One resolution i have made, and try always to keep : To rise above the little things.

This new year is given to us, To live each day with zest, to daily grow and to be, our best
and not forgetting the rakyat and nation.
salam 1 malaysia.
HAPPY NEW YEAR

PUNITHAN SHAN.

The Barisan Nasional (BN) government must be deeply committed in championing the cause of the ordinary people if it wants to remain in power in the next general election and beyond, said Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

He said the fall of some of the established parties in other countries, particularly the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, should be a lesson for the BN to constantly serve the people better.

"I was made to understand that one of the reasons LDP lost (in the recent general election) was because the government was said to be out of touch with the people.

"This reminds me and the BN government including LDP in Sabah of the need to always subscribe to our ideals, that is to serve the people and not to be served.

"Let the BN be the champion for all Malaysians," he said in Sabah.

Najib, who is also BN chairperson, said the opposition in the country made an impact in the last general election because the BN then was weak.

"It is not because the opposition is popular but it is because we lost popularity among the people," he said.

In this respect, he called on the BN component parties to work hard to serve the ordinary people.

"We must be committed and not just pay lip service to the people. This is the only way for us to win the hearts and minds of the people," he said.

Minimise disparity in development

On development, Najib assured that the federal government was going all out to minimise disparity in terms of development between Sabah and Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia.

"That's why we give big allocations for Sabah and Sarawak with regards to development in rural areas," he said.

Najib said the federal government also recognised the wishes of the people of Sabah and Sarawak to celebrate the formation of Malaysia and declared that Malaysia Day, which falls on Sept 16 annually, would be a national public holiday from next year.

"We recognised that the formation of Malaysia as an independent and sovereign country was an important chapter in the nation's history," he said. - Bernama

THE NATHAN family lost a jewel when daughter Dina Deve Nathan was swept away by the swift currents of the Sungai Kampar yesterday when a suspension bridge over the river collapsed. The 11-year-old girl was described as a smart, bright child who will be dearly missed by all who knew her.

On Monday night, the suspension bridge connecting the 1Malaysia Co-curiculum Centre to Sekolah Kebangsaan Kuala Dipang, Kampar, collapsed.

In the 10.40pm incident about 50 students fell into the Sungai Kampar. They were among 298 students from 60 primary schools in Kampar, Tronoh and Batu Gajah involved in a programme organised by the Kinta Selatan District Education Department. The group was accompanied by 23 teachers.

Dina spent most of her time in the Nathan house in Mambang Di Awan, Kampar, buried among her books.

It was a very regrettable tragedy indeed. The misery and lost could be avoided. only if, the newly build bridge properly constructed. only if, the students given safety jackets. Only if, well trained staffs checked the safety of the facilities.only if, .......... we've learned from our past mistakes.

Its not the 1st time, let the mistakes of the past be lesson for future.

Restore our faith in the system

Schoolgirl N. Dina Deve has become the victim of the first 1Malaysia tragedy. It was while attending a 1Malaysia camp organised by the South Kinta District Education Department that the 11-year-old drowned when the suspension bridge she was on collapsed over Sungai Kampar.

If the investigation committee under the director-general of the Education Ministry discovers that the construction of the bridge did not fulfil the required specifications, or that safety procedures were not adhered to in the use of the bridge at the time of the accident, or that supervision by teachers was inadequate, Malaysians will conclude that there are serious shortcomings in the way we manage our affairs – shortcomings that can lead to the loss of innocent lives.

When such shortcomings express themselves over and over again through the decades, they undermine our faith and trust in the institutions and individuals charged with the management of our society. It will reach a point when the public will refuse to believe any idea however worthwhile – such as 1Malaysia – put forward by the powers-that-be.

In this regard, the outrageous instances of financial mismanagement, misappropriation of public funds, and abuse of fiduciary responsibility, revealed year in and year out in the Auditor-General’s Annual Report which was published on this occasion just before the Sungai Kampar accident, have once again incensed a lot of people who want the authorities to take sterner action against the culprits.

That such anger and disappointment cut across ethnic lines, and that the demand for tougher punitive measures transcends religious boundaries, speak volumes for 1Malaysia.

