don’t practise democracy and might as well use other systems to vote your leadership.

We have made a lot of amendments to the (party) constitution – three-term limit for Youth chief, Wanita and we looked into amendments to the delegate system. So we have been seen as a party that actually practises democracy. We should not be seen to be not doing the things that we preach. So let’s respect that and not shift the goalposts. When the delegates make a decision, you have to accept it.

Tee Keat has fared well in various opinion polls. Between 60% and 80% say he is the right person to lead MCA in these times. A Merdeka Review poll was done among MCA members.

I agree. Before 10-10, he had the support of the delegates. That’s why we voted him in. But after 10-10, he should respect the opinion of the delegates.

Why did he lose the vote of confidence?

He may have taken Soi Lek lightly. During the campaign, we advised him to have a more personal touch and talk to the delegates. It’s more the positioning of his people. Sometimes when you use the wrong people, you get hit. You see, appointments such as the state chairmen, there was some unhappiness on the ground and he didn’t manage this. That is a reason. We didn’t see that except at the time of the election.


Tee Keat, is riding high on PKFZ. In the eyes of the public, if he didn’t push for disclosure, PKFZ would have been a cover-up. It made him unpopular within certain circles in MCA and Umno.

I don’t think the picture that’s painted is accurate. We were all supportive of him in disclosing PKFZ. Even the cabinet was supportive and agreed for him to go ahead to investigate. I think it’s his duty as the minister. As a minister, if he finds that there are irregularities; he should continue to investigate. So by saying that if it was a (different) minister he wouldn’t do it, I’m not sure. But I’m saying it’s the responsibility of the minister.

As a whole the cabinet was very supportive of Tee Keat. We also know that within Umno, some personalities would be implicated but the prime minister was adamant that people are made accountable for PKFZ.

But in the cabinet, we did look into the report and we did say that we have to hold people accountable because PKFZ is a collective decision of the cabinet – the approval was a cabinet decision as well. I’m happy that under (Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Najib Razak the administration is going all out (to fight corruption).

So how true is it that PKFZ contributed to Tee Keat’s loss in the EGM? The conspiracy theories are running wild.

I don’t think that happened. I do not know other individuals but as a group supporting Tee Keat at that time, when we went around the country to campaign, PKFZ was a plus point for Tee Keat to get the support of the grassroots. So by saying PKFZ was a negative point for Tee Keat ... maybe there are some individuals who would want to do that. We were also shocked when we heard the results. Mei Fun cried wondering how we lost after fighting so hard. Initially, we could not take it. (But) We were worried about the votes we could get for him because his personal touch with people on the ground was not there.

But it is difficult to disassociate PKFZ from Tee Keat or the challenge against Tee Keat because now it’s proven that at least one of them had dealings with (Datuk Seri) Tiong (King Sing)’s company.

That is unfair to Ka Siong. Those documents do not say he’s involved in PKFZ. Basically, the document is a study on another port. Not on PKFZ. It’s different.

The fact is Hijau Sekitar did work for Wijaya Baru Holdings Sdn Bhd. Shouldn’t Wee have come out from day one to say clarify matters?

But at that point PKFZ did not happen yet! He didn’t know.

But has this affected your image and game plan. Tiong’s link to Tee Keat and the MCA election process is still speculative. People are still saying that Tiong is exerting his influence among the delegates.

Yes, it’s all talk but that study was approved by the Transport Ministry.

No one is disputing that but you should have full disclosure earlier. Not fair to you also and your people like Mei Fun because you did not know about it either until much later right?

But all of us in the MCA know that his relationship with Tiong has been good all the time. The president knew about this. I think the president’s relationship with Tiong also was not bad, at that time. That’s why he used his jet (chuckles).

The MCA is the second largest partner in the coalition and is viewed as a representative of non-Malays in government. Past MCA leaders were seen to be diplomatic when dealing with Umno. But Tee Keat is seen as someone who could stand up to Umno. The perception is that there is some kind of manipulation to remove Tee Keat because he’s making it difficult for certain members of the coalition?

