Hostile reception: Police moving in to escort Samy Vellu to his car after he was surrounded by angry youths at a Tamil school groundbreaking ceremony in Petaling Jaya Wednesday. (Photo credit: The Star)
I nearly missed this picture in The Star. The MIC leader certainly doesn’t look too happy. In fact, he can’t go anywhere in public without a phalanx of security personnel these days.
But the bigger question is why have the mainstream media such as The Star and the NST begun reporting such incidents? After all, a senior reporter of a major paper told me recently that once election season arrives, his paper cannot report stories detrimental to the ruling coalition. And yet, we now see reports casting a senior leader of one of the main parties in the ruling coalition in a bad light. Has the ruling coalition – and by extension, their media – finally realised that Samy Vellu is a liability?
This is from The Star:
It was Samy Vellu’s second event after Parliament had been dissolved. The guest-of-honour at the ceremony was Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo who arrived 30 minutes later.
Samy Vellu and Dr Khir were also present to give away allocation grants to Tamil schools and temples in the state, which has over 800 temples, many of them unregistered, and some dilapidated Tamil schools.
Samy Vellu thanked Dr Khir for giving the Tamil schools a breath of fresh air.
He also said he had requested for funds from the Second Finance Minister on Wednesday morning and received approval at 4.20pm the same day for RM30mil for Tamil schools.
Touching on the proposed Seaport Tamil school he said, “I drew the school plan as I am an architect and I know what is good for the Indians.”
He said the three-storey school would have 18 classrooms and toilet facilities on each floor and would be able to accommodate some 410 pupils.
When Samy Vellu switched to Tamil, the event turned sour as the group of men who had earlier demonstrated began jeering and shouting “Makkal Sakhti” or People’s Power.
A visibly upset Samy Vellu stopped his speech and said, “You can shout and shout until your throat tears but I’m not afraid of your tactics or anybody.
“You do not represent the people but the crowd here is what People’s Power is,” he said, adding that there was no proof to their claims that the school had originally been allocated a larger plot of land.
Samy Vellu said he expected such disturbances at his functions from now on and he would not be frightened.
Dr Khir later explained that the original allocation for the Seaport school was 0.4ha and RM600,000 and it has been increased to RM1.2mil now
Dr Khir was saddened to see some people in Selangor resorting to unruly behaviour at an official function and he took a swipe at the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) group.
Dr Khir announced that he was giving actual cheques and not mock cheques of RM2mil to Tamil schools and RM1mil to Hindu temples in Selangor.
Mohd Khir left before the school groundbreaking ceremony, which was performed by Samy Vellu under heavy police presence and he was later escorted to his car.
The function also saw a huge turnout of aspiring MIC candidates who stood close to the stage and Samy Vellu’s car to make sure the party chief noticed them.
According to an Umno member who was at the event, this was an unusual turn of events.
“If this is an indication of how the campaign trail is going to be, it is not going to be a smooth one,” he said.
Elders at the function applauded Samy Vellu for his might at getting things done for the community but it will take more than his valour to impress the youngsters.
Prime Minister Abdullah certainly added fuel to the speculation that Samy Vellu’s political days are numbered.
This is from Malaysiakini’s report yesterday:
According to Bernama, the premier was bombarded with questions pertaining to Samy Vellu after chairing the Umno supreme council meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
“I haven’t decided yet…maybe when the list comes, he (Samy Vellu) may not put his name on the list,” was Abdullah’s eyebrow raising response.
Pressed further, he added: “I don’t know what’s going to be there (on the list), let me have a look first, so stop asking me because I haven’t seen the list yet.”
Asked on Samy Vellu’s recent announcement that he would defend his Sungai Siput parliamentary seat, Abdullah conjured another puzzling response: “Anybody can say anything to the press, later on they do something else.”
I mean, the beleagured Samy Vellu is already in a shaky position. The last thing he needs before the general election is for the PM not to give him an unequivocal endorsement. So does that mean the writing is on the wall for the young office boy from Batu Arang, who grew up to become a drama actor, news reader, architect and self-styled “leader” of the Indian Malaysian community? He can’t do anything right these days – he is even heckled when opening a Tamil school.
