Training the spotlight on the Barisan, Martin Jalleh feels the MIC does not have much of a future, thanks to its long-serving president, Samy Vellu, who could sink the party along with himself.
Samy Vellu is here to stay – as long as he wants. He has been made indispensable, invincible… even immortal. He will remain as the “saviour” of the Indians in Malaysia – a god-like status his “devotees” have strenuously bestowed upon him.
This strong message that Samy still reigns supreme was delivered by the majority of the 1,464 delegates at the triennial election of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) held recently. It appears that they would prefer to sink with Samy – rather than swim in the current of change.
Dr M says, “MIC is scared stiff of Samy Vellu.” But it is their very own political survival they are shivering and sweating over! Ironically, they felt very secure even if it meant strengthening Samy’s political stranglehold and further suffocating the whole Indian community!
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With their future at stake, the delegates were not prepared to stick their necks out. In fact, as Dr M once described the members of the MIC, they are “not even ready to stick their little finger out”. Such is the sordid state of affairs in the second oldest political party in the country.
“Everybody is playing safe. If I go against the chief, he’s going to hammer me. Then I won’t get contracts, I won’t be ‘ketua bahagian’ (party division chief),” Dr M succinctly described the sad scenario – which was very similar to Umno when Dr M was its president for 22 years.
In the run-up to the polls, Samy failed to display the stature of an elder statesman. He hyped about change (a hollow promise he made over the past 30 years) but hindered change by hand-picking a “Presidential Team” and haranguing deserving candidates who refused to suck up to him.
His self-serving sycophants stuck to the status quo and made an almost clean sweep – the post of deputy president, three vice-presidencies and 19 of the 23 central working committee posts. The delegates shortchanged their party which was in desperate need of change.
As they saluted him, Samy broke into song perhaps in gratitude to the armies of Hanuman (monkey god), whose intervention he had desperately sought to save his day, and in great jubilation that he now has a team whom he had selected and who would likely serve him in servile gratitude!
For Samy the results were a solid endorsement of his feudalistic lordship. But the slim majorities of some of his men, especially his incumbent deputy president G Palanivel (who saw his majority of 495 votes in 2006 over Subramaniam slashed to 82) signalled a slide in the support for Samy.
Shocked by the results, former deputy chairman Subramaniam (Subra) accused the delegates of selling their souls. For so long, Samy has used him as a convenient showpiece of democracy in MIC. One such example was Samy’s retort to Dr M in one of their sardonic exchanges.
Dr M had slammed Samy for having stifled Indian voices in the MIC. Samy shot back labelling Dr M “the destroyer of deputies”’ – in sharp contrast to him having only one deputy (Subra) who lasted for 25 years. Of course he was mum over how he had subdued, silenced and sidelined Subra.
Subra insisted that he was no coward. He had not challenged Samy “because the party was weak. I feared it would further weaken the party. But now the party is being weakened by the leadership and I want to bring a change”. Sadly, such belated boldness has barely got him and his party anywhere.
Having been with Samy for 25 long years, Subra seemed sympathetic to Samy and the syndrome he was suffering from: “Some leaders cannot prepare their mind to accept retirement…It is a combination of ego, addiction to power and false image of oneself… they misguide themselves.”
Subra knew that the party election was a do-or-die battle. Samy portrayed Subra as “doing nothing” for the Indians. Subra highlighted the insecurities of Samy, adding that “the president was too afraid to hand over duties to him” and there was nothing he could do about it.
(Six months before the last general elections, Samy had asked Pak Lah for “some money so that we can boost the morale of the party”. Samy related the outcome: “First he said, ‘I’ll look into it.’ Later he said, ‘No’, he cannot give.” And Samy’s response was, “… what can we do?”!).
The MIC supremo accused Subra of being “subservient to Mahathir, I don’t know to what extent he is subservient to Umno… he needs somebody to push him forward. He can’t stand on his own legs…” – like how Samy was subjugated by Umno for the past 30 years and by Dr M for 22 years?
It is obvious that at 65, and with the MIC in a further state of stagnation with Samy at the helm till 2012 (i.e., if he ever retires), Subra is done for in MIC. The only thing that is left for him to do is to have nothing to do with the MIC and to join the opposition.