It’s untrue! We have to correct that perception. As far as we in the MCA are concerned, we defended Tee Keat, we supported him. It’s only after the delegates made a decision that we felt that we had to respect the decision. Saying there may be someone else outside who wanted to topple him, I’m not sure. It’s only a perception.

Have there been attempts to interfere with the running of the MCA and the choice of its leaders?

I don’t think so. Our party election is clear – appointed by our own members. Nobody can interfere with that and that is why Tee Keat got elected. You’re saying that 10-10 was influenced by somebody else but I don’t think our party can be easily swayed. To get the support, you must position your people; the grassroots support must be there and you must handle them well. In the party now, after one year, leading the people we feel that there is a lot of difference after Tee Keat was elected. The delegates have different kinds of feelings towards him and that makes a difference – that few hundred votes. So that’s why I say there’s no outside interference in this situation. Never did it cross my mind how those outside could link it to so many people. The obvious target was to link Umno’s desire for this quick resolve to that of "wanting their preferred candidate" to lead the party. The MIRT (MCA Integrity Restoration Team) is not working in concert with Umno, Umno leaders past and present and any other political personality or institution.

You’re saying that Tee Keat should be more presidential because he’s been known to be a singles player, a lone ranger but now it’s a different ball game?

Yes, he has to be more inclusive. He has to engage more people and build the team. A leader must lead, not just fight. He cannot be just a fighter. We need a leader to make sure that MCA is strong.

Why is your group against the GUP (Grand Unity Plan)?

If there is a treachery or conspiracy in this whole episode, the GUP is a classic one. To save oneself out of the "black hole", Tee Keat offered to ignore the disciplinary board’s recommendation, presidential council’s endorsement, central committee’s consensus decision and the EGM results; and then appoint a number of CSL’s supporters, all to secure CSL’s support.

Consequently, with purportedly more than 50% support, all the proper procedures undertaken, including the Central Delegates views during EGM10/10 are now ignored.

The GUP is the Grand Usurpation Plan – It usurped all the constitutional processes and rights of members. That is why it is preposterous to imagine we can think of supporting it.

It is hard to think that anybody would agree that MCA would benefit by having Soi Lek as the president because of what led to his resignation.

That’s why I said whatever the outcome we still trust our democratic process. He was elected deputy president and now the EGM decided that he was no longer the deputy president so he has to abide by this process. But if he wants to continue like this, then he has to go back and get a new mandate.

So Tee Keat made a popular choice, seeing that Soi Lek was probably stronger and more influential with the delegates than you. You know, hold your enemies closer …

Yes, true.


When you decided to tender the letter of resignation, why was it undated?

Because it was clearly stated in the letter that the reason for resignation is for re-election of a new central committee. So it’s understood – once you submit, you get enough members, put in the date then within one month … It’s not that we don’t want to put in the date, but we have to have enough – 21 – to have a new election.

What’s keeping you from getting the other votes?

I think they’re all central committee members. They know their responsibility. I think they have to understand the party’s situation. The party needs to be salvaged; the party needs to resolve the crisis.

What do you think about Soi Lek’s offer to mediate between you and Tee Keat?

If he wanted to have a dialogue, there must be sincerity. To show the sincerity the dialogue should have been done earlier. The three parties had already discussed it and we had all come to an agreement that we would have a fresh election. So what more is there to discuss? He should not come up with reasons that even fresh elections cannot resolve the problems, will cause further split. That one is not true. In the history of MCA, we have had so many elections. And all election results were abided by the delegates and members. It has never happened when there was an election, the results came out and were not followed. It has never happened; even when (MCA vice-president Tan Sri Tan) Koon Swan and (then acting president Datuk Dr) Neo Yee Pan fought. When there’s an election, people accept it and the party will move on from there. This is the sprit of democracy.

