MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek criticized both Umno and PAS for using religion to strengthen their influence over the Malays and to garner support from the community.
When the two dominant Malay-Muslim dominant parties compete, Chua said, the consequence would be the implementation of non-progressive policies, resulting in the country being 'trapped' in the middle-income category for more than 10 years.
He noted that Umno has become more conservative to compete with PAS in getting Malay support.
For the first part, Chua is not wrong in his observation that Umno is trying to become more Islamic than PAS albeit superficially. Ironically, he was flayed by DAP leaders who had said the same prior to the 2008 general election.
Political contestation between Umno and PAS has now taken a larger form. The fight is no longer confined to the two political parties but included parties in both coalitions. It is obvious that DAP needs to defend PAS in order to retain both Malay and non-Malay support for the coalition. It is a fact that PAS has never backed down from their intent to establish an Islamic nation.
Both parties are still hoping to convince the other on the merits of constitutional secularism or Islamic nation. PAS Youth still protest at every concert featuring Western artistes especially female. Yet, many of us are wondering why many international artistes prefer to go to Singapore or Thailand and not here.
MCA president Chua, despite his stinging criticism of PAS and muslim-majority countries, was quick to point out that Malaysia is 'lucky' and different under the leadership of Umno-BN. How lucky or different are we compared to the others? Corruption, cronism, nepotism, racism and abuse of power are rampant in Malaysia. His party just did a flip-flop on the 'Allah' ban issue.
Chua is a very lucky man. He was successful in a party leadership coup despite being caught in an affair recorded on video and shown to the world. In a true Islamic state, he would have been stoned to death as a punishment for infidelity. Perhaps this is his reason for stating that Malaysia is different. Not Malaysia, only those in BN are different.
The problem with Chua is a lack of consistency. He would have been applauded if he had chosen to stick to his position on politicizing religion. He should have put it in clearest terms that his party will not have anything to do with both Umno or PAS should the practice persists.
Referring to Syed Akbar Ali's book 'Malaysia and the Club of Doom', Chua points out the weaknesses of muslim-majority countries e.g. less democracy because of the emphasis on religion; they have elections but also have councils of Muslim elders enjoying absolute power; practise of absolute monarchy; and formulating policies not on par with global development.
Malaysia under the BN regime is faring no better. The quality of education is taking a dip and most non-Malay parents are shunning the national schools which have been pursuing policies which are detrimental to multiracialism. The ban of non-Muslim extra curricular activities e.g. Christian and Buddhist clubs is a prime example of overzealous Islamisation.
Yet, political parties and individuals cannot speak up on the issue due to threats by Umno politicians. MCA was made to retract its own statement on the 'Allah' ban issue. The subjugation of civil courts is another contentious issue which the party has failed to provide any leadership in the BN.
Malaysia, as a muslim-majority country, could have been a beacon of light and a great model for other muslim-majority countries to follow. We could have shown to the muslim world that it is possible to flourish and develop through brain power and by adopting real democracy and not just oil money.
Chua should admit and recognise that Malaysia has failed as a knowledge economy. We are more dependent on oil revenue compared to 2-3 decades ago. More than 1 million brains had left the country and more will follow soon if Malaysia remained the same way.
Undeniably, MCA is already in its twilight zone. The space for minority race based political parties is limited and narrowing. Most Chinese voters have moved beyond the 'new village' politics of the 60's and 70's.
Chua's statement against muslim-majority countries is bold but not wise. MCA may end up angering the Umno support base which is its lifeline in the next general election. It is hard to imagine MCA winning more than 30% support from the Chinese community. MCA has not caught up and it was left behind by the community.