No one has really been interested in lifting a finger to help the Indians at the grassroots. The MIC delegates have been too afraid to “stick their little finger out”, and Samy and Dr M have been only interested in finger pointing and creating a facade of fighting for their cause.
The blame game which began during Dr M’s tenure, climaxed before and after the MIC party polls when the best players seemingly in humbug, hypocrisy, hysterics and histrionics pitted themselves against each other, exposing their naked intentions and contradicting themselves and one another!
Dr M has long argued that the main unhappiness of the Indians is not with him but Samy Vellu. Remove Samy and all would be resolved. Why did Dr M refrain from removing Samy during his tenure? Was it because he was a very handy ‘asset’ then to hoodwink the Indians?
Samy has said that Dr M “had promised this and that but in the end told the community nehi (’no’ in Hindi)” and that he “did very little for the Indian community… Despite the MIC appealing again and again for help, he refused to budge”.
Samy, however, has had no guts to stick to his guns especially when the “great statesman” throws down the gauntlet at him. He backpedals soon after he boldly sets himself on a collision course with Dr M. Samy says Subra is unable to “stand on his own legs”, but he can’t put his foot down!
Dr M (who does not believe that the Indians are marginalised) once insisted that “the government gave a lot to the Indians”. Alas, there is a lot more to be known! What has happened to the “crumbs” that the government had contributed through the hands of Samy and his cronies?
In the run-up to the MIC polls, Dr M claimed that the Indians are “fed up of Samy Vellu”. They voted in the last general elections for the opposition out of anger with Samy. He should step aside, step down, follow his (Dr M’s) footsteps in retiring. (But has Dr M really stepped down?)
Samy’s retort was that the Indians voted against the BN because they were fed up with the ruling coalition, and not him. He also told his mentor of manipulation that he was messing around with his party polls. Surely Umno would make mince meat of him if he were to interfere in its polls!
The MIC president succeeded in making use of the MIC delegates to severely criticise Dr M and Umno “for favouring only the Malays and ignoring the woes of the Indians for many years” (Malaysian Insider). The polls results they delivered were a snub and a stinging slap in the face for Dr M and Umno.
One delegate suggested a garland of slippers be hung around a portrait of Dr M for interfering. Umno went into a frenzy. The delegate was suspended temporarily. Samy would say sorry personally. Dr M hit out at Umno’s hypocrisy and considered the jibe rather petty!
It did not take very long for Dr M to launch another attack on Samy, labelling his former loyal ally “a liability to the BN in the next general election”, and sending him a loud and clear message: “You (Samy Vellu) have failed to lead the MIC until you yourself lost”.
Dr M revealed that he was “worried that the people’s support for the BN (also read as Umno) would erode and the coalition would be the victim because Samy Vellu was still leading the MIC”. The former PM is not really concerned about the MIC, but the future of his disintegrating Umno.
It is very obvious that this blame game will continue between the big political players who, without any conscience, will gamble away the future of the real losers in this game – the Indian Malaysian who is increasingly displaced, deprived, disempowered, disillusioned and dysfunctional.
In a Malaysiakini interview, the MIC president dismissed the notion that the longer he remains at the top, the more problems it will create for the party at the bottom. In his usual zest he commented: “Anybody who says that, I will say he is a political zero”.
Very ironically, it would seem, there is no better example of a “political zero” than Samy Vellu himself. He has little or no results to show as he desperately hangs on. The MIC resolutions of each branch and assembly and of each passing year show no progress but more and more evidence of mismanagement, scandal and frustration.
Samy has no parliamentary seat, no Cabinet or government post. He had no contender in the elections of the MIC president early this year – the only real contender was disqualified. He has no political leverage. He has no support from his BN counterparts, especially Umno.
His leadership is one propped up by his so-called lapdogs who have more bark than brains and boldness. After 30 years of what was seen as being “god” in MIC he has groomed no one to be his successor. From a multi-racial perspective, his race-based MIC has no place in Malaysian politics.
Samy, according to many, has no tolerance for the truth. He is perceived to have no sense of shame – and there is really no future in the MIC! (And of course Dr M has no credibility left to tell him all these!)
Martin Jalleh is a political commentator based in Ipoh.