MCA is a party that is at the forefront of the spirit of democracy. So I disagree with his opinion when he said that fresh elections might not solve the problem. I said fresh elections might not solve all the problems, but if there’s no fresh election then we won’t be able to solve any problem. That is my stand and I feel that Soi Lek and Tee Keat must talk about what was promised earlier. I’ve done my part. The ball is at their feet, so do it.

Have you been going to the grassroots to explain your position?

I have to. I go down to the grassroots and tell them that the present situation will make the party weaker. People might perceive it to be another dishonest act by the MCA leadership. Why should we succumb to all this unnecessary pressure and since we’ve already said that and agreed that we want to have the elections, let’s do it. How to do it? That we can discuss and do it in such a way to strengthen the party. There’s no problem.

But the problem is the president doesn’t want to discuss anything. It’s a "my way or the highway" (approach)?

Yes. At the moment, the president doesn’t want to say anything and I don’t know what he thinks. He doesn’t want to reveal what he wants to do. As the party president, he should provide direction to solve the party’s problem. The president cannot sit back and let the deputy president run the show and we’re heading nowhere!

It seems that Soi Lek is the unifier of MCA. He seems to be the one who’s holding the party together because he can talk to you, you can talk to him. He can talk to Tee Keat but Tee Keat can’t talk to you. So looks like he’s running MCA now.

Well, it’s not true. I don’t think Tee Keat can talk to Soi Lek. I think the present situation needs to be resolved quickly so that the party can go full force to gain the public’s support, to come up with more agenda for the community and the country. You see, Najib has a lot of ideas on 1Malaysia and the Government Transformation Programme (GTP). We’re moving ahead and as a component party, we must help the Barisan Nasional, the government and Najib to fulfil these aspirations. We think we can help because we’re the second biggest party and we have the resources and the strength, the organisation and the networking and we can complement Barisan and Umno. I can see that PM is committed, focused and he has come out with a detailed roadmap. From the beginning of its launch 1Malaysia is not a slogan. After that he came up with KPI and now he’s coming up with the roadmap and all the details till the project completion. So the rakyat can see clearly that the government is heading in the right direction in a focused and stable way, sincere, humble, going to the ground.

MCA’s relevance

Looks like Najib may not be able to rely on MCA to help him fulfil his agenda.

We cannot allow that to happen. We cannot allow MCA to become irrelevant.

Or he may go to Gerakan to help talk to the Chinese community.

There was a survey on the Chinese community on when there’s an issue, how many per cent would go to MCA, how many would go to Gerakan – something like that. MCA’s results did not fare that well. They are still coming to MCA because we have the grassroots network. But this is an alarming situation. We realise that and we know that we cannot prolong this crisis. If we do, we’re going to have a hard time with everybody losing out. In fact, this crisis is not a personal vendetta. It’s not a personal thing that I don’t like Tee Keat or Soi Lek, no. This crisis is to restore the dignity in the party and the credibility we’ve lost due to the EGM. That is the reason why we’re trying to find a solution, a formula, to restore the credibility – as simple as that.

I can work with Tee Keat, I can work with Soi Lek. I can work with anybody. People say I’m fighting a lost cause. But when I go to the grassroots, people give me a feel that at least somebody is standing up on principle and telling the leadership to have certain principles in ensuring the party is respected and is credible. As we approach being a 61-year-old party this year, are we matured enough to know where we stand and how to get back on our feet? It needs a lot of commitment from the leadership that the party comes first and not anyone else.

But a strong personality is what the MCA needs in these trying times.

You see, Tee Keat has been winning party elections with the image he has – the fighter image. He has been winning with that. He thought as the president, he can use that image to continue getting the support but unfortunately, as the president you have to make a lot of decisions like selecting the state chairman, committee members so while he made these decisions there was a lot of fallout along the way. Those who were not appointed would gang up to go against him. And that was very subtle. He – I myself – did not realise that.

Some political analysts say everybody thought that Tee Keat was invincible but after 10-10, they realised that he is vulnerable which was why the pawns started to move again. So they decided to change alliances. This is why he chopped some people from the presidential council.

