Malaysian Indian Congress to have new leader after 31 years

Friday, December 3, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), the country’s oldest Indian-based political party, will have a change of guard after 31 years when party chief S. Samy Vellu steps down next week.

Vellu, 74, who has been heading the party since 1979, will be formally succeeded by G. Palanivel, 61, after a farewell dinner Sunday that might be attended by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

He takes over as Malaysia’s special envoy to India and four other South Asian countries.

“Samy Vellu quits as MIC president to become a special envoy for South Asian countries. In his new post, the government hopes the former works minister will leverage his long association with South Asian leaders and the construction and building industry to the advantage of Malaysian companies,” The Star newspaper said Friday.

On the domestic front, the changeover in MIC is in time for an early parliamentary poll that Razak has called the “D Day”.

MIC is principal among the parties that traditionally represent Malaysia’s 2.1 million ethnic Indian population and is part of the Razak-led ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN).

Najib Thursday said the next election would “decide the future” of the BN.

The swing in the Indian vote, estimated at a little below one million, contributed to BN’s loss of two-third parliamentary majority in 2008. Both Vellu and Palanivel were defeated.

“Where once the MIC was lord, today it is just one of many competing for the attention of the Indian voters.

“Today the Indian vote is spread thinly across the political landscape between the MIC, new political entrants, NGOs and social movements and opposition political parties,” the newspaper said in a commentary.

Though the size of the Indian vote is small - below one million - but in some constituencies the community’s vote can make the difference between victory and defeat for the BN, as happened in the 2008 general election, the newspaper said.

About Samy Vellu’s style of running the MIC, the daily said: “Mercurial Samy Vellu has run the party with an iron hand - defeating all challengers, sacking opponents and stamping his indelible mark on the party and on the Indian community.

“However, it is not possible for Palanivel to emulate the temperamental and fiery Samy Vellu - their styles and personalities are different. The way they perceive politics and its ends and purposes are also different.”

“Palanivel has his job cut out for the immediate term - unite the party, give it new hope and vision and lead the MIC, founded in 1946, to the hustings,” it added.

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