Thursday, February 25, 2010

PM Najib’s Samy Vellu problem

MIC president, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu (left) and his annointed successor deputy president Datuk G. Palanivel seen in this file photo.

One of the challenges that the Barisan Nasional (BN), in particular Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, is grappling with is how to give MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu his marching orders.

The fleeing of the Indian vote to Pakatan Rakyat (PR) parties in 2008 had caused considerable damage to BN and had given the opposition that extra edge to win 82 parliamentary constituencies and five state governments.

Getting at least some of those votes back is important for BN to retain the federal government and that is why Najib remains on a charm offensive — both in tangible and symbolic terms — to woo Indian voters.

The problem for BN is that the man whose arrogance contributed to grassroots anger along with socio-economic neglect by the BN government, is refusing to exit.

Samy Vellu MIC legally remains as president until 2012 and although he has said the current term is his last few people believe it.

He has also refused to set a firm date to leave the scene nor allow his anointed successor deputy president Datuk G. Palanivel to take charge of the party, clean up the mess that is the MIED, the party’s education arm nor give the space for Palanivel to travel the country and meet party grassroots and give new hope.

The party is greatly confused by Samy Vellu’s refusal to quit and utterly exhausted and dispirited by the massive losses they suffered in 2008.

Samy Vellu’s rebranding and reinventing campaigns have all failed to either lift the party or excite the grassroots.

The irony is that without much help from the MIC the Indian community is excited, but with Najib.

“We have never been beaten like this and we need a new leader and new hope to rise again, if at all,” a senior MIC leader told The Malaysian Insider.

By refusing to leave, Samy Vellu is also testing Najib’s patience and giving rise to demands in Umno and BN to take “tough” action against him.

The demand is on for Najib to wave the red card and give the ultimatum to Samy Vellu — retire with honour or face the ignominy of being forced out.

But Samy Vellu is not biting and is not one to walk away if challenged.

The fear in MIC and elsewhere is that he might hunker down and fight.

He has threatened before bring down other leaders during the Telecom Malaysia/Maika Holdings scandal when he was accused of “hijacking” Telekom Malaysia shares.

The ACA then cleared him of corruption in the matter but many remain sceptical about that investigation.

That’s why — to avoid bloody scenes — those some leaders in the MIC are counselling caution and arguing for space and time for Samy Vellu to settle matters and leave the scene in good time.

“He has announced the current term is his last, he has announced Palanivel is his successor and he has also announced he is setting matters right before leaving,” said former MIC vice-president Tan Sri K. S. Nijhar.

“I think we must take his word for it. He knows what’s good for the MIC and the Indian community and the Barisan, “he told The Malaysian Insider.

“I am confident he will give enough time to Palanivel to prepare the MIC for the next general election. He knows it himself, “said Nijhar who was recalled by Samy Vellu to clean up the MIED and put it in order.

“He will not leave Palanivel and the MIC in a lurch,” Nijhar said.

However other MIC leaders do not buy this “Samy Vellu will do the right thing” argument. They want the government and especially Najib to give Samy Vellu a “leave or else” ultimatum.

Najib has been idle and has tried persuading Samy Vellu to give it up.

His speech at the MIC general assembly on Oct 10 last year was a powerful speech urging change in the MIC and the need for new leaders to take over.

Palanivel, then Samy Vellu’s candidate against Datuk S. Subramanian, almost lost the deputy presidency in a three cornered fight.

Najib had indirectly backed Subramanian seeing Palanivel as unable to persuade Samy Vellu to retire or willing to go against the longtime president.

Najib has to change tact, MIC insiders said.

The problem is also partly Samy Vellu’s fears of insecurity.

“He wants to stay on ... he can’t simply give it up because he fears what happens next,” said a MIC leader who declined to be named. “He has to be pushed out or he will never leave,” he said citing how Tun Abdul Razak persuaded Tun V T Sambanthan to retire in 1973.

Sambanthan was made minister for National Unity and treated as an independence hero before he gave up the presidency to his longtime deputy Tan Sri V. Manicavasagam.

It is ironic that three decades later his son Najib has the same problem on his hands — how to persuade Samy Vellu to give it up.

Unlike his ally Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Samy Vellu is not prepared for retirement.

Dr Mahathir once said he told long serving Cabinet ministers to retire with him in 2003 but at that time Samy Vellu said he had “many long years of service” ahead of him.

Five years later he lost as MP and as Works Minister and has trouble giving up the MIC presidency. The reason, say people close to him, is because he does not know any other life except MIC politics.

“He has nothing to go to,” said a former aide as an explanation. “He needs persuading.”

Najib and Samy has had heart-to-heart talks in recent months; political insiders said the subject of retirement and giving a firm date was mentioned

Samy Vellu has been offered a high-level post as ambassador and liaison between Malaysia and India, the sources said. “It is a Ministerial-level post,” they said adding a Tunship is also in the offing.

But there is a deadline — June 2010.

Samy Vellu however told a recent party CWC meeting that he will stay until 2012 and finish his term. They were shocked.

In the meantime numerous reports were lodged with the MACC not only by his former MIED CEO Chitrakalla Vasu, a woman he virtually adored once and gave a free hand to run MIED.

They simply hate each other now, MIC insiders said.

A MIC branch chairman has also lodge a report alleging MIED money was misused and that fraud and theft had taken place.

The MACC, sources said, is actively pursuing these leads and other allegations including one related with the Works Ministry.

The MACC this month questioned Samy Vellu and his son Vel Paari along with other key former allies Tan Sri M. Mahalingam and Tan Sri K. Kumaran in connection with MIED issues.

Samy Vellu had to go to the MACC in Putra Jaya to answer questions the first time ever, said a Samy Vellu loyalist. “It was a big and blow to his ego,” he said.

These investigations, political Insiders say, are more like moves on the political chessboard — more to persuade the giant to call it a day then to nail him to the wall.

“It is unlikely they want to embarrass him but BN is fighting for its survival and it would help if he leaves... the sooner the better,” said a MIC leader.

“What is he going to achieve by staying on for another year or two that he could not do in 30 years as MIC president?” the MIC leader said.

“We are all mortals, Samy Vellu included,” he said.

news courtesy of Malaysian Insider

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