Pressure on Malaysian Indian politicians to quit party posts

Sunday, June 20, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR - Two of Malaysia’s veteran Indian politicians are being nudged to quit their top party posts ahead of the 2013 elections. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has said he wants new leaders to take over constituent parties.

S. Samy Vellu, who heads the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) since 1979, had retained his post despite the party faring badly in the March 2008 election and losing his own parliamentary seat.

The case is the same with M. Kayveas, who has been chief of the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) for the last 17 years.

Sections of their partymen are exerting pressure on them to quit before the 2013 elections.

The Barisan Nasional (BN), the ruling coalition of which they are constituents, is also adding pressure on them to quit.

Prime Minister Razak, who heads the Barisan, wants new leaders to take over constituent parties to galvanise the alliance in time for the next polls.

Vellu announced his retirement last month, but gave himself 16 more months. He said he will quit in the third quarter of 2011, though his term ends May 2012.

Before that, he has vowed to “destroy” what he calls “detractors of the party” — a reference to his critics.

Making a similar announcement last Sunday, Kayveas said he will step down as PPP president, but only “in a few years’ time”.

He set his retirement date four years from now, that is 2015.

“The question that begs to be asked is why is there a need to wait for change to take place?” The Star newspaper said.

The announcement of retirement was expected ever since the PPP’s drubbing in the 2008 polls with Kayveas himself losing the Taiping parliamentary constituency by a large margin of nearly 12,000 votes.

“Kayveas has been president for 17 years to date and that’s a ripe time to call it quits especially after the PPP, an Indian-dominated, English-speaking, multi-racial middle-class party, was rejected by the electorate.

“The question is, why wait for another ‘three to five years’ before stepping down,” the newspaper asked in a commentary.

Kayveas has said he needs that time to prepare a successor.

“I am ready (to leave) now. Let me build my people — the younger ones before leaving,” he has said.

“It is sad that after 17 years in power Kayveas is only now preparing the succession,” the commentator said.

The PPP has a long history reaching back to the 1950s when its original founders, lawyer brothers D.R. and S.P. Seenevasagam made a name for themselves running the Ipoh municipality - clean, transparent and accountable.

The voters returned the brothers and their team on numerous occasions but the PPP’s fortunes declined after D.R. died and S.P. took the party into the Barisan Nasional. The electorate shifted its allegiance to the Democratic Action Party (DAP).

The newspaper acknowledged that it was Kayveas who took “a dispirited and broken PPP in the early 1990s and turned it into a respected, multi-racial political party in the Barisan fold”.

Another party that shares the support of Malaysia’s 1.7 million ethnic Indians, Indian Peoples Front (IPF), only last week ended the leadership tussle.

Tamils form a bulk of the ethnic Indian community and dominate the scene. But each Indian party ensures token representation of other communities, particularly the fairly prosperous Sikhs, who number about 100,000.

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