Indeed, the multi-ethnic, multi-religious desire for competent governance, efficient administration, and honest and upright men and women in important places both in the public and private sectors, is a noble emotion that will help build 1Malaysia. And it is the betrayal of such universal values and principles that will subvert 1Malaysia.

DR CHANDRA MUZAFFAR,
Chairman,
1Malaysia Board of Trustees.

MIC president S Samy Vellu today explained to the party's central working committee (CWC) on the issue surrounding the legality and ownership of the Maju Institute of Educational Development (MIED) and AIMST University.

"I gave them a full briefing on the formation, management and the inseparable relationship between the two entities and MIC," he said in a statement after chairing the three-hour CWC meeting at the MIC headquarters here.

He told the CWC members that although the MIED and AIMST University in Semeling, Kedah are separate entities of the MIC, no individuals or MIC leaders owned the two entities.

"The ownership between MIC and MIED will be a perpetual relationship and will be part of the MIC," he said.

Samy Vellu said the MIED trustees and board members were made up of MIC office-bearers, thus cementing the link between the MIED and MIC.

"The MIC through the MIED will work closely towards achieving the educational objective and vision of the party in its capacity as an educational arm of the party," he said.

He said the CWC members agreed that MIED and AIMST University are separate entities with the MIED formed as a company limited by guarantee.

Controversial remark in September

He also urged all MIC members to regard the two institutions as their own organizations which are managed by their appointees.

"None of the MIED trustees are owners of the university and as such the question of hijacking the MIED and AIMST University does not arise," he said.

Samy Vellu said the MIED had done very well to help the MIC in looking after the educational interests of the Indian community.

It has already produced 7,000 students while another 7,000 students are continuing their studies, he added.

Samy Vellu's clarification on MIED and AIMST today came in the wake of questions posed by several party leaders, including former deputy president S Subramaniam, over the status of the two institutions.

Their concerns were raised following Samy Vellu's remarks in September that he would be resigning soon and would be spending his time at these two NGOs, which he had claimed to be separate entities from MIC.



ITS TIME FOR PERFORMANCE NOW FOR BARISAN NASIONAL

A top Pakatan Rakyat leader today warned the opposition alliance was suffering from a "bout of loss of public confidence" after it enjoyed unprecedented success in national polls last year.

Pakatan, a loose three-party coalition which seized control of a third of seats in parliament in the 2008 elections, has recently been hit by infighting.

DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang urged the alliance to "impose discipline among their leaders" to protect the opposition's image, especially after its defeat in a by-election earlier this month.

"Pakatan Rakyat had been suffering a prolonged and unceasing bout of loss of public confidence... to convince the Malaysian electorate in its credibility, cohesion, integrity and common sense of purpose," he said in a statement.

Lim cited BN's by-election victory in Bagan Pinang state seat in Negeri Sembilan two weeks ago as an example, saying the opposition "cannot take the setback lightly and must not be in denial about its weaknesses and faults".

BN had lost seven out of eight by-elections held since 2008 polls but it ended the opposition winning streak with a thumping victory in the latest vote, although it was criticised for fielding a popular but graft-tainted candidate.

'Problematic leaders'

The main Islamic party PAS is dogged by infighting after its spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat called for an extraordinary general meeting to remove several top party leaders he described as "problematic".

Nik Aziz, a highly respected figure in PAS, made the proposal over his unhappiness that some of the party leaders were keen on pursuing a pact with Umno, the largest party in ruling BN.

PKR was also divided after Zaid Ibrahim, a former cabinet minister who quit last September and later joined the multi-racial party, recently announced his plan to go on a six-month leave.

Zaid reportedly said he did not want to be "distracted by any internal party politics", fuelling speculation on the growing discord within PKR, led by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.


NIK AZIZ : ITS TIME TO CHANGE PAS PRESIDENT

PAS spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat today suggested that the Islamic party hold an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to deal with 'several problematic leaders'.

He also suggested that the time has come for the party to change its president, Abdul Hadi Awang (right).

"Even the Indian community can go against (MIC president S) Samy Vellu.

"So why should it be odd if we (PAS) hold a special meet to deal with these errant leaders," jotted the veteran politician in his blog.

Nik Aziz, who is also Kelantan menteri besar, is upset with several party leaders, including Abdul Hadi, secretary-general Mustafa Ali and Selangor PAS commissioner Hassan Ali over the unity government proposal.

