The white ang pow fiasco is likely to haunt MCA right through the next election.

Perkasa’s insulting gesture at the expense of the Chinese community last Sunday provoked spontaneous public outrage that was directed at both the Malay rights group and MCA.

The anger – which was expressed mostly online – as well as the factual details of the incident at Perkasa’s Chinese New Year open house, were largely ignored by the mainstream media, including of course the Star, which is MCA’s mouthpiece.

Netizens have dragged out both Perkasa and MCA and condemned and dusted them down in thousands of comments all over the Internet.

How could an organisation claiming the support of thousands and patronised by no less than a former prime minister plead ignorance about the culture of a community that makes up a major portion of the Malaysian population? And how could a political party claiming to represent that very community allow itself to be caught with its pants down?

Ignorance was only one in a range of excuses offered by Perkasa. It has also said it had to use white envelopes because it ran out of red ones for the ang pows it distributed at the function.

It has also tried to redeem itself by saying that the taboo of using white envelopes – which the Chinese associate with funerals – could not be so great since the guests accepted them. Most critics accept none of these explanations. And who can blame them, given the racist posture that Perkasa has adopted since its inauguration?

Referring to the plea of ignorance, one critic said the Perkasa boss once worked in a Chinese conglomerate, implying that the excuse was either a lie or a display of stupidity. “Moreover, he is a Member of Parliament with Chinese voters in his constituency.”

It was equally shocking to the Malaysian public that a MCA divisional leader who supported the controversial event had the temerity to claim innocence and ignorance of his party’s stand against the extremist group.

The Tiew factor

Dr Colin Tiew, who serves on the MCA Seputih liaison committee, headed a delegation of 50 people to the open house in Kampung Baru and delivered a speech. Netizens quickly identified him and exposed him by circulating his photograph at lightning speed across cyberspace.

Tiew has since claimed that he was a “victim” and said he was willing to apologise “if” Perkasa had hidden political motives in organising the event. He also denied making remarks in support of Perkasa when he took the stage, saying he was merely translating Ibrahim Ali’s speech.

To make matters worse, MCA’s Seputih division is helmed by Chai Kim Sen, who serves MCA Youth as its secretary-general, while Tiew is also chairman of MCA’s Seri Desa branch.

Chai issued a press release that condemned Perkasa but ignored the Tiew factor.

The incident was in fact a bad omen for Chai, who is tipped to be a candidate in the coming general election.

But controversy is nothing new to MCA Seputih. During the campaign for the 1999 general election, MCA candidate Dr Sua Chong Keh earned his place in the hall of infamy for a crude and sexist remark he made against DAP’s Teresa Kok.

He said: “I am a man; so I stand. She is a woman; so she squats.” Voters told him what they thought about the remark by electing Kok with a 5,200-vote majority.

The recent episode has caused yet another wound that voters are unlikely to forget.

Tiew has claimed ignorance of a lot of things. Is he also unaware that Perkasa has, more than once, crossed swords with MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek? It was only recently that Perkasa’s Syed Hassan Ali publicly humiliated Chua by asking him to watch his mouth when speaking about Islamic beliefs.

Hilarious and pathetic

Chua, on his part, has continued to show his desperation for Chinese support by consistently attacking DAP’s partnership with PAS, warning the community that the rights of non-Muslims would vanish with Pakatan Rakyat governing the nation.

Going by this argument, would it not make sense to say that a vote for MCA is a vote for Umno, which is a vote for Perkasa?

The MCA president should know that one could manipulate public perception only with a double-edged sword.

Still, his silence over the latest Perkasa outrage is deafening. He should at least apologise for MCA’s involvement, whether it was inadvertent or not. But is he perhaps softening his stand against the sleazy NGO for fear of losing Malay support, even though it has publicly told Umno to teach MCA a lesson?

If he thinks he can leave the apologising to the other doctor in the house, then he is confirming the widespread belief that BN leaders think Malaysians are stupid. Tiew’s explanation for his presence at the Perkasa do is hilarious and pathetic. He claimed that he, a branch chairman and division official of BN’s second largest party, was not aware of Perkasa’s racist bent and the bickering it has been carrying on with his party.

He has also claimed that he attended the Perkasa event as chairman of a welfare association and not as a MCA member. Would the MCA leadership react with equal sympathy if Tiew had been caught attending a Pakatan Rakyat function as a welfare worker?

MCA Youth Chief Wee Ka Siong has been of no help either. At a press conference, he shrugged off the angry reactions, urging the public not to jump to conclusions.

The white ang pow incident and its repercussions are clear indications that the MCA leadership has a long way to go to fulfil the party pledge made in 1987 – that it would reject all forms of chauvinism and fanaticism.

Perhaps, MCA should heed George Orwell, who advised politicians to be careful about their spoken words. “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

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