After 10-10, Tee Keat told all of us – the central committee (CC) – that he would become an incompetent president. You see, when we appealed for him to stay back, he said he didn’t want to. He said he didn’t want to play a wayang. He wanted to go because he would become ineffective to lead the Chinese community. He told CC to be prepared to take over the MCA and to take good care of the MCA to make sure that the party is united and strong. We were consoling each other while finding ways of how to reroute back, to stand up and forge ahead – to go forward. We do not know now. We were at a loss after Tee Keat lost but Tee Keat went overseas after that for four days. We asked for directions, he directed me and Wong Fook Meng to go and do the necessary – consolidate the party, talk to the leadership, how to plan the succession – how two persons leave, and two other persons come back. It’s not that I wanted to do it, it was under his direction that we did it. So it was during that four days that myself and Fook Meng held a lot of dinners, talked to this leader and that leader asking them who they thought should succeed. How to take over from this, and discuss. While we were doing this, some people poked fire that Liow and Fook Meng are trying to overthrow Tee Keat. So when Tee Keat came back, I told him what happened. Even when he was away, I SMS-ed to him of what we did. When he came back, we told him the options – if he didn’t want to leave, this is the scenario; if you leave, this is the scenario; if you say you want to stay back, and how we’re going to persuade you to stay back, this is the scenario. So we gave a lot of options to him.

I spoke to him when he came back on Oct 14. On the 15th was the first CC meeting. So what I’m saying is that after all this while … even after the meeting on 14th night, he didn’t give us any commitment. He didn’t want to tell me which option he wanted to take. Basically told me "Liow, you, Kong and the rest of you cannot fight Soi Lek." I was shocked. I was thinking "fight Soi Lek? Soi Lek is already out." He told me I cannot fight Soi Lek so he has to stay back and fight Soi Lek. I was in the dark, I didn’t know what was happening. Now that I think back … during the 11th to the 14th, he was already talking to Soi Lek. That’s why on the 15th, when somebody proposed my name, to be the deputy to take over from Soi Lek, Tee Keat disagreed.

I got a shock because after 10-10 when he lost, (it was) his (boy) who proposed I become the deputy but after all this, he started accusing me and calling me Brutus, that I am trying to force him out. I’m very hurt. I said the man I supported for so many years, asked me to take over, everything that he directed I did and now he turns around and says I’m Brutus.

You mean he was dealing with you and Soi Lek at the same time?

I think so. I felt so disappointed until I said okay, forget about this man. And all was proven after that. On Oct 19, he started writing letters to the Registrar of Societies (ROS). On the 15th was the CC, on the 19th he started writing. It’s confirmed he pushed for Soi Lek to come back (through ROS) as deputy which has never happened in MCA’s history. You know, once EGM has decided – there you go. You cannot come back. Not even president; the central committee cannot reinstate Soi Lek. Even if the CC decided, cannot because it’s already decided by the EGM. CC cannot decide to put him back.

Soi Lek is there as a deputy – appointed by ROS and not by the delegates. So if I continue to harp on this issue, people say "Liow, you’re hard-up for deputy presidency" which is not fair to me. I was sucked into the situation by the whole scenario. I never orchestrated or persuaded anybody and I never intended to be in this situation. That’s why more than 10 of us are all blank. Initially, I had 19 of them – I had more than half, then eventually they became indecisive. I had about more than two-thirds who felt that the new leadership had to take over. But when Tee Keat changed his decision and brought Soi Lek back, a few waivered because he kept talking about unity plans. Even then I still had 19. Then he sacked the four and I was left with 15. These are the ones who still think that the party should have some principle. We’re not going for anybody’s blood we just want righteousness to prevail.

That means the only way out is to have elections. You can’t force the elections so you have to wait for next year?

No, we can have elections when 21 resign.

What if you cannot get 21?