The trio were said to be supportive of the proposal to form a joint government with Umno, a move which was strongly opposed by Nik Aziz.

The issue had also caused rifts in the Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance.

"If the extraordinary general meeting is held and decides that there will be no change in the president (Abdul Hadi), then we will agree to maintain the status quo.

"Similarly with the issue surrounding Hasan or Mustafa over their efforts to have PAS and Umno to form a unity government, which seems to me, there is no end. We try to sink it, but it resurfaces. Then it died down when people were angry. What is this," questioned the Kelantan menteri besar.

Commenting on the development of several extraordinary general meeting held by PKR, Umno and MCA this year, NIk Aziz wrote in his blog that though the issues in the MCA was different involving corruption, PAS need not worry as the party's EGM was not about corruption.

"Our issue is on the two or three problematic party leaders. The Indian community has protested against (MIC president) Samy Vellu by forming other parties.

"We need not be afraid to call for an EGM, and we may call it a special muktamar. In fact, we should have held it first."

'Need for change in party leadership'

Nik Aziz said the special EGM is important to prevent problems in the Islamic party and is also to prepare itself in facing the next general election.

"Whether the people can accept it or not, we will see and bring it before this special muktamar. We need to ensure its legality and to be sure of whom we select. Who do we want to maintain and who do we throw," asked Nik Aziz.

"This time around, I strongly feel there is a need for a change in important players for the central PAS leadership."

The enigmatic PAS leader was commenting on International Islamic University academician Dr Aziz Bari, who attributed the PAS failure in attracting votes in Bagan Pinang to the trouble brewing in Selangor involving Hasan Ali who called for the ban of alcohol beverages in the state.

The academic also said that Hasan's comments on the Selangor Competency, Accountability and Transparency committee hearing had also affected PAS' credibility in the Bagan Pinang by-election.

The academician had heavily criticised Abdul Hadi for not commenting on Hasan's fiasco and compared such negative and indecisive behaviour with former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The IIU professor had written in Sinar Harian earlier this week and commented that it was time for PAS to take drastic measure to either discipline or sack Hasan from the party.

He however noted it would be difficult for PAS to take such action against Hasan as he is deemed to represent the pro-Umno faction within PAS like Abdul Hadi and his deputy Nasharuddin Mat Isa.

Nik Aziz, who was writing in his blog Tok Guru.com, said he agreed with certain portions of Aziz's strong comments and statement.

In suggesting the setting up of a special muktamar, Nik Aziz proposed that a simple, transparent and confidential vote could be taken and suggested that it be held within a day or two.

Nik Aziz said he had to make the admonition as it is compulsory to do so during "this uncertain times", faced by the party.

"My heart also boiled at the time of former PAS president the late Mohamad Asri (joined the BN). At that time, I had to show my displeasure and have commented on this. This is documented in my book "Kemuncup dalam Perjuangan".

Meanwhile, Mustafa has refused to make any comments on Nik Aziz's statement.



Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has tabled Budget 2010 with the theme "1Malaysia, Together We Prosper". Totalling RM191.5 bil, he said it would be the foundation of a new economic model and precursor to the 10th Malaysia Plan.

These are the main highlights of the speech as per delivery.

* Time for country to move to an economy of innovations to face the challenges of the future

* GDP for 2009 expected to be -3%, better than previous projections of -4% to -5%

* Focus of Budget 2010 will be on well-being of the people

* Three strategies:

- driving the country towards a high-income economy,

- ensuring holistic and sustainable development,

- focusing on the well-being of the rakyat.

* Government to make it easier for skilled/qualified people to get permanent residence status. Visa to be granted for family within 14 days.

* CSR Fund of RM100mil to be set up to carry out social programmes.

* Tax breaks for registration of patents and copyrights.

* Big scale factory outlets to be set up to boost tourism besides having major events like KL Grand Prix Fest, National Water Festival, Malaysia International Golf Exhibition and Rain Forest Eco-Challenges

* Taxpayers will get tax relief on broadband subscription fee of up to RM500 from 2010 to 2012. Civil servants can apply for computer loans up to a maximum of RM5,000 from the govt once in every 5 years.

* RM6bil for agriculture sector for irrigation of paddy fields, fish production, fruit farming, livestock farming infrastructure, training

* RM2bil subsidy for farmers and fishermen including subsidies for fertilisers, incentives for padi yields and allowances for fishermen

* RM9bil to finance infrastructure projects including road and bridges projects and rail, sea ports and airports facilities

* RM1.5bil fund to promote green technology by providing soft loans to companies that supply and use green technology

* RM200mil Creative Industry Fund to finance film, drama, music productions, animation, advertisements through Bank Simpanan Nasional

* RM30bil to be allocated to enhance primary and secondary school education nationwide

* Rewards for students who excel in studies:

- 30 National Scholarships for the creme de la creme of students, stictly based on merit

- Conversion of PTPTN loans to scholarships for students who graduate with 1st class honours degree, beginning from 2010,

- Offer of netbook package, including free broadband service, to university students for RM50 per month for 2 years.

* The Permata programme, which emphasises on early childcare and education, including the gifted child programme, to get RM100mil

* Insurance industry to be improved to meet market demand.

* Govt to clamp down on the abuses committed by Ah Longs by enforcing Anti-Money Laundering and Anti Terrorism Financing Act 2001. Moneylenders Act 1951 to be also reviewed.

* Allow 100% foreign equity participation in corporate finance and financial planning companies compared with the present requirement of at least 30% local shareholding.

* To ensure rapid development of financial services, the existing tax incentives to be extended to 2015.

* Among steps to combat corruption is to set up 14 Special Corruption Sessions Courts and 4 Special Corruption Appeal High Courts.

* Tax of 5% to be imposed on gains from the disposal of real property from Jan 1, 2010. Existing tax exemption will be retained for gifts between parent-child, husband-wife, grandparent-grandchild.

* To promote prudent spending, a service charge of RM50 a year to be imposed on each principal credit card and charge card; and RM25 a year on each supplementary card, effective from Jan 1, 2010.

* To ensure that fuel subsidies only benefit targeted groups, Govt will implement a fuel subsidy management system in early 2010, which will utilise the MyKad.

* All ministries and govt departments are required to provide day care and education centres for children of civil servants.

* The maximum income tax rate for individuals to be reduced to 26% from assessment year 2010. Personal relief increased to RM9,000.

* Police force to get RM1bil to improve its services in govt's efforts to reduce crime. Major measures include to increase police presence, including mobile police stations in 50 crime hotspots.

* To promote house ownership, Govt will launch a scheme that enables EPF contributors to utilise current and future savings in Account 2.

* Employees' EPF contribution to be increased to 11% again, on a voluntary basis, effective immediately. However, from Jan 1, 2011 employees' EPF contribution will revert to 11%.

* Personal relief for EPF and life insurance schemes to be increased to RM7,000.


SALIENT POINTS

Quick facts

  • Malaysia economy to grow 2-3 percent in 2010.
  • Per capita income to increase by 2.5 percent to RM24,661.
  • Budget 2010 allocations totalled RM191.5 billion, of which RM138.3 billion is for operating expenditure and RM53.2 billion for development expenditure.
  • Federal government revenue in 2010 to decline by 8.4 percent to RM148.8 billion.
  • Budget deficit at 5.6 percent of GDP compared with 7.4 percent in 2009.

    Taxation
  • Maximum income tax rate to be further reduced to 26 percent from 27 percent effective from the 2010 year of assessment.
  • Personal tax relief will be increased to RM9,000 from RM8,000 effective from the 2010 year of assessment.
  • Individual taxpayers to be given tax relief on broadband subscription fee up to RM500 a year from 2010 to 2012.
  • Income tax for 2010 based on income derived from 2009 will be allowed to be paid in instalments in five years.

  • Employees EPF contributions will be raised again to 11 percent on a voluntary basis with immediate effect. However, from Jan 1, 2011 employees' EPF contribution will revert to 11 percent.
  • The government proposes existing personal tax relief of RM6,000 for EPF contributions and life insurance premiums be raised to RM7,000.
  • Civil servants are eligible to apply for computer loans once in every three years and up to a maximum of RM5,000 from the government once in every five years.
  • A five percent tax to be imposed on gains from disposal of real property from Jan 1, 2010.

    Credit cards
  • There will be no more free credit cards which are currently being used extensively. The number increased from more than two million in 1997 to 11 million as of August 2009, excluding 285,000 charge cards.

