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H Selangor elections: In Hulu Selangor, a battle for every Indian vote

Contributed by Anonymous on Wednesday, April 21 @ 04:44:19 CDT


By Baradan Kuppusamy,
HULU Selangor, April 21 — The more than 19,000 Indian voters in Hulu Selangor are proving to be a tough nut to crack for the MIC. Party president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu has pitched tent in the MIC operations centre in Kuala Kubu Baru, surrounded by strategists while directing the campaign through subordinates to win the Indian votes using the tried and tested — unlimited food, hampers, cash aid and the “Indian votes another Indian” rhetoric.

His former loyalist Datuk S. Sothinathan, who has returned to the fold, is in charge of the nuts and bolts of the campaign. He also holds the purse-strings, controlling the distribution of funds to various MIC chairmen. But it is still unclear if the tried and tested will work this time in the Hulu Selangor by-election. Among the older generation of Indian voters these methods are still likely to be effective but for the younger generation, who live and work outside the constituency and are exposed to urban angst, the story is radically different. But the MIC knows no other way to win voters except to hand out goodies and play on their strong ethnic consciousness. And that is what they are doing in Hulu Selangor but struggling at that because of the last minute change of candidates from former in*****bent Datuk G. Palanivel to MIC information chief P. Kamalanathan. Branches loyal to Palanivel are working at half-pace and only after they are prodded by Samy Vellu who has brought in every top MIC gun into the field and divided the Indian areas in the constituency among them. Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) Dr Xavier Jeyakumar is countering MIC attempts to “lock up” Indian voters with a string of goodies that the Indians had asked for many years but never got. One example is the land grant title for the Kuala Kubu Baru Tamil school which Xavier handed over last week. But the MIC is raising the question of why the title is only given now when a by-election is going on and not two years ago when PR came to power. “What about all the other 195 Tamil schools in Selangor,” a MIC campaigner told Indian voters in Kampung Dahlia on Tuesday night. “The BN is has changed and will take care of such issues if they win. We are not the same BN.” But the public reception was clearly not enthusiastic signalling they appreciate what is in hand and not what is promised. “We have heard these promises before,” said K. Annamalai, 26, a lorry driver. “The Pakatan is giving Indians a better deal but it is very slow.” Nevertheless the MIC soldiers on in a haphazard way to corner the Indian votes while PR Indian leaders are countering with their own goodies. The one difference, says MIC CWC member K. P. Samy, a businessman from Klang, is that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is making a difference among Indian voters. A staunch critic of Samy Vellu, K. P. Samy said long suffering Indian voters were attracted to Najib’s One Malaysia concept of equality and justice for all. “They only want a fair share of the resources. If Najib can translate the slogan into action he can win over the Indian community,” Samy said. “They need urgent help not political slogans from either Pakatan or Barisan,” he said while campaigning among Indian settlers in the former Felda Sungei Buaya, the first scheme in Selangor. An example is former Felda settler A. Gengamah, 79, who lives alone in a tumbledown, first generation wood and zinc roof Felda house. She came to the scheme in 1967 as a young mother, worked the rubber trees and raised a family of seven. “They all grew up, married and left,” she said adding all of them are working as menial labourers or are lorry drivers. “One son is a security guard,” she said. The MIC is trying to get a new but smaller house for her under the government’s assistance for hardcore poor. She has been applying for years and neither BN nor the Pakatan government had bothered until now. “There are 109 Indian votes here,” she said. The MIC has promised to get her the assisted house but there is a caveat — she has to vote and ask all her children to return to vote. “They will return and vote if I asked them. They will do it for me,” Gengamah said.”But who will they vote?”

MIC boss: We've the better man
By RK Anand

EXCLUSIVE KUALA KUBU BARU: The duel has been likened to that between David and Goliath, since the generals saw it fit to thrust a greenhorn onto the battlefied to slump a giant. Biblical analogies aside, P Kamalanathan might appear taller than his opponent, but Zaid Ibrahim's credentials and experience are towering.

Unlike David who was only armed with a slingshot, the MIC information chief is backed by a well-oiled war machine, but it does not make the task of slaying a renowned former minister and MP any less arduous.

However, when FMT caught up with one of the generals, he expressed unwavering confidence in Kamalanathan's ability to emerge victorious in the battle of Hulu Selangor.

As far as MIC president S Samy Vellu is concerned, Barisan Nasional has the “better” candidate, whose profiency in Bahasa Malaysia provides him an added advantage in the Malay-majority seat.

“He is a young man, a capable man and is very good in Bahasa. Above all, he is a simple man who would go down to the grassroots to work,” he said during the exclusive interview.

The 44-year-old Kamalanathan, whose expertise is public relations, is known for his down-to-earth demeanour and people skills.

Lacking in the art of human relations

Zaid, on the other hand, said Samy Vellu, is not exactly a sociable character.

“I was in Parliament for so many years, he (Zaid) was the MP for Kota Baru. He doesn't speak to anybody easily. He is very reserved.

