The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) (simplified Chinese: 马来西亚华人公会; traditional Chinese: 馬來西亞華人公會; pinyin: Mǎláixīyà Huárén Gōnghuì; Jyutping: maa5 loi4 sai1 aa3 waa4 jan4 gung1 wui2; Malay: Persatuan Cina Malaysia) is a uni-racial political party in Malaysia that seeks to represents the Malaysian Chinese ethnicity; it is one of the three major component parties of the ruling coalition in Malaysia called the Barisan Nasional (BN) in Malay, or National Front in English.
Along with the largest and third largest component party in BN, i.e. United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), MCA has a significant influence over the political arena in Malaysia. Through its holding of companies such as Huaren Holdings, MCA controls two significant newspapers, (The Star) which is Malaysia's best-selling English newspaper, and Nanyang Siang Pau which is one of the best-selling Chinese newspapers in West Malaysia.
The party was once the largest party representing the Chinese community in Malaysia, and was particularly dominant in the early period until the late 1960s. Its fortunes fluctuated after the establishment of other political parties in the 1960s that challenged it for the Chinese votes, although it still enjoyed strong support in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s period. However, it has performed poorly in elections since 2008, with the Malaysian Chinese community mostly voting for the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP).
The Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) was formed on 27 February 1949 with the implicit support by the post-World War II British colonial administration. A central purpose of the MCA at the time of its founding was to manage the specific social and welfare concerns of the populations interned in the so-called New Villages created under the Briggs' Plan in response to the Malayan Emergency.
The declaration that announced the MCA as a formal political party in 1951 was written by a prominent Straits Chinese businessman, Tan Cheng Lock, its first president. In general, its early members were landowners, businessmen, or otherwise better off, while the working classes in the New Villages overwhelmingly joined the Socialist Front instead. Many prominent members of the MCA were also Kuomintang (KMT) members opposed to the Malayan Communist Party. Leong Yew Koh, was a KMT major general who became a cabinet minister and later became governor of Malacca; Malaysia's first minister of finance, Henry H.S. Lee, was a KMT colonel; and Lim Chong Eu, the leader of the Radical Party, and joined the MCA in 1952, was a colonel (medical) doctor in the Kuomintang.
In 1952, MCA joined force with United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) on a local level to contest the Kuala Lumpur municipal elections which would lead to the formation of the Alliance Party. The alliance was joined by Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) in 1954 and they contested the first Malayan General Election in 1955 as one body, and the alliance won 51 of the 52 seat contested. MCA won all 15 of the seats allocated.
Tan Cheng Lock was succeeded by Lim Chong Eu after a successful challenge by Lim for the presidency in 1958. Lim attempted to amend the party's Constitution to consolidate the power of the Central Committee, and although amendment was passed narrowly, it also split the party. Prior to the 1959 General Election, Lim pressed for an increase of the allocated number of seats from 28 to 40, but this was refused by UMNO leader Tunku Abdul Rahman. Lim was forced to back down and later resigned as president, with Cheah Toon Lock taking over as acting president. Other members also resigned from MCA to contest the election as independent candidates, which cost the party some seat. The party only won 19 of the 31 seats eventually allocated. Lim himself left the party in December 1960, later becoming one of the founding members of the opposition Party Gerakan in 1968. In 1961 Tan Siew Sin, son of Tan Cheng Lock and favoured by Tunku, became MCA's third President. Tan led the party to a firm victory in the 1964 General Election, winning 27 of the 33 parliamentary seats contested. In 1969, Tan established Tunku Abdul Rahman College after a proposal for a Chinese-language university was turned down by the government.
The third Malaysian general elections were held on 10 May 1969. MCA faced strong challenges from the new, mainly Chinese, opposition parties Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Gerakan. Of the 33 parliamentary seats contested, MCA managed to retain only 13. MCA also lost control of the Penang State Government to Gerakan. The gain by the opposition parties led to tension between different communities which erupted into the May 13 Riots. Prior to the riots, on 12 May 1969, Tan Siew Sin announced that the party would withdraw from the Alliance, but reconsidered on 20 May and joined the National Operations Council formed in place of the suspended Parliament after the riots. The loss of support for MCA among the Chinese population elicited a comment by the then Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ismail that if MCA continue to lose support, UMNO may stop co-operating with it. In order to regain Chinese support, Tan attempted to broaden the appeal of the party previously seen as a party of the taukeh (tou jia, rich men), and invited professionals to join the party. However, many of these were expelled after a dispute involving Lim Keng Yaik who then joined Gerakan.
