Sunday, October 17

Sexual indiscretion and public life in M’sia

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SEX is big business in our political life these days.

The big power tussles in the up-coming MCA extraordinary general meeting will be held on October 10 to decide whether their deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek ought to be sacked or suspended from the party for four years because his sex video scandal has damaged the image of the party.Everyday, the national Chinese newspapers and the Chinese language net news portals are filled with endless pages of blow-byblow coverage of the plots and counter-plots between the Datuk Seri Ong Tee Kiat faction and the Chua faction. Daily, numerous face-toface meetings are held by both sides all across Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah to win the hearts and minds of the over 2000 voting delegates.

Fortunately for Sarawak, we are not too bothered because we have no MCA branches and divisions here. Besides, we have our own SUPP factional fight to entertain us.

But Dr Chua’s scandal is an interesting case for political studies. It raises this important question: how much should the private sexual behaviour of our top public office bearers impinge upon the discharge of their official duties?

They say power is the most powerful aphrodisiac. We ordinary citizens leading ordinary boring lives can only imagine how those people in very high places can be subject to all sorts of temptation of sexual favours from various quarters.

Once in a while, such a sex scandal spills into the public domain, and in Chua’s case, he was caught with more than his pants down on widely distributed video. The lurid details must have whetted the ravenous appetite of those citizens who have the curiosity of a peeping Tom’s voyeurism.

We may be a conservative society publicly, but this is also a country where you can buy pornographic video at the neighbourhood street corner. Sex does sell well!

Dr Chua resigned from his ministerial position and all party posts, and did not contest in the 2008 general election. But in an amazing comeback story, he won in a contest for the post of MCA deputy president in the party election about a year ago. Since then, the new party president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Kiat has been sidelining him, while mumbling about the need for political leaders to have ‘personal moral character’.

We all know about Bill Clinton. He finished his two terms as a very popular American president despite his personal sexual indiscretion and lying to the Congress. But that was in America, where they have much more liberal attitude towards such matters.

Malaysia has a large conservative Muslim population, and in the Chinese society, the teaching of Confucius on the relationship between husband and wife as well as between man and woman sinks deep roots. Sexual hanky-panky and extramarital affairs may be practised by many successful Chinese businessmen, but publicly such lecherous sowing of wild seeds is still very much frowned upon. Even polygamy practised by rich Chinese men in old China has all but been abandoned by Malaysian Chinese.

Dr Chua’s supporters claim that Dr Chua has been exonerated by those delegates who have voted him in as party deputy president in the last party poll. That may be so. The political culture in Malaysia is such that members and leaders of political parties think of their party as the entire universe, and the voters should support them no matter what.

But Malaysia is now perched on the critical fulcrum of change since the March 8 general election last year. Barisan Nasional has suddenly found itself faltering in the uncharted waters of a completely new political reality.

MIC and Gerakan have all but been decimated at the hands of the surging Pakatan Rakyat. MCA has won only 15 out of the 40 parliamentary seats. In the last seven by-elections in Peninsular Malaysia, Chinese voters had consistently voted for the PR in droves, showing that Chinese swing away from the MCA had not abated at all.

In short, unless MCA reinvents itself and embarks on a new path, the party may be buried six feet under in a future general election. The writings are indeed all over the wall!

In a future fight for MCA survival, the party cannot indeed be burdened with the slightest sin of the past. Ong saw the need to change public perception, and that is probably why he decided to go public with revelation of the RM12 billion PKFZ black hole. That move alone won him accolade from across the board in the Chinese community, whose number one hatred in politics is probably reserved for massive corruption in high places.

He knows very well that Dr Chua’s tainted past is the very symbol of the old politics within MCA, representing the kind of cynical arrogance that sweeps public opinions aside. The MCA delegates may have exonerated Dr Chua by voting him into office, but will the Chinese voters exonerate him and a party that elect him into such a high office? It is a gargantuan question mark that MCA party delegates have failed to take into consideration.

So what do the people outside the MCA think about Dr Chua’s sexual misconduct?

So far, the severest criticism against Dr Chua’s sexual indiscretion has come from the women commentators, especially those on the alternative Internet media.

That should not surprise us, because on a sensitive issue such as this, only a woman can understand a fellow woman in gender relationship. All women — married or unmarried — know how a husband’s acts of infidelity within a marriage can leave deep irreparable psychological and emotional scar on the wife. Nothing hurts a wife more than her husband’s sexual infidelity.

Dr Chua’s wife has forgiven him in public. She knows her duty as a top politician’s wife; she has to stand by her man no matter what, just as Hilary Clinton did for Bill Clinton during those trying years when the US president was hounded by the American press and the Congress for his misdeed.

In the case of the Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, he has confessed publicly on TV his extramarital affairs, and his then wife Hazel forgave him in public. But the minute Hawke left office, she filed for divorce proceedings.

But the magnanimous forgiveness of Dr Chua’s wife actually accentuated the injustice of Dr Chua’s act of betrayal. It is all about trust, especially the unmitigated unconditional and total trust between a married couple that is the bedrock of any successful marriage. Dr Chua has broken the sacred bond of that trust. He has committed the most heinous ethnical crime of betraying his wife’s trust, thus wounding her forever.

Then we must not forget that the wife is the most loyal and the most intimate constituent for Dr Chua. If he can betray her trust, whose trust would he be unable to betray.

We can only speculate about the kind of anguish and hurt suffered by Dr Chua’s wife when the sex video surfaced and became hot item on the video black market. Her sense of humiliation and shame must have been overwhelming.

The fact that Dr Chua did not share her anguish and retire gracefully from political life altogether shows his personal ambition is far greater than his sense of personal integrity.

We have to wait until the MCA EGM on October 10 to know the outcome of this power struggle. If Dr Chua wins, it may be the beginning of the end of this 60-year old premier political party in Malaysia.