The Malay Mail,
Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
SAMY VELLU: The longest serving Cabinet minister
Former MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, 74, was the longest
serving Cabinet minister and is often a favourite subject for jokes
aimed at his hair and colourful Bahasa Melayu quips.
He was also regularly featured in the works of cartoonist Datuk Mohamad Nor Khalid, better known as Lat.
Still, little is known about the man who held the helm of the party for 11 consecutive terms in 31 years.
The Malay Mail (MM) caught up with one of the powerful men
in the Indian community, who made way for his deputy Senator Datuk G.
Palanivel yesterday, to see what he is really like behind his 'tough
MM: Describe your typical day.
SV: I wake up every day at 5.15am and I exercise on
the treadmill for about an hour as often as I can. I don't exercise
every day because it would be very painful on my joints. If I am a young
man, I can do it. But, not at 74 (laughs). I then take my bath. I used
to leave my house at 7am because my work previously started at 8am. But
now, I head out to my office at 8am. When I reach my office, I will
write down a list of things to do for that particular day, such as the
people to meet, the instructions to give as well as any pending work.
By the afternoon, I call party members to my office and give them the
necessary instructions. After that, I meet members of the public and
that takes up most of my day because they do not get straight to the
point. They beat around the bush by telling how their problems started,
why their problems started and the stories will go on. In the end
(laughs), they tell me they need RM500.
In the evening, I have a lot of work in my house. I am a person who
likes to communicate. I like to call people to find out what is
happening. From home, I call MIC state leaders and ask them questions
like what they did for the day, when the next meeting is and when should
I attend. My work for the day usually ends at 8pm. I stop all my
politics-related work by 8.30pm. From 8.30pm to 10pm, I watch TV. I make
sure I watch the news, and three of my favourite Tamil dramas, which
are Thangam, Thendral and Chellame. After that, I read until 11.30pm and go to bed by midnight.
MM: What were you employed as before joining politics for good?
SV: I have had about six to seven jobs. I worked as a
cook, clerk, telephone operator, draftsman, office boy, despatch boy
and so on. I also used to act in Tamil plays. One of the roles I used to
play was Hamlet. I acted in two television dramas, in one of which I
acted as a soldier going to fight in a war in Indonesia in 1967
(laughs). Another drama is called Brach Road. It is about a loving
husband and a wife who had to take different paths due to a
misunderstanding. These dramas were screened on TV2. I was also a news
reader with RTM for 10 years.
MM: What is your favourite food?
SV: My favourite food is nasi lemak. I also like the
Penang char kuay teow, not the KL version (laughs), and roti canai.
Everybody eats rice with curry but I eat roti canai with curry.
For lunch, I like going to Lakshmi Vilas in Ampang street. I have my
lunch there at least two to three times every week. When my friends and I
first came to KL in 1952, we were poor and could not afford lunch. So,
we would go to Lakshmi Vilas and ask them to pack some rice for us,
promising to pay for the food when we get our salary at the beginning of
the month. There was one man in the restaurant called Viswanathan Iyer
who used to work there and he helped us a lot. Whenever I go to the shop
now, it still reminds me of the first day I went there. I still
remember which table we sat and the image of Viswanathan Iyer behind the
counter. Even today, I had my lunch there.
Another reason why I like to go to Lakshmi Vilas is because it is a
good opportunity to meet old friends because they also come there to
eat. Today, I met my friend Tom, whom I have not seen for the past 25
years. I also met another friend whom I haven't seen in 19 years. So, it
is a really good place to bump into old friends.
MM: Why do you have fond memories of The Malay Mail?
SV: There is a story about The Malay Mail
and me that nobody knows. In 1953, I was working as a draftsman in an
architect firm. My monthly salary then was RM40. After that, I worked in
another architect company for about one-and-a-half years. In this
company, my salary was RM120. One day, when I came to Lakshmi Vilas, I
bought a copy of The Malay Mail and the first section I turned
to was the Classifieds. An advertisement caught my attention. It said,
'Wanted: Senior draftsman.' So, I went to the office with The Malay Mail for the interview.
At that time, there were seven others who were competing for the job.
I was the first one to complete the drawing. The interviewers liked my
drawing and asked me what salary I expected. I said RM300 and they
agreed. At that time, that was a hefty sum.