With the loss of support for MCA in the 1969 election, and the enlargement of the Alliance party in 1972 (which later became Barisan Nasional) to include Gerakan, UMNO became even more dominant and MCA suffered a loss of status within the coalition. In 1973, Tan Siew Sin requested a position as Deputy Prime Minister in the cabinet reshuffle following the death of Tun Dr. Ismail, but this was refused by Tun Abdul Razak, which angered Tan. On 8 April 1974, prior to the general election, Tan Siew Sin resigned all of his party and government posts for health reasons.
Lee San Choon took over as Acting President following Tan's resignation, and was then elected President in 1975. After Tan's resignation, the cabinet posts allocated to MCA declined in importance, and MCA lost both the Finance Ministry and Trade and Industry Ministry posts it once held in 1957. The party performed better in the 1974 election, but lost ground again in the following 1978 general election, with the MCA winning only 17 of the 28 parliamentary seats and 44 of the 60 state seats. In 1979, Michael Chen stood against Lee San Choon for the MCA Presidency but lost, and later in 1981 led a group of MCA dissidents to join Gerakan.
The 1982 general election however saw a shift in fortune for MCA. Lee accepted a challenge from the opposition Democratic Action Party which taunted the MCA's leadership for not daring to contest a seat with large urban Chinese majority, and contested the parliamentary seat for Seremban against the incumbent DAP Chairman Chen Man Hin. Lee won his challenge, and led his party to a resounding victory, winning 24 out of 28 allocated parliamentary seats and 55 out of 62 state seats. After the success in the election and at the height of his career, Lee San Choon unexpectedly resigned his presidency and cabinet post for unspecified reason in 1983. Neo Yee Pan then led as Acting President until 1985.
In 1985, Tan Koon Swan, who was sacked from the party a year earlier, won the presidential election with the largest majority in the party's history. However, in the following year, he was charged with abetting criminal breach of trust relating to his private business dealings in Singapore, and resigned from the presidency. Koon Swan also originated the Deposit-Taking Cooperatives (DTCs), which sought to accumulate capital for Chinese Malaysians through investments. The mismanagement of the DTCs' funds led to a scandal, with the central bank, Bank Negara Malaysia, stepping in to freeze the assets of up to 35 DTCs. The total loss was estimated to be RM3.6 billion, and the depositors only recovered 62% of their deposits.
Koon Swan was succeeded by his deputy Ling Liong Sik in 1986. He assumed the presidency when the party was still rife with factionalism and faced disillusionment with the Chinese community over the Deposit-Taking Cooperatives scandal. Ling spent his early years as president working to resolve MCA's financial problems, raising funds while restructuring the party's assets. Ling presided over a period of relative peace within the party, and worked to maintain the interests of the Chinese community through a closed-door approach within the government. He expanded the MCA-owned Tunku Abdul Rahman College through fund-raising and government contributions, and in 2001 set up Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman. Ling led MCA to its best electoral performance thus far in the 1995 General Election, winning 30 of the 34 allocated parliamentary seats and 71 of the 77 state seats, and secured a majority of Chinese votes at the expense of DAP. MCA also performed well in the 1999 General Elections, and the successive electoral victory boosted the party's standing within the Barisan Nasional coalition as well as Ling's personal relationship with BN leader and prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Internal power however struggles persisted. In 1993 Ling's deputy Lee Kim Sai indicated that he would challenged Ling for the presidency, but withdrew at the eleventh hour. Lee eventually retired in 1996 and was replaced as deputy president by Lim Ah Lek. In 1999, the party was again wracked by factionalism. Deputy president Lim Ah Lek announced his intention to retire as a minister and agreed with Ling to nominate his protégé Chan Kong Choy to the Cabinet after the 1999 elections. However, Ling nominated his own protégé Ong Ka Ting as a minister at the expense of Chan, causing discontent with members aligned to Lim, which became known as "Team B" among party members. The Ling faction was known as "Team A." Tensions flared further after MCA, through its holding company Huaren, moved to acquire the independent daily Nanyang Siang Pau. This was vehemently opposed by Team B, fearing a complete control of the Chinese media by Team A. They were joined by Chinese journalists and non-governmental organisations, who made their opposition public through demonstrations. The situation turned farcical when chairs were thrown during the 2001 Youth general assembly over the issue. Huaren eventually succeeded in taking over Nanyang Siang Pau. Huaren also controls The Star and China Press, and the domination of media press caused strong resentments in the divided party, with accusations by factions within MCA as well as outside opponents of editorial interference and claims of a threat to the freedom of the press in the country.
Mahathir, as BN leader, eventually stepped in to resolve the conflict, suggesting a "peace plan" among the factions. The scheduled 2002 party elections were cancelled, while Ling and Lim stepped down to be replaced by their respective protégés.