But Samy remains defiant, as reported in The Star:
Even an army will not stop me, says Samy Vellu
KUALA LUMPUR: Even an army will not be able to stop MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu from defending his Sungai Siput seat.
“An army can come but I know how to fight it out,” he said of reports that the Opposition would be fielding a candidate against him.
“I will defend woh foong (Cantonese for Sungai Siput),” said Samy Vellu, who has held the seat since 1974.
He said he had the full support of the various communities in Sungai Siput and that he had built Tamil, Chinese and Malay schools, hospitals and community colleges in the constituency.
“The people in Sungai Siput are with me. They are my strength. I have strived for them and served them.
“I have made Sungai Siput a very beautiful town. Not only that, I have solved every problem of the community. I have made Sungai Siput a really good place to live in,” he said.
Samy Vellu was confident there would be no Indian vote swing away from the Barisan Nasional.
“The Indian voters are all at home and not in the streets,” he said referring to the recent Hindraf protest.
Obviously, he is digging in for the biggest fight of his political career, with polling day falling on his 72nd birthday.
Let us be under no illusions. Samy Vellu’s eventual exit from politics – though long overdue – should not be seen as the end of the matter. The BN may just jettison him out (when it realises that he is more of a liability) to strengthen its own grip on power.
But it cannot end there. It’s the whole system of race-based politics that must be dismantled, and that’s going to be a whole lot harder. Indeed, Hindraf and Makkal Sakthi have exposed the myth of Indian Malaysians being a homogenised lot under the patronage of the MIC. Their struggle has highlighted the class differences in Malaysian society – a reflection of the yawning gap between the rich and the poor. As my friend and social scientist Farish Noor lucidly explains:
When Hindraf began mobilising its supporters in 2006 in defence of the Hindu temples that were being demolished all over the country, much of its criticism was directed towards Samy Vellu and the senior leadership of the MIC who they accused of betraying the Indian minority and not being able to stand up to the demands of the UMNO party that leads the ruling BN coalition. Linked to the Hindu temples issue were other complaints related to the MIC’s finances, its alleged failure to uplift the economic condition of the Hindus; its failure to defend Hindu culture, language and identity, etc.
As a result of these complaints being aired in public, Hindraf had inadvertently exposed the class divisions that now exist within the membership of the MIC and the gulf of power, wealth and influence between the MIC leadership and the rest of the Indian minority community. This is ironic considering the fact that the MIC was originally set up by Indian activists like John Thivy, K. Ramanathan and Budh Singh in 1946 to defend the interests of the Indian working class and to struggle for economic and social equality in the first place. By emphasising the weakness and marginalisation of ordinary Malaysian-Indians and contrasting their lot to the opulence and luxury of those who claimed to be their leaders and spokesmen, Hindraf has actually introduced the fault-line of class difference within the Indian community itself, thereby rendering any simplistic attempts to homogenise the Malaysian-Indians as a singular political constituency more problematic.
Here lies the paradox that Hindraf itself has introduced into the equation of Malaysian politics: On the one hand it is a communitarian and sectarian organisation that seeks to mobilise and consolidate the Indian minority in Malaysia on the basis of an exclusive racial and religious identity; but on the other hand it has succeeded in doing so by adopting the rhetoric and discourse of betrayal and neglect of the community by some of its own; namely the leaders of the MIC. Hindraf has therefore contributed to the problematisation of the category of ‘Indian-ness’ itself, making it consequently more difficult for both the MIC and the ruling National Front to maintain its divisive form of communal sectarian politics that has always relied upon the instrumental fiction of neatly divided and compartmentalised racial groupings. What Hindraf has done via its street demonstrations and campaigns to discredit the MIC leadership is to demonstrate that the Indian community is not a singular bloc that can be reduced to one essentialised stereotype or compartmentalised within neatly-defined and hermetically sealed borders.
The responsibility, therefore, falls on the shoulders of the parties of the ruling National Front that have for so long maintained the culture and norms of divisive race and religion-based politics in the country. Malaysia is in need of a new politics that transcends racial and ethnic divisions, or at least one that recognises the complexity of the plural communities that reside in this country. One thing however is certain for now: Hindraf’s very presence on the political stage signals that some sections of the Malaysian-Indian community no longer see the MIC as the sole patron and protector of the Malaysian-Indians of Malaysia .