Political power play involving Bersatu and MCA has resulted in many Chinese new villages nationwide without a headman, leaving the Chinese-based party feeling weakened.
Though such appointments were once the responsibility of MCA under the Barisan Nasional rule, the party now feels it is being sidelined by Bersatu, specifically by former PKR deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali and his supporters.
MCA leaders said their party has lost the key privilege of appointing village chiefs as senior minister Azmin and his people have been working with pressure groups to expand their influence in the new villages to earn the support of Chinese voters for Bersatu.
They accuse Azmin, through his close supporter, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, of favouring their appointees.
The ministry in August appointed 109 chiefs to head the Village Development and Security Task Force (JKKK) in their respective new villages, but the list did not contain a single MCA representative.
The snub then led to MCA rejecting naming any candidate for the remaining 48 positions.
MCA’s new village affairs bureau chief Ooi Eyan Hian told The Malaysian Insight that Azmin and his allies are looking to shore up support among non-Malays.
“Traditionally, as part of a ruling coalition, MCA will prepare a list of names and the ministry will approve it without question.
“Now, they are telling us to come up with a list, but the approved list is not the same, with most of them from some pressure group (aligned to them).
“Are they rewarding their own supporters? They did not discuss this with MCA, and we have no choice but to reject all of them,” Ooi said.
Following this development, MCA rejected all federal village chief appointments.
“They are obviously disrespecting us and any MCA member who accepts such positions will be disciplined.”
Ooi said such a move will affect MCA’s influence in the new villages but will allow Bersatu to gain grassroots support.
“New village chiefs have heavy responsibilities. This will benefit them (Bersatu) in terms of gaining support from voters, but it will definitely affect MCA’s voter outreach as well. They are doing this to consolidate support,” Ooi said.
Government data show that as of 2015, there were 613 Chinese new villages in the country, including 436 traditional new villages, 134 kampung baru rangkaian and 43 kampung bagan.
Housing and Local Government Ministry special officer in charge of new villages Richard Tan told The Malaysian Insight there are 157 village chief posts for 613 new villages, with 109 positions filled while the rest are still being processed.
Tan said due to MCA’s refusal to be involved, the process of appointing new village chiefs is now stuck.
There are also several new village chiefs appointed by the previous Pakatan Harapan government whose terms are yet to expire and cannot be replaced yet.
On MCA’s complaints of being excluded from Zuraida’s list of new village chiefs, Tan said the Chinese party can recommend candidates for the posts, but the minister has the final say.
“Although MCA is part of Perikatan Nasional, I think this is within the minister’s scope of consideration. The minister also considered the proposals of other non-governmental groups before making a decision.”
Tan, who assumed his position in March, said he was involved in the process of appointing new village chiefs, but the minister has the right to decide according to her own considerations.
The ministry is also trying to appoint as many youths as possible in a bid to change the perception that new villages are old areas. The ministry is also aiming for 30% of the positions to be filled by women.
“I hope all the new village chief positions can be filled within this year and beautification and maintenance works can commence immediately after the allocations are disbursed,” he said.
Bersatu’s move to expand its sphere of influence has caused concern among PN allies.
Apart from MCA, Barisan Nasional’s mainstay Umno has also expressed anger at the way it was being treated by Bersatu.
In Umno, it has come to a point that many of its leaders are openly calling for the party to ditch the Bersatu-led PN government.
Azmin and his group of 10 supporters defected from PKR to join Bersatu to support Muhyiddin Yassin’s bid to become the prime minister.
Azmin’s faction has also moved to fill up Bersatu’s ranks with members from pressure groups they lead, such as Penggerak Komuniti Negara, Pemuda Negara, and several women’s organisations and youth groups.
Media reports had also quoted Johor exco Chong Fat Full as saying that new village chief candidates must sign a declaration of support for Azmin before they’re allowed to assume their posts.
However, he said the move was to ensure the village chiefs’ support for the government.
MCA’s Ooi said most of the newly appointed village chiefs are from pressure groups.
Selangor MCA Wanita chief Tee Hooi Ling told The Malaysian Insight the party’s appointments previously were normally locals from the new villages as they would know the local issues and on how to overcome them.
Tee said appointing outsiders renders the post meaningless as they would not know how to assist locals.
“MCA has decided to reject the federal new village chiefs as those appointed by the Housing and Local Government Ministry are not even locals.”
New village chiefs get a monthly RM800 allowance, while the ministry allocates RM100,000 per village every year for road resurfacing and drainage repairs. – TMI