In May 2003, the leadership transition occurred as planned. Ong Ka Ting, who was then a vice-president succeeded Ling Liong Sik as president, while Chan Kong Choy succeeded Lim Ah Lek as deputy president. The Ong-led MCA contributed to Barisan Nasional's overwhelming victory in the 2004 general elections. MCA won 31 of the 40 parliamentary seats and 76 of the 90 state seats allocated. During the 2005 party elections, Teams A and B ran on a united front, easily quashing the challenge by vice-president Chua Jui Meng (for president) and secretary-general Ting Chew Peh (for deputy president).
The Ong-Chan leadership continued the soft approach to protecting the Chinese community's interests, although tension with UMNO over racial issues flared up now and again after the 2004 election. In early 2008, vice-president and Health Minister Chua Soi Lek, a prominent Johor member, was involved in a sex scandal. DVDs of Chua having sex with a woman were circulated in Johor, prompting Chua to resign all his political positions, including as Member of Parliament. Chua suggested that his political enemies within the party who might have felt threatened by him for plotting his downfall.
In the March 2008 general elections, MCA fared badly, winning only 15 parliamentary seats and 32 state seats, less than half the number of seats they won in the previous election. Ong decided not to contest the presidency during the party elections later that year, to allow a new leader to take over. The October 2008 party election marked a realignment of the party's factions, with the return of Chua Soi Lek to the fold. Ong Ka Ting's anointed successor was vice-president Ong Tee Keat. Meanwhile, Chua entered the race for deputy president, facing among others, Ong Ka Chuan, the elder brother of Ka Ting. Ong Tee Keat won the presidency comfortably, while Chua edged out Ka Chuan. Following his victory, Tee Keat pledged reform and reaching out to more young voters to revive the party.
After the 2008 leadership change, factional infighting continued and the relationship between the Ong Tee Keat and Chua Soi Lek remained tense. Chua was sidelined by Ong from taking an active role in the party's leadership, and he was also excluded from government posts. He was then sacked by MCA in August 2009 for damaging the party's image with his sex scandal more than a year prior. In response, Chua's supporters forced an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) which passed a vote of no confidence against incumbent president Ong and annulled the expulsion of Chua. The EGM, however, failed to reinstate Chua as deputy president. Ong refused to resign despite the vote of no confidence, but pledged with Chua to set aside their differences under the "greater unity plan." However, this was opposed by vice-president Liow Tiong Lai who demanded Ong step down and that new elections be held. This set in motion a new leadership crisis, which lasted almost six months.
Finally in March 2010, Chua, along with his supporters in the central committee (CC) resigned. Along with the resignations of Liow's supporters in the CC, more than two-thirds of the CC had vacated their seats, paving the way for an election per the party constitution. The subsequent election saw Chua defeating incumbent Ong Tee Keat and former leader Ong Ka Ting in the race for president, while Liow defeated Kong Cho Ha in the contest for deputy president. Chua and his deputy Liow pledged to co-operate, and opened the party to non-Chinese.
In the 2013 General Election, MCA suffered its worst defeat ever, winning only 7 of the 37 parliamentary seats and 11 of the 90 state seats it contested, leading to calls for Chua's resignation. MCA's poor performance in the two elections, along with continued factionalism, raised concerns over the party's relevance in the Malaysian political arena. Also as a result of its poor performance, there was no MCA representation in the cabinet for the first time since independence due to a resolution that MCA would not accept cabinet posts if it performed badly in the general election.
Chua did not enter the following party poll for president, and in December 2013, Liow Tiong Lai was elected the president of MCA. Liow also reversed the resolution not to serve in the government and re-entered the cabinet in the aftermath of the MH370 incident.
Incumbent leadership of MCA was elected by general assembly delegates on 21 December 2013.President: Liow Tiong Lai
Deputy President: Wee Ka Siong
Secretary-General: Ong Ka Chuan
1st Vice-President: Lee Chee Leong
2nd Vice-President: Hou Kok Chung
3rd Vice-President: Chua Tee Yong
4th Vice-President: Chew Mei Fun
5th Vice-President (Youth Chief): Chong Sin Woon
6th Vice-President (Women Chief): Heng Seai Kie
Treasurer-General: Kuan Peng Soon
National Organising Secretary: Yoo Wei How
25 Central Committee Members:
- Chai Kim Sen – appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong
- Chew Mei Fun – appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong
- Chia Song Cheng – elected by the Johor State Legislative Assembly
- Chong Sin Woon – elected by the Negeri Sembilan State Legislative Assembly
- Hoh Khai Mun – elected by the Pahang State Legislative Assembly
- Hou Kok Chung – appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong
- Koh Chin Han – elected by the Malacca State Legislative Assembly
- Lee Chee Leong – elected by the Perak State Legislative Assembly
- Wilfred Yong Chen Leong – appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong
- Yoo Wei How – appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong