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Chitrakala: Wrathful but grateful

Contributed by Anonymous on Monday, March 09 @ 10:43:20 CDT

VEERA PANDIYAN, The Star, March 08 2009
Seen as a heroine by some and a villainess by others, P. Chitrakala Vasu is quite an enigma. She may be embroiled in a rabid row with Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu over financial iniquities in the MIC-linked Maju Institute for Education Development but she is still thankful to him for all his help in the past.

THE first thing that P. Chitra­kala Vasu, a petite 38-year-old mother of four, did before this interview with Sunday Star was to hand over a copy of her book, Samy Vellu, As We Know Him, a compilation of 97 glowing tributes from people whose lives had been touched by the former Works Minister and MP for Sungai Siput. It was a surreal move from someone who has pledged to fight the MIC president all the way.
Cherished chapter: Chitrakala is still giving out the book she wrote for the man who used to be her source of inspiration.
“I still feel very bad about all this. He used to treat me like a daughter. I’m sad that this relationship has come to an end. “I’m proud to give out the book to people I meet. I’ll never change a single word that I have written about him in my book. I’ve not forgotten that he helped me a lot. I’m very grateful for all that he has done for me and my family.” In her own three pages of kudos in the 300-page, 1.5kg tome, she narrates how she first met him as an 11-year-old pupil from Ipoh’s Sangeetha Sabah Tamil School. She was among several pupils who were supposed to receive prizes for doing well in the Standard Five assessment examination. But the teacher who was supposed to take her to the presentation venue was late and the ceremony was over when they got there. As she sat there crying, another teacher asked her what was wrong and promptly conveyed her sadness to Samy Vellu. He went to the rostrum and asked her whether she wanted to come up to the stage or preferred him to go down and give the prize to her. She went up. The MIC chief gave her the prize and declared: “Look at this girl. See how she speaks. She will go very far in life.” She certainly has, albeit with quite a lot of help from Samy Vellu, including fees for two years of accountancy studies in Manchester, England. Chitrakala has a collection of keepsakes, like the copy of a cheque for RM750 which Samy Vellu gave her as payment for the first part of a CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) course in 1991, when she was 19. “So many things are sentimental for me. I was so touched by his gesture. I am not a person who has forgotten such help. But then again, because I’m an Indian and I was a top student, I think I deserved it. “I won’t deny that he has also helped my husband (Vasu Kunjambu, 47) a lot. He helped him to get a Perodua dealership, through the then PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.” Chitrakala joined the MIED in 1995 after being persuaded by Samy Vellu and left in 2002 but returned as its CEO in 2004, again at his request. “In this fight, I’m separating the man that I know and used to know from what he has done to me,” she said. For a long time, she was the only one within Samy Vellu’s inner circle who could tell him off when he was wrong. She said the others dared not, for fear of angering him. “I expected the MIC to lose badly in the March 8 general election although I felt he could still win in Sungai Siput. “After the results, I was among the first persons he called. It took me a long time to digest that he had been thrown out by the people whom he had served well for so long. I really felt that he was betrayed.” She shared that during his first meeting with party leaders she stressed that all of them should take collective responsibility for his loss and declared that she was proud of him for not abandoning ship after the party had suffered such a huge defeat. “The others talked about rebranding but I couldn’t see the point of such a move. In any case, although I was close to Samy, I don’t like politics, especially within the MIC. “I’m not cut out for it. If I don’t like what someone does, I will tell that person so. Yes, I was given a party position – deputy woman leader of a division – but I have never contributed politically. My only service to the MIC is through the MIED.” She described the few Central Working Committee meetings that she attended as “sleepy” affairs. “It usually goes on for between three and four hours, mostly with him talking. To amuse myself and keep awake, I used to look at the members’ faces and imagine what was going on inside their heads, based on their facial expressions.” Chitrakala said she had always kept her private life separate and time-managed. “I have four very young children. I make sure they get proper meals, help them with homework and go to bed early, at around 10pm because I have to get up by 6am. Samy Vellu used to get very upset with me for not returning calls after 7pm.” Chitrakala said Samy Vellu became very insecure after losing his minister’s post. “If he saw anyone talking to a minister or deputy minister, he would quickly ask what we were talking about. Everyone was a subject of suspicion but he still treated me as a confidante. “He used to say: ‘Only Chitra can really calm me down.’ We were so close that such remarks led to double meanings and all kinds of questions about our relationship. “I was certainly not his kept woman, as some people put it. Our relationship was purely platonic. But I am not bitter about this because as long as my family members, especially my husband and my father, know the truth, it does not matter.” Recalling the fallout with her former boss, Chitrakala said it began with the removal of Tan Sri M. Mahalingam as chairman of MIED Capital Sdn Bhd (which runs AIMST University) and as MIC treasurer-general on Dec 24, 2008. “I knew most of the goings-on in the party but I did not know that Mahalingam had been sacked as treasurer-general when Samy Vellu told me to remove him from the MIED. She said her wake-up call was when she saw the party president smiling after having done something that was grossly unreasonable to a friend of 50 years who had stood by him through thick and thin. “My heart broke. I saw the other side of him and I was very hurt. My thoughts were, if this could happen to him, it could also happen to me. “Samy Vellu said Mahalingam’s removal was part of the party’s rebranding exercise and that he would be replaced by someone younger. I felt that there was no justification. If it was about age, then how about Samy Vellu who is four months older than him?” Chitrakala said she became very reserved after that and on Dec 31, Samy Vellu, who had always had a one-to-one relationship with her, accused her of misappropriation and other misdeeds in the presence of other party officials. “I snapped and replied that if he sacked me, I would see him in court.” She was issued five showcause letters and given a day to reply. When she replied, she was issued another showcause letter. She said that on Jan 2, former MIC treasurer-general Tan Sri K.S. Nijhar, who heads the panel probing the alleged improprieties, asked her what was happening. “I told him that I had given all the answers in my replies to the showcause letters. I was told to hand over everything and just go. I was wondering: Is this a sundry shop to just hand over and leave? “Everybody was telling me to go to cool down Samy Vellu, so I just left my room. I did not even take the copies of replies to the showcause letters. “But he was still out there and I felt uncomfortable to just walk past him. I told those present that they should persuade Samy Vellu to go somewhere else so that I could leave in peace. Then someone spoke to him and led him inside my office. Samy Vellu then started crying, saying that he was the one who had brought me into the MIED and now he had to do this to me. “I cried too. I said: ‘You always called me daughter and treated me as one.’ I said I also had a place in my heart for him as a father figure. I also said: ‘If I had done anything wrong in the course of my work, please pardon me.’” A day later, she said, there were all sorts of stories and threats that I would be arrested and my family would be harmed. “I was very worried, so I called him. He reassured me that he would not be involved in doing such things to me. At that point, I suddenly realised that I was somewhere in Subang Jaya, talking loudly over the phone with tears streaming down my cheeks. That was the moment I felt that enough was enough. “I was all the more bitter when my brother, who had been in a coma for nine years, passed away on Jan 27. Nobody from the party came to the funeral, except for two leaders. The rest were too scared to show up. “I was not given the courtesy to even mourn my loss. When I left for India with members of my family to pray for my brother’s soul, I was accused of having gone there to ‘park the money’.” Chitrakala said she was proud to have been able to build up the MIED to a RM1bil company and of her contributions to AIMST. “Although the medical university is the brainchild of Samy Vellu, it needed people like me to see it through.” She said her fight with Samy Vellu was nothing personal, her conscience was clear, and she would leave it to the police to probe the allegations. She said she is cooperating fully with the police, describing their work so far as “professional”. She said that although Samy Vellu had accused her of being “a thief devoid of any morals and standards of decency”, it was eventually “up to the people to judge me, just as it is up to the people to judge him”. “Whatever my family and I have were acquired through hard work although I’ll never be ashamed to say that he has helped me along the way. He should rightly help many more people like me.”



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