The son also rises
MCA SAGA 3: It is not uncommon to see the children of many prominent party leaders carving out a name for themselves on both sides of the political divide. Some achieved fame, some notoriety and some others have nothing to show except a famous name and empty bravado.
In MCA, one such figure is Datuk Chua Tee Yong (left, top pix), 36, the son of party president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek. A nobody, he suddenly found himself in the limelight after he replaced his father to contest the Labis parliamentary seat in the general election in 2008.
Tee Yong entered the political field not under the best of circumstances: he was thrust into the national stage after his father fell from grace over a sex scandal that year.
But he came in with a relatively clean record unlike Ling Hee Leong (right, top pix), the son of former MCA president Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik.
Hee Leong gained a notorious reputation for his party life (of the other kind) and courted controversy for his role in a corporate acquisition exercise in 1997.
(A businessman, Soh Chee Wen, a former ally of Liong Sik, had claimed the latter had sought to build a business empire by using his son as a vehicle. Soh had lent RM149 million to Linksun Avenue, a company owned by Hee Leong, to acquire shares in Berjaya Industrial Bhd. He filed a legal suit to recover the loan.)
By contrast, Tee Yong, an accountant by training, was serving with a government-linked company before he was shoved into the political minefield.
With no baggage to carry, he soon rose to prominence in the government when his father made a successful comeback in 2010 when he unseated then MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat.
Shortly after, Tee Yong was appointed Deputy Agriculture and Agro-Based Minister and from then on he tried to stamp his mark in politics.
His turn at fame came in the form of “Talamgate”. In a series of exposé, Tee Yong, in his capacity as MCA Young Professionals Bureau chairman, led the charge against the Pakatan Rakyat-ruled Selangor state government and Talam Corporation Bhd.
In one press conference after another, the “hero” sought to shed light on the state’s “dubious” exercise to recover debts from Talam.
(He had accused the administration of Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim of buying Talam’s RM676 million assets to clear the firm’s outstanding debts of RM392 million to three state subsidiaries.)
But political observers said he was trying to polish his credentials in financial matters, with a view to getting appointed as Deputy Finance Minister and later as full minister in another portfolio.
“He was also playing to the MCA gallery as the party elections drew nearer,” said a source.
But his critics, mostly in the opposition camp, have flayed him for making a fool of himself in trying to show his financial knowledge in the Talam affair.
His supporters, however, see him as a brave whistleblower on Pakatan “wrongdoings”.
Tee Yong also did not come out smelling good in his handling of the bird’s nest issue with China when he was in the agriculture ministry. Embarrassing for him, it was left to Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting, the special envoy to China, to find an amicable solution.
(The lucrative swiftlet industy was hard hit by the ban on bird’s nest exports to China following the discovery of high levels of nitrate in the nests.)
Still, the political fortune of Tee Yong did not diminish, at least in the mainstream media. He gets wide publicity in The Star and carries a lot of business clout as he sits in several MCA-linked companies like Huaren Holdings, which controls the newspaper.
“Even the grassroots members treated him like a crown prince,” said a political observer.
But he added: “The trappings of power and fame got the better of him and he had become arrogant.”
With the party election set for Dec 21, Tee Yong – hubris or not – is expected to vie for a vice-president’s post – with lots of help from his father.
“The president [Chua] needs to ensure his son’s interests are taken care of,” said a party insider.
“Tee Yong is likely to be the public face of Team Chua Soi Lek after his father retires,” he added.