Then I have to wait till the next party election and it is not sure if the party elections will be next year. Because the president can still postpone the party elections. I don’t know how the party is going to function over the next few years if they continue to postpone.

As it is, how does the party function?

We function in a separate way. Me, as the vice-president, I also hold certain bureaus. I handle my bureaus and try to serve the community through my bureaus.

You brought all those who were sacked into your bureau.

Yes, at my discretion. Whatever I can do, I do but we want to be positive. We don’t want to be destructive. I want to contribute to the party and the nation so there’s no point crying over spilt milk.

But your bureau is very powerful because it deals with guilds and association – directly with all the kingmakers and the funders of the party. Is your position as head of that bureau also in jeopardy?

Yes. He can remove me if he wants.

And do you think he would, judging from how he has been chopping people?

(Laughs) I don’t want to go into these kind of politics and games anymore. People get fed up. People feel that the party shouldn’t go this way. All of us have to serve the community so let’s work and serve. And because of his decision that caused the party so much problems, so he must have the courage to stand up and solve the problem. He should not hide behind the problem. He should not sweep it under the carpet. As the president he should say "come let’s do it and solve the issue." By keeping quiet, by saying there’s no problem – it’s not true. He must have the courage to face it. That’s why I told him at one of the CC meetings, "in the very beginning if you had courage to tell me you’re staying on, I would have supported you and made sure that everyone was united in that. But because you didn’t have the courage to say you’re staying on, you said you wanted to leave, you don’t want to play all this wayang. You talked to the 21 of us and you wanted us to regroup and come up with a new leadership then later on you called me Brutus … It was very irresponsible."

Why didn’t he have the courage to say he wanted to stay on? We’ll support and make sure he stays on as a strong leader. Under the party constitution you can stay on. He could not be voted out unless two thirds of the delegates voted him out. More than half is vote of no-confidence but he can stay on but he said he wanted to leave.

So now MCA is an ineffective party – ineffective in representing the Chinese community?

MCA is at risk of losing the edge because people don’t trust us when we say we’re effective. When people say your party’s not functioning – you’re not functioning. When people say your party is in turmoil, you’re in turmoil. He can’t say no, it’s not in turmoil, its okay. It’s people’s perception. You go anywhere and people ask: "MCA … What happened to you?" People still ask until today. If not you won’t even carry news on MCA. So the situation warrants us to take immediate action to solve it. So there’s no point delaying until the next party elections. It is a very irresponsible move and it’s not fair to the party. The party does not deserve this kind of treatment.

It also affects the performance of the Barisan Nasional as well. If the prime minister was to call for snap elections tomorrow, he can’t.

Definitely! People tell me, "Liow, keep quiet. Sit back, relax, you’re a minister already – become president minister, become deputy president also minister what."

I can do that. Lie back and let you do whatever you want to do? Let’s see what we can do to correct the situation. Somebody in the party – (if it’s) not me, somebody else has got to stand up and say no, we cannot do that. If you’re wrong, you’re wrong. Somebody needs to have the courage to tell this to the leadership. We know what he’s doing now is wrong. Everybody knows that what he’s doing now is wrong. So he has to heal his wound. He is wounded, as a president. How to heal his wound? You are wounded by the delegates. So find the source to solve it – go back to the delegates. Go back and get a new mandate.

But he’s saying he has the support of the members.

Then go back and get the mandate. Get back the support. I will be fully supportive. People won’t look down on us, people won’t laugh at us. That is the image. So if that image is hit, the whole party will be hit.

Do the problems in MCA affect your performances or effectiveness – the four of you – (Datuk Seri Dr Ng) Yen Yen, Cho Ha and Tee Keat in cabinet?

Yes, definitely.

You mean when you bring problems to the cabinet, it is not being treated or accorded with the same kind of regard as it was before the problems in the party?

In the past, whenever an MCA member brings an issue into the cabinet, we are fully prepared. We have all the data, statistics, analysis. We have a team – a think-tank – that’s working and providing all the input. So we’re fully armed with solid background so when you present the case, it’s very convincing. But now there is no backup. There is no coordination. We’re not consulted.

