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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

> Muthu claims victory !

by R.K. Anand and Jiwi Kathiah

When its life cycle draws to an end, legend has it that the mythological Phoenix builds itself a nest of cinnamon twigs. It then ignites the twigs, resulting in both the nest and bird being reduced to ashes.

And from the smouldering remains, a young phoenix arises, reborn anew to live again.

On March 8, Malaysian voters had incinerated the nests of the ruling coalition and among the long list of casualties was MIC, which save for a couple of featherweights, was almost burnt to crisp.

Since then, the scorched heavyweights have been licking their wounds and cracking their heads on how to resuscitate and rejuvenate the party as well as to re-court the estranged Indian community, whose support they once relished.

However, detractors conclude that this is nothing short of a mission impossible, with the word 'impossible' in bold print due to the continued presence of its long-serving president at the helm.

While the resilient, some have attributed to it to less flattering reasons, S Samy Vellu believes he still has what it takes to return the party to its former glory, many within and outside MIC feel that the time has come for the 72-year-old chieftain to take a bow and bid farewell.

And now, from the shadows, an unlikely candidate has emerged to offer MIC the chance of making a difference at the top, a notion once considered too sacrosanct to even dwell upon.

Enter M Muthupalaniappan

Being just four years younger than his nemesis, M Muthupalaniappan, a former vice-president and MIC Negeri Sembilan chief, does not exactly look like the knight in shining armour destined to slay the dragon and rescue the damsel in distress.

But the grandfather sincerely believes that he can raise MIC from the ashes of defeat. He is also confident of victory in the presidential polls, provided that the other grandfather, who was once a close friend, allows him to wage the battle on a level field.

Armed with a manifesto comprising grand promises, and conceding that age and time are pertinent factors, the senior lawyer tells Malaysiakini about his plans during a recent interview at his law firm in Seremban.

In a nutshell, the former two-term state assemblyperson and Negeri Sembilan exco member aims to overhaul MIC, rebuild its credibility, reunite the warring  factions, lure back the community and last but not least, regain lost ground, during his tenure.

Asked if heads will roll when he storms into power, he broke into laughter and quipped: "(In MIC), there is nothing left to roll." 

Muthupalaniappan also believes that unlike the current MIC president who uses the stick approach to ensure unity in the volatile party, he can do the same with a little love. 

Describing himself as an amicable character, the veteran politician is certain of winning over the Malay leaders to help the Indian community, a task, which according to him, his rival had failed in because he 'fights with everybody'.

'Take it from me, I am winning'

And when asked if he will be able to secure the required 300 nominations from the branches to vie for the top post, his expression took a serious twist and his eyes lit up. 

Without the slightest hesitation, Muthupalaniappan declared: "You take it from me, I am getting the required nominations and I am winning! It is written on the wall.” 

"I have already got 540 people (to nominate)... When I go around, they tell me 'Datuk, you don't worry, we want to nominate you...'

"It is a good thing that I announced (the candidacy) very much earlier. It seems many people did not want to pay the quota for this year, they did not want to carry on with the branches, they wanted to give up on MIC and join some other party.

"Once I made the announcement, then they all decided to pay the money," he added, concurring that as far as he is concerned, victory is in the bag. 

Stressing that he is a 100 percent committed to seeing the fight through, Muthupaliappan also ruled out any possibility of a compromise or that he is a proxy for anybody.

"I decide, I act on it... I don’t want to be there (as president) for too long... either two terms or six years, then you go and another man takes over... 

"They also ask me if I am a proxy ... I am not a proxy for anybody else," he said, adding that as and unless he is the head of the party, it will be impossible for him to institute changes.

Pressed again on the possibility of a truce, he stressed: "No! There is no room for a compromise." 

"Throughout the country people have been talking to me, encouraging me to stand. If I withdraw at this time that means I am an opportunist, it means I am not a man of (my) word. I want to maintain my integrity and dignity.

"I am not standing for my own personal benefit. As far as I am concerned, I have delivered my goods in Negeri Sembilan, everyone in Negeri Sembilan knows that I have done the best," he said.

'They have not changed'

As for Samy Vellu, the contender said it would be wrong to state that the MIC president did not contribute during the past three decades.

However, he noted that too much of internal politicking has caused untold damage and weakened the party.

Apart from this, he claimed that Samy Vellu has filled the leadership positions of the party with inept candidates or in Muthupalinappan’s words, "Those who have been given razor blades but do not know how to shave."

Samy Vellu himself has admitted that these leaders have not performed, he added.

"I must be fair... I am not trying to say that Samy Vellu has done nothing. He has done something, there is no doubt about it. 

"But he has not fulfilled his promises as to the expectations of the people. Since MIC did not deliver the goods... they (the community) reacted, ultimately the results came on March 8.

"They not only did not vote (for MIC), the whole community throughout the country campaigned against the MIC candidates and Barisan Nasional candidates.

"I thought after this, they (the MIC leadership) would change. But to me, still the (same) things are going on," he said, underscoring the urgent need to save the party from sinking into oblivion - Malaysiakini.