  • To promote prudent spending, a service tax of RM50 a year will be imposed on each principal credit card and charge card, including those issued free of charge.
  • There will also be service tax of RM25 a year imposed on each supplementary card.

    Fuel subsidies
  • To ensure fuel subsidies only benefit targeted groups, the government will implement a fuel subsidy management system in early 2010.

    Goods and Services tax
  • Government is in the final stage of completing a study on imposing Goods and Services Tax (GST). The rate will be lower than the current sales and service tax.

    Approved Permits (AP)
  • RM10,000 to be imposed for each AP to open AP holders effective Jan 1, 2010. A portion of the collection will be channelled to the bumiputera development fund in the automotive sector.

    Permanent residency
  • Simplify permanent residency (PR) applications for those who possess high talents, expatriates will be issued visas within 14 days while male expatriates who marry locals will be automatically conferred PR status.

KEY BUDGET ALLOCATIONS

Infrastructure

  • Government to allocate RM9 billion to finance infrastructure projects, with RM4.7 billion for road and bridge projects, RM2.6 billion for water supply and sewerage services, RM899 million for rail facilities, RM820 million for ports and sea services and RM276 milliion for airport projects.
  • RM3.7 billion set aside to beef up the security forces, including providing modern and sophisticated equipment for the relevant agencies.
  • TNB to spend RM5 billion to implement electricity generation, transmission and distribution projects in 2010.
  • Public-private collaborations to include an integrated immigration, customs and quarantine complex in Bukit Kayu Hitam, construction of six UiTM campuses and the development of Matrade centre.
  • RM3.5 billion for infrastructure and basic amenities and training programmes and socio-economic projects to support implementation of private sector projects.

    Corporate social responsibility
  • 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) will establish a corporate social responsibility fund totalling RM100 million as a start to finance community activities.

    Tourism
  • Government to allocate RM899 million to intensify tourism industry.
  • Tax incentives for healthcare service providers who offer services to foreign health tourists with income tax exemptions of 100 percent on the value of increased exports from 50 percent previously.

    Health
  • RM14.8 billion is allocated to manage, build and upgrade hospitals and clinics.

    Agriculture
  • Allocate RM137 million to upgrade and improve drainage and irrigation infrastructures in paddy fields involving 180,000 farmers.
  • RM70 million to build the Paya Peda Dam Project in Terengganu to increase water supply capacity to paddy irrigation scheme in Besut.
  • RM82 million to modernise aquaculture industry and conduct entrepreneurship training scheme for aquaculture breeders with focus on production of fish fry and ornamental fish.
  • RM149 million to develop food farming industry such as fruits, vegetables, organic farming, herbs, seaweeds and swiftlet nests.
  • RM58 million to develop basic infrastructures for livestock farms and establish supply chains for beef and mutton production.
  • A consortium comprising Felda, Felcra and Risda will be established by the end of 2009, with a paid-up capital of RM300 million and with each agency contributing RM100 million.
  • Government to provide subsidies, incentives and assistance amounting to some RM2 billion to farmers and fishermen to safeguard their interests.

    Small and medium enterprises
  • To consolidate 79 SME funds to 33 to simplify access to SME financing to be coordinated by SME Corp.
  • An allocation of RM350 million to SME Corp, with RM200 million set aside for SME soft loans, RM100 million for capacity enhancement and the balance for branding and promotion.
  • Financial institutions to approve micro-financing in six days and disbursement in four days.
  • To allocate RM538 million for implementation of various SME programmes, with RM281 million to state economic development corporations, RM200 million to Tekun and RM57 million for purchase of business premises and infrastructures.

    Green technology
  • Government to sanction RM20 million to intensify green awareness activities and practise environment-friendly lifestyle.
  • Develop Putrajaya and Cyberjaya as pioneer townships in GreenTechnology as a showcase for the development of other townships.
  • Establish a RM1.5 billion fund to promote green technology, with a maximum RM50 million financing for suppliers and RM10 million for consumer companies.
  • Applications for financing through the National Green Technology Centre to commence on Jan 1, 2010 and 140 companies are to benefit.

    Construction
  • Building owners obtaining GBI Certificates from tomorrow until Dec 31, 