KUALA LUMPUR - The chairman of opposition coalition Barisan Nasional (BN), Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, on Monday (Dec 3) rebuked its member party, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), for asking the former ruling alliance to be dissolved.
Datuk Seri Zahid, who leads the biggest BN component party Umno, said the MCA "has no right" to make the call and reminded the Chinese-based party that it has only one seat in Parliament.
The MCA made the call for BN to be disbanded at its annual general assembly on Sunday (Dec 2).
"In order to revive and restart, Barisan must be disbanded with the full understanding and consensus of component parties, so that there is room for freedom in carrying out innovations and reconstruction," said MCA president Wee Ka Siong after the annual assembly, as quoted by The Star newspaper.
BN had ruled Malaysia for 61 years and had 13 component parties when the general election was held in May. It lost badly to the Pakatan Harapan alliance led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
BN's main members now are Umno with 48 MPs, the Malaysian Indian Congress with two seats, and MCA's single MP who is Datuk Seri Wee himself.
BN's other Peninsular Malaysia member is myPPP - formerly the People's Progressive Party - which is split between a faction that has remained in BN and another that has left BN. This party does not have a seat in Parliament.
BN's only East Malaysia member is Parti Bersatu Sabah with one MP.
The call by the MCA for BN to be abolished comes amid a cosying up of ties between Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) that has unsettled MCA members.
Mr Wee said the Chinese-based MCA believes in a multi-racial coalition that was the hallmark of BN.
In his response to the call to dissolve BN, Mr Zahid told reporters on Monday: "We respect the decision, and I am sure they know what needs to be done to strengthen their party.
"They have only one parliamentary seat, and what's more, it is a Malay-majority seat. So they must know their actual position if they want to stay relevant in the country's political landscape."
Mr Zahid told reporters, as quoted by Free Malaysia Today news site: "MCA must know that it has no right to propose the dissolution of BN, even though it was just a suggestion.
"They must know that any decision must be made with the consent of other parties, too."
On Sunday, Mr Zahid had said that even if the MCA were to leave BN, the coalition has plans in place to win back Chinese votes.
"I don't want to elaborate on what these plans are but we know that not all Chinese support the party which is now part of the present government," he said.
Meanwhile, Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa, asked about the MCA call, said the Malay nationalist party is keeping all its options open, including working with arch-enemy Democratic Action Party (DAP), a Chinese-based party that is now part of the ruling coalition.
"If Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad can cooperate with DAP, if PAS can cooperate with DAP, who knows, maybe one day Umno can also cooperate with DAP," he said, as quoted by The Star. "The future of Barisan is not determined by MCA only."