A NEW day begins for the MCA. With Datuk Ong Tee Keat at the helm, and assisted by Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek as his number two, the MCA is on a path of reinvention. In fact, some say that the second biggest party in the BN coalition is actually on a path of redemption.
That OT Keat, the Pandan MP, was going to win was a given in many people's mind. Cool and articulate, OT Keat has done well for himself to have reached the pinnacle in the party which he has served so much and so well.
I remember visiting his operations room in Kg Pandan just a few days before the 1999 general election. He was with his party colleagues, strategizing. He was known as the Lone Ranger, preferring not to be identified with any faction or group.
His rise has been gradual, slowly but surely. His supporters may disagree, insisting that their man has been spectacular. While this may be so, OT Keat have much to do to convince the party and BN components that he's the best person to redeem damaged MCA pride.
He'll do well, I think, partly because he's unassuming. He may not be a charismatic person, but he's known to work hard and have his heart in the right place. Much is expected of him, not just within the MCA but within the bigger BN entity.
He once told me: "I know only one thing - that I have a lot of work to do and so little time to do them. But I'm determined, and the people know that. I don't give up. I intend to stay the course and serve the party and country as best as I can."
As for Dr Chua, I've known him when he was an EXCO member of the Johore Government under Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman. Dr Chua was the exco in charge of the environment, and I remember participating in 'Environmental Walk' campaigns in JB.
I last met him in Kuching just before the fasting month. There was already talk then that he would be making a bid for one of the top posts. I asked him what post and what his plans were: "I see vast changes in our country's political landscape. Obviously, we can't win back those lost grounds using the same old tactics. We must change, and I want a role in that change-making exercise."
His return to national MCA politics is short of a miracle, a point his supporters will protest vehemently! What else can it be? Their man has never stopped working for the party, they said. For MCA members to accept him after his video scandal which resulted in his resignation from his Health Ministry portfolio, Dr Chua must have felt greatly vindicated.
Will he seek revenge and re-enter MCA top decision-making body with a heart of vengeance? I don't think so. The perception, by and large, is that Dr Chua is a good party person, and has the capabilities to deliver.
We will see if the top two leaders can work well as a team. This can only happen if they remove whatever excess baggages they may have and focus on party rebuilding. Mind you, the re-inventing process includes the rise of Datuk Ng Yen Ten as a vice president.
I believe the changing political mindset is being manifested at all fronts and levels, the MCA included. The members have shown their preferences. It's now time for work and set the direction for the coming years and battles.
This has been a watershed MCA assembly. If the new leaders can start work immediately, stop undermining each other, there is no reason why it can't do well and perhaps regain some of its lost glitter.
PS - Is there a lesson here for Umno and the MIC, the other two original partners of the then Perikatan or Alliance?