Doesn’t the president consult you on how you can coordinate your role as minister and as vice-president of the party?

After the crisis how to talk? (laughs) (We) hardly talk. We’ve got nothing to talk. We still think the problem is hanging. Once the problem is solved, it’s okay. We’re still friends. We think that we need to help the party and put it back on track. So I think all of us have the responsibility. We can work together but please, be fair to the party and get this over with.

You’re not ambitious, then?

I’m more of a party member. I would love to unite the party.

Do you expect any good news with the new year? Are you a tiger?

I’m an ox.

Which means you’re a worker?

Yeah, I’m a worker … a hard worker. I’m playing more of a unifying factor. I prefer collective leadership, collective responsibility and get everybody together and the party will move. I believe that.

You were deputy president for 19 days and Tee Keat’s camp said ‘Liow only started talking about asking him to step down after ROS returned the deputy presidency to Soi Lek’.

It was a cheap shot because from the beginning – the first CC on the 15th we already told Tee Keat please, show us the way. How do we get out of this? How to resolve this? You must give us a way. The earlier proposal was that he leads the party for another six months and prepare a succession so that it will be honourable to him … but he refused to give us any idea or any clue.

But that is how he’s always been since even his Youth days. Kept his cards close to his chest. He doesn’t trust a lot of people.

I know he’s that kind of person. When I was a sec-gen, when he decided on things he never consulted us. He just decides and announces.

But at that time it wasn’t much of an issue.

(Shakes head) At the youth, the decision … The CC (was) at the top. Whatever was decided was still talked over. It was different. Now he’s the president, whatever he decides stays. And his duties are different. Now if he decides to chop people, they’re gone. That’s why at one time (Tun Dr Ling) Liong Sik had to take over the Youth for a while because of his decision. But whatever it is, I think and I hope that we can resolve it.

So what other tricks have you left in your bag? You’ve sent the undated resignation letters, you’ve tried talking, you’ve tried consolidating the party, you’ve talked to Soi Lek, but is Soi Lek acceptable to the party?

It’s not that I cannot accept him. A lot of party members cannot accept him – even my 13 CC members cannot accept him because that will further tarnish the party image. I’ve been talking so much about the party’s interest so if I support Soi Lek to become the president, I will be the man who will be accused by the members of not caring about the party but about himself. I’ve told you I have no personal problem with anybody. I can work with him but how do I face the members? Even now because Tee Keat is working with Soi Lek, people are scolding so much. Why go and bring him back when people are scolding him so much? And now, he’s deputy. If I’m supposed to work with him and he becomes president (laughs) I better resign.

Najib, whether he likes it or not, will eventually have to get involved and give Tee Keat an ultimatum – step down or move for an EGM.

I think we don’t have much of a choice left. The choice with Soi Lek becoming president. Second choice is working status quo with Tee Keat, Soi Lek and myself like what we’re doing right now but Tee Keat’s image will not help the party or Barisan Nasional. And Tee Keat will come out more scarred. Najib actually gave him a chance when he was talking about unity plans … When you bring unity plan you work closely with us … don’t chop people. At the presidential council he goes and drops everybody… How can? The presidential council is a council called to discuss every week to resolve daily and government affairs, and he goes and drops the five deputy ministers. Eh! How many deputy ministers does MCA have? You go and drop five (chuckles) … How are we going to solve the Chinese problems without them? They’re all from important ministries.

Is that why you brought them into your bureau?

They’re still active, they’re still contributing. They need a party platform – so I gave them one. They cannot be totally without a party post.

So if Soi Lek becomes president without a ministerial portfolio, would that be acceptable to the members? Let’s face it. Soi Lek just got caught … You cannot horn him all the time – there are bigger devils in the party.

Some people sympathise with him. We know that but you see the perception of politics, they want everyone to be holy men. They expect you to be like that, even knowing that we’re not.

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