As the BN chief gets set to announce the party’s candidates list, several politicians in the twilight of their lives are hoping, secretly or otherwise, that they will have the opportunity for “one last kopek” before riding off into the sunset.
One such person seems to be S Samy Vellu, the former MIC president.
Spending the morning with the Malaysian special envoy of infrastructure to India and southern Asia in his former constituency of Sungai Siput last weekend, one gets the feeling that the former stage actor and news reader wants one last shot at the prize – pretty much like in Rocky III where the champion, defeated after a bout of arrogance and complacency, cleans up his act to recapture the championship belt he had lost to Clubber Lang.
However, in Samy Vellu’s case, he has never forgotten the constituents he had served since 1974 – although a majority of them had abandoned their one-time MP – a casualty of the political tsunami that also wiped out some of his BN colleagues, such as present Gerakan chief Koh Tsu Koon and Wanita Umno head Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.
“Even after losing I still came here. I still regard this as my constituency,” he said over a cup of coffee at the Teratai kopitiam – both of us occupying one table, surrounded by three tables of his supporters.
“I’ve worked here harder than anyone else. In three years, I’ve had 65 meetings!” said the 77-year-old stalwart.
Party vice-president S Devamany is tipped to take on PSM’s Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, who ousted Samy Vellu in 2008.
However, Samy Vellu is still actively campaigning – some say for himself, although he insists it’s for the party.
But, no doubt, his presence at political gatherings tends to create confusion among the electorate.
At functions attended by both him and Devamany, Samy Vellu gets top billing. At some events, he is even introduced as the BN candidate!
But he insists he had nothing to do with those awkward moments.
“Of course, they are people here who want me to contest, so I have to immediately explain to the organiser and the attendees that I am not the candidate but was here just to bantu saja (help only).
“I just want to put the constituency in order and work for the candidate picked by the PM.”
But he adds: “There are many who want me back. They say ‘if it’s not you, we won’t support BN’.”
Split among MIC grassroots
One local leader whose family had aided Samy Vellu for three decades echoed the sentiments of some supporters: “Let’s see who the candidate is. If we don’t like him, why should we waste our time supporting him?”
This seems to confirm talk on the ground of a split in grassroots support between Samy Vellu and Devamany, who grudgingly gave up Cameron Highlands, which he won in 2008 (a handful of MIC parliamentarians to do so), to party president G Palanivel.
“No, no, no! We have to be united and win the seat for BN. Now is not the time to talk about camps,” quipped Samy Vellu.
“Understand what the people want as it will provide the impetus to take back Sungai Siput,” was his advice to his potential successor.
So why would his former constituents want Samy Vellu back?
“Some of them told me they were sorry. Kita ada bikin mistake! (We’ve made a mistake).”
He said Jeyakumar had not fulfilled his obligations to the people of Sungai Siput, while he had worked painstakingly to ensure BN continues to have a presence in the constituency.
“I come every week. I travel 160km from KL – more than him!”
He claimed the infrastructure there had been destroyed in five years but skirted around the question of the constituency being neglected by the federal government after it fell to PSM.
The federal authorities may have forgotten Sungai Siput but Samy Vellu has not, so it seems.
He cites his involvement in helping to obtain approval for a RM2.5 million industrial road that will cater to 100 new factories; the relocation of railway communities in Kampung Sungai Buloh for the Ipoh-Rawang double-tracking project; a RM7.5 million overhead bridge as well as refurbishing and rebuilding of schools.
“I spent RM800,000 of my own money,” he insists.
So why did he lose five years ago?
“It’s a secret reason I’ll tell you … hundreds of blind votes! So-called supporters who did not mark their votes.
“That’s sabotage,” he said, adding that the 600 young voters from Johor who came and voted for the opposition also contributed to his loss.
So, is he returning to save his legacy? After all, he did call himself a“winnable candidate” last week that started feverish speculation.
But he explains: “You press people also … I was asked by the reporter if I was a winnable candidate, and I said ‘Yes, I can be a winnable candidate.’
“That’s all I said. I didn’t say I wanted to be a candidate. I just said I think I can be a winnable candidate. So why must he (Palanivel) get all sensitive and declare the following day: ‘No, no, he’s not a candidate. Candidates are to be decided by the PM’.
“This party was brought out of the ditches by me. From 75,000 members, we now have 700,000 and today I see it going back into the ditch!”
He has never been more vocal about his choice of successor.
“It was the biggest mistake I made. MIC is not the kind of party where you can talk nicely all the time. You must exert some control, while at the same time you must listen to the young and strike a balance,” he said in response to a question on his dictatorial style of leading the party for 34 years.
The factionalism in the party is unprecedented with analysts saying the next presidential election will be a free for all.
“A leader must be available to his people at all times.
“Before they started Hindraf, I started Kindraf – ‘kind to the people’. While we have been helping the people, they’ve just been making noise in the streets.”
However, he conceded that he has yet to change the mindset of a large number of Indians.
“This handout mentality must stop but teaching a man to fish has been a constant challenge,” he said.
So, is he making a comeback to fix the MIC and complete any unfinished business?
“Right now, I just want to concentrate on winning the seat back for the BN. Once that is achieved, I’ll come and bombard all these useless fellows!”
Monday: Retaking Sungai Siput
This article first appeared in The Malay Mail.
Short URL: http://www.freemalaysiakini2.com/?p=75835
Posted by Susanloo
on Apr 13 2013. Filed under News.
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