I went back to my current company with the appointment letter and
gave my boss one month notice as I had been offered a new job with a
better salary. My boss asked me to stay and offered me a salary of
RM350. So, I went back to the other company and told them I cannot
accept their offer because my old boss had promised a higher salary. The
company then offered me RM500 and I signed up on the spot.
After that my family's welfare slowly became better. That is the reason why whatever The Malay Mail writes about me, I don't worry about it.
MM: Do you have any pets?
SV: Oh yes. I have a dog I got about six to seven
years ago. It was a German Shepherd called Holtz, I also had another
small dog called Bull Bull (laughs). We keep parrots and mynahs. We used
to have two mynahs, one of which was a speaking mynah, but that fellow
died of old age. Now we have four pea*****s. However, my favourite pet is
Holtz. He only sleeps inside our house. At 10 every night, he will come
and knock on the door because he likes to sleep in the air-conditioned
We also feed almost 900 pigeons. They don't live in our house but we
feed them in the mornings. One batch of about 750 pigeons will come at
7.15am and a second batch will come at 11.15am. They eat green peas
MM: How do you spend quality time with your wife, Datin Seri Indrani, since you are busy?
SV: She is busier than me (laughs). If I have one
programme in an afternoon, she will have two. We are both out all the
time because we have so many things to do. We have become 'machines'.
For example, after we eat, we keep to our own schedules. We stick to
them. It has been 35 years since we watched any movies together. The
first movie I watched with her was Paasamalar. We have also not watched the latest Rajinikanth movie, Enthiran.
MM: What is your favourite pastime?
SV: My favourite pastime is writing poetry. Every
week, my poetry comes out in the Tamil Nesan newspaper. Recently, I
wrote about a kitten which is not satisfied with the food (two rats)
brought by its mother.
I also like to read books. The best books I read are by Dale Carnegie, Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis.
MM: If you were not a politician, what would you have become?
SV: I would have become an architect because I am an architect by profession.
MM: What is your all time favourite song and favourite singer?
SV: I like the song Vellai pura ondru. (He proceeds to sing the song). One of my favourite singers is Malaysia Vasudevan.
MM: After postponing your retirement several times, do you have any regrets now?
SV: First, I made an announcement (to step down)
after I was elected for the 12th time as MIC president that would be my
last term in office. But later on, I thought the political scenario was
changing, the landscape was very different from what we saw before and
the challenges are very great.
Actually, we need more young and capable leaders to come in. So, I
thought it is time for me to leave and give them an opportunity to serve
the community. I am happy today that I cleared my head of all burdens I
had. I am clear I have been given a chance by the community to serve
them for 30 years. I think that is one of the greatest period anyone
ever had in the country's history. I am happy that my leaving, my
friends whom I have brought in and trained, whom I have lived with,
fought with, all these experiences will make them good leaders to take
care of the Malaysian politics. I have no regrets in stepping down.
MM: What are your plans after stepping down and will you be MIC's adviser if the party faces difficulty in the future?
SV: I have done one job for 30 years, I want to do a
different job now. The different job is like serving the country.
Serving the country is an important aspect in my life. After I retire
from politics, I won't be getting involved in it. No politics. Of
course, I want MIC leaders to helm the party without any problems.
Throughout the 30 years I served the party and worked together with the
other leaders, we had no misunderstandings as we created the opportunity
to work with united hearts for ourselves. Today's young leaders should
banish all misunderstandings and work for the benefit of the party. I
believe they will do it. I also believe the party would not face any
such problems. If there are such problems, I believe I would assist
1978-1979: Deputy Minister of Local Government and Housing
1979-1989: Minister of Works
1989-1995: Minister of Energy, Telecommunications and Posts
1995-March 2008: Minister ofWorks
1974-March 2008: Member of the Dewan Rakyat of the Malaysian Parliament
1979-Dec 6, 2010: President of Malaysian Indian Congress
• Maju Institute of Educational Development (MIED)
• Tafe College, Seremban
• Asian Institute Of Medicine, Science & Technology (AIMST)
• Education Cooperative Society
• Maika Holdings Bhd
• Workers Housing Co-operative Society
• Social Strategic Foundation
• Social Rehabilitation Foundation