“When a man is so reserved, how can he get nearer to the people? Politics is about being near to the people and to be kind and caring towards them,” said the former MP and works minister.

Samy Vellu confessed that he never had a conversation or any other form of communication with Zaid before, apart from one episode where they acknowledged each other with a wave of the hand.

“I have never spoken to him even once,” he said.

The MIC president explained that he was not ridiculing Zaid, but merely stating the fact that the art of human relations is a prerequisite in politics.

Asked if this meant that Zaid's “high profile” would not have an impact on the voters, Samy Vellu said he does not believe so, while former MIC vice-president S Sothinathan, who was also present, quipped: “High profile, but cannot reach down to the low-profile people.”

It will be a close fight

Meanwhile, Samy Vellu chose to reserve his comments regarding the character assassination of Zaid in the on-going campaign, where his rivals have branded the PKR candidate as an alcoholic and gambler. “It is better that I don't say anything about this. It is better that I don't know... I wouldn't want to comment on this,” he said.

However, the MIC president predicted a close fight between the two candidates, with the odds favouring Kamalanathan.

“The chances are good because the Umno machinery is very strong. The BN and MIC machineries are also working very hard to ensure a win,” he said.

After pausing for a moment, Samy Vellu added: “MCA is also doing something. But they are very silent, we don't know.”

I am a man of peace

The veteran politician also dismissed talk of potential protest votes or sabotage by disgruntled MIC factions with regard to the candidate.

Kamalanathan was the eleventh-hour choice after the BN leadership rejected MIC deputy president G Palanivel, a four-term MP for Hulu Selangor prior to his defeat in the 2008 general election.

His supporters are said to be seething in anger, and plotting revenge.

Another faction seeing red, is the one aligned to Hulu Selangor MIC Youth chief V Mugilan, who was Umno's preferred choice, but shot down by Samy Vellu.

According to Samy Vellu, Palanivel is on the campaign trail in support of Kamalanathan while peace has also been made with Mugilan.

“I have already spoken to Mugilan, and we have drawn up a plan. All his boys will be called to come to the Kerling estate, where we will be having our 1,000 youths dinner.

“Being president, I have to be fair to everybody. When you quarrel with people, you end up worrying for a long time. When you settle the issue, you become a man of peace, I am a man of peace,” he said.

Samy Vellu also rubbished claims that certain forces in Umno want to see MIC defeated so that Umno can take over the seat in the next general election.

He said a victory in Hulu Selangor is also crucial for Umno, whose president is bent on recapturing the Selangor state from Pakatan Rakyat in the next general election.

Plight of the poor Indians

On another issue, Samy Vellu expressed sadness over the living conditions of Indian Malaysians in the estates in Hulu Selangor.

“One of the things I have noticed since I have been working here (on the ground) is that some of the estate owners don't care about their workers. There are no proper roads or water supply.

“After coming here, I really felt I am not in Malaysia, I thought I was in some country under colonial rule,” he said, adding that the situation in the estates was better during the British rule.

Samy Vellu said while the estate communities had voted against the BN in 2008, they however have come to the realisation that “temporary emotions cannot safeguard their future”.

He added that now the federal government is serious about looking after their welfare in terms of healthcare, unemployment and the issuance of identity cards.

In view of this, the MIC president said those in the estates are more receptive of BN.

Like husband and wife

Taking a swipe at Pakatan Rakyat, Samy Vellu said the opposition coalition is very kind towards Indian voters during elections.

“This period of kindness will be for a few days, where they will visit houses and give bus fare and  tuition fees for the schoolchildren under the pretext of the Selangor government.

“If the Selangor government is so kind, it should give such aid to all the citizens in the state and not only in the by-election area. These are attractive sweeteners.

“What does BN do? It upgrades the living standards of these people. Where there is no water, it brings water, where there are no roads, it builds roads,” he said.

Samy Vellu said the living conditions of poor Indians have not changed under the Pakatan rule.

“They may be happy during by-elections, but after that, the promises are forgotten,” he said, citing the Kampung Buah Pala incident in the Pakatan-governed state of Penang.

“When (Opposition Leader) Anwar Ibrahim went there to speak (during the 2008 election campaign), he said, 'Kalau kita memerintah negeri ini, dua minggu sahaja, masalah ini sudah selesai. Tanah ini awak punya'.

“But they didn't do anything,” he said in referrence to the demolition of  the antiquated Indian settlement to pave the way for commercial development.

Conceding that it is not easy for the state government to do certain things, Samy Vellu however said it should refrain from “dramatising” issues.

When pointed out that the federal government does not cooperate with the opposition-controlled state governments, the MIC president replied: “This is like a husband and wife relationship: the husband always blames the wife, the wife always blames the husband.”

In another development, Samy Vellu refused to comment on the news report that a consortium is planning to purchase the investments of shareholders in MIC's debt-ridden financial arm, Maika Holdings. The MIC leader said he has been instructed not to say anything further on this matter for now. Some have dismissed the issue as an election gimmick since there are 1,500 Maika shareholders in Hulu Selangor.



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