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Friday, September 30, 2011

Selangor Umno warned against arrogance

It cannot win the state alone, says BN information chief Yap Pian Hon.

KUALA LUMPUR: Umno is wrong in thinking that it can recapture Selangor for Barisan Nasional without MCA’s help, according to Yap Pian Hon, who is BN’s information chief for the state.

He warned Umno against underestimating MCA’s influence among Chinese voters, adding that no single BN component party could “go it alone” in the coming general election.

“Sometimes people talk big,” he said in response to reports quoting Umno sources saying MCA was rapidly losing Chinese support. “What is being said may be merely a perception.”

However, referring to reports that Selangor Umno was seeking to take over seats traditionally associated with MCA, he said they were “mere speculation”.

“The seat counts remain unchanged at the moment,” he told FMT. Out of the 56 state seats, 35 are for Umno to contest, 14 for MCA, four for Gerakan and three for MIC.

Yap called for “more unity” within BN, adding that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak “wants more politeness and for leaders to respect one another”.

He said the current political landscape did not allow for petty internal struggles. “In this day and age, we cannot have leaders with arrogant attitudes. That must be done away with. We cannot be shouting at each other to solve problems.”

Yap admitted that the Chinese community regarded MCA as weak, that it is afraid to go against Umno.

“They call MCA the running dog of Umno, that we are always begging Umno to be a component party,” he said.

“Our side has never had the chance to rebut this. We’ve actually achieved a lot through consultation with Umno – for example, getting Tunku Abdul Rahman College built to help the Chinese community get higher education.”

Yap, who is also publicity chief for MCA Selangor, also admitted that it would be an “uphill battle” for BN to retake Selangor in the coming election, adding that much would depend on the work of grassroots leaders.

He said the fight would be even tougher if BN went to the polls without MCA in a state where Chinese voters account for a substantial portion of the electorate.

The Chinese make up about 34% of voters in Selangor. Malays account for 49% and Indians about 14%.

“MCA has been here for 60 over years,” he said, “and I can tell you that if you don’t have the support of the people, you can close shop.

“We need leaders who turun padang, talk and listen to the people. BN leaders can’t take things for granted, as many did in 2008.”

Yap, who was once detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA), said that the government’s move to repeal the law would win some Chinese support.

“We want to change, to be a more open society. It’s now up to Najib to run the show.”

He lamented that BN was suffering from a “confidence crisis”, with people thinking that the promises of reform were “all bullshit”.

“Before this, there’s been a lot of promises unkept. But Najib knows that he must gain the confidence of the people. What you promise you must deliver. When you commit to something, you must have action.”

Surprise appointment

Najib’s appointment of Yap as the Selangor BN information chief in February came as a surprise to some.

Yap said he too was surprised that Najib would give the job to a Chinese politician, but added that it could be due to his experience as a hardworking grassroots leader.

“He wanted me to revise the strategy for Selangor because after our fall (in 2008), we needed to reinforce and win back the heart and minds of the people. Whether people accept our policies is most important. We can’t just talk. We must change the content of those policies.”

Yap has been in MCA for some 40 years although he was first with DAP.

The 68-year-old served six terms as the state assemblyman for Serdang and six terms as MP after Serdang became a parliamentary constituency.

He was MCA vice-president for three terms – from 1990 to 1999 – and also a former MCA Youth leader. However, Yap was dropped in the 2008 polls. MCA’s Hoh Hee Lee, who contested in Serdang, lost to newcomer Teo Nie Ching of DAP.

Yap said the problem with MCA was partly Chinese representation in the government. “We lack Chinese and Indian officers in the government and therefore these communities hardly understand the government’s transformation plans,” he said.

He said the two communities needed to be fully informed about the government policies to know they are good.

Yap seemed reluctant to reply when asked what he thought of MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek’s performance.

He said an elected leader deserved respect “whether you like him or not.”

He lamented that MCA was continuing with some of its “old systems”, but lauded its more vocal stance on certain issues.

“A single community facing problems should be a national problem,” he said. “We can’t say a Malay problem is more serious than an Indian or Chinese problem.”

Tough front

Commenting on Chua’s statement that some leaders in Selangor were “lazy”, Yap said it was a reminder for leaders to “keep awake and start to really work”.

“Still, some of our leaders still don’t do their work. It’s the president’s reminder to shape up. There are no shortcuts in politics.”

Pundits say Selangor will be the toughest battlefront for both BN and the Pakatan Rakyat in the coming national polls.

In the 2008 general election, Umno won 18 of the 35 seats it contested while Gerakan and MIC, contesting four and three seats respectively, failed to capture even one. MCA secured only two of the 14 state seats and one of the seven parliamentary seats it contested.

Najib, who is BN’s liaison chief for the state, has said he wanted BN to win back the most developed state in the country “at all costs”.

Selangor BN has claimed its survey showed a significant swing by Malay and Indian voters to BN although the Chinese were still taking a “wait-and-see” attitude.

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