It appears that Dr Chua Soi Lek was trying to avert his nemesis Ong Tee Keat being nominated to defend his Pandan parliamentary seat by suggesting that Ong is not on his party's list to contest the next GE. He was trying to preempt the possibility of Ong being nominated by PM Najib as a BN direct candidate.
Here's where the problems lie; it is a body blow to the MCA which has been seen as subservient to UMNO. The party's foes especially the DAP has been going around suggesting that MCA is anything but a puppet of UMNO. By overriding Dr Chua on his choice of candidate for Pandan, PM Najib is going to reinforce this perception and DAP has an additional bullet to use for the upcoming GE.
The only MCA president who had stood up for his principle against UMNO was the late Dr Lim Chong Eu. When his demand for 40 parliamentary seats was rejected by Tunku Abdul Rahman, their relationship worsened. Lim left MCA in 1960 and came back to form UDP in 1962; which was a precursor to Gerakan. I was privileged to interview the late Dr Lim for three consecutive days at his office.
What is Dr Chua going to do next? Overnight, his party has lost a seat to UMNO. Technically, Ong Tee Keat is an UMNO-sponsored candidate for the Pandan seat. Meanwhile, what is the status of Ong's membership in MCA? Technically, Ong has committed a grave disciplinary offense by refusing to heed his party's instruction to vacate his seat for another candidate, Gary Lim. Is Chua going to call for a disciplinary action against Ong?
Dr Chua is wary of the fact that a victorious Ong may threaten his power base in MCA if the party wins less than its last tally of 15 parliamentary seats. A resurgent Ong is something Chua would hate to see and worse if the former makes a comeback as the next president of MCA assuming that most of senior leaders lose their seats. Among the leaders, Liow Tiong Lai is looking quite solid in defending his turf. The same cannot be said for Wee Ka Siong, Chua Tee Yong, Ng Yen Yen and others.
Najib's decision to field direct BN candidates has both pros and cons. It could usher in a new era for the racially divided coalition to eventually merge into a single multiracial party; starting with UMNO, MCA and MIC.
On the flip side, fielding direct candidates especially those who are facing some personal conflicts with their respective party suggests that BN is indeed quite fractious and UMNO is now left with no choice but to dictate the whole candidacy for the 13th GE. Direct candidates are going to appear in Sarawak too since SUPP, PRS and SPDP are facing a split too.
For now, Dr Chua is facing a leadership crisis in MCA. He wants to project himself as a strong and decisive leader in MCA and an equal senior partner in BN. Being told to rescind on his decision is a setback he does not need now.
PM Najib may be attempting to save Pandan by putting the rest of MCA seats at risk! And Dr Chua's opponents are going to have a field day questioning his "Mojo" (re: Austin Power).
It is surely a sweet sweet revenge for Ong.