Leader of Malaysian Indian Congress resigns after 31 years

Monday, December 6, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR - The leader of Malaysia’s largest ethnic Indian party resigned Monday after more than three decades at the helm amid criticism from members of his party and the public.

Calls for S. Samy Vellu, 74, to quit had increased since his Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) party’s poor performance in the 2008 general elections.

His critics charged that Samy, as he is widely known, has done little to protect the ethnic Indian community’s rights in mainly Muslim Malaysia since he took the reins in 1979.

After the 2008 elections, the MIC saw its number of seats in the 222-member parliament fall from nine to four, making it harder for the party to fulfill its role as defender of Malaysia’s Indians, who account for around seven percent of the total population.

Samy Vellu saw his own popularity drop and was forced to leave the cabinet and his position as works minister.

On Monday, his chosen successor, G Palanivel, was officially appointed as the MIC’s new president.

Samy, whose colourful persona has attracted considerable media attention, had refuted calls to step down in the two years since the elections and fired critics from the upper ranks of his party.

He said his decision to finally quit was to give his successor adequate time to prepare for the next general elections, which are due in 2012 but which many believe will be much earlier.

MIC is a member of the National Front coalition, which has ruled the country since its independence in 1957 and includes representatives from the country’s different ethnic groups.

Most power is effectively wielded by the United Malays National Organization party. Ethnic Malays make up 60 percent of the country’s 28 million people. Ethnic Chinese make up 25 percent.

In 2008, Chinese and Indian voters largely backed the three-party opposition alliance led by former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim and for the first time denied the National Front the two-thirds majority needed to legislate.

Filed under: Politics

will not be displayed