Q: What is your vision for MIC and the community?
A: The party’s vision and general course were set firstly by our early party leaders – Tun V.T. Sambanthan and Tan Sri V. Manickavasagam. In a similar vein, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu has tried to follow in their footsteps.
I would like to see this trend continue in partnership with the other political parties in Barisan Nasional.
Of course MIC has, as its core business, the uplifting of the living standards of all sectors of the Indian community.
We are committed to this and will work with everybody to achieve this aim.
The challenge now is for the Indian community to equip itself so that it can take full advantage of the opportunities and potential under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.
MIC must also work out a definite succession plan for the leadership.
I am not aware of any.
All other major Barisan component parties have such plans.
We need such a plan so that the aspirations of the younger generation of Indians, who are mostly fourth, fifth and sixth generation Malaysians, can be adequately met.
Q: What in particular does the community expect most from the party?
A: I have many views and ideas about the vision for MIC but it is the party president who sets the policies and programmes in consultation with the CWC (central working committee).
As deputy president, as I have always done in the past, I will give my fullest support.
If I am re-elected to my post, I will continue to work with the president and the CWC to set a vision for MIC by incorporating my own ideas.
Now that many Indian students excel in their education, they find it a problem to get a course of their choice at universities.
Since many of them are from a poor background, they also need financial help and that makes it more difficult for us.
Therefore, my vision for the community would be to urge the Government to provide all Indian students who achieve good results to be given places in universities together with the necessary financial help.
The problem of school dropouts and those who are not able to excel in their education also need attention.
Identifying proper jobs for them and moving them into the business sector can help them improve their livelihood and avoid being pulled by anti-social elements.
Q: As of now, how would you rate your chances in the party polls?
A: In my many years of service to the party and community, I have seen the majority of party members grow.
They are now more enlightened than ever and are more discerning.
They will not follow their leaders without proper thought and reflection.
Q: Indians still comprise a sizeable group of Malaysians living below the poverty line. What would be the first thing you do to help them?
A: The reason why many Indians are living below the poverty line is because the Government and the community are not ready for the sudden rush to convert estates into development projects.
MIC fought hard for the relocation programmes and estate housing for many years but was not successful.
I think this is what led to the present generation of Indians, unskilled and never having lived anywhere other than the estates, living below poverty lines.
But overall, the poverty rate among Indians has gone down just like among the Malays and Chinese.
Q: How would you describe your current relationship with Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu? How was it when you first got to know him?
A: Before I answer this question, I must emphasise here, lest some may forget, that I am not challenging the president.
I am merely defending the post I have held for 25 years.
As you know, there are many facets to relationships. You see this in your own families, in your social life, in your working environment. You have good times and then you may hit a bad patch. You seek ways to resolve differences or minimise them and go forward.
It’s the same thing in a political party. I believe we are all in MIC to serve our members.
If we are not here for this purpose, we should not be in MIC.
Since becoming deputy president in 1981, I have always enjoyed a good relationship with him.
I supported him and all his projects.
Nobody can deny that.
Samy Vellu was not on the best of terms with Manickavasagam when the latter was president. Despite their testy relationship sometimes, Manickavasagam did not stand in Samy Vellu's way.
Q: Based on state MIC conventions and your visits to the divisions in the country, what is the response to your campaign and has the feedback from the ground been encouraging?
A: I have had very good feedback from the divisions and grassroots but I do not wish to say more. I strongly believe in their maturity and ability to see who can best serve their interests, who is capable of working calmly and quietly with other leaders of the Barisan.
Q: Some people are saying that the writing is on the wall for you to call it a day. They are saying that even if you win, it would be difficult to work with the president. As such, what are your reasons for wanting to continue as deputy president?
A: People have been saying all kinds of things about the party leadership, about me, about everybody.
My only intention in wanting to serve as deputy president is to ensure the party remains strong and united and that we do not squander our time and limited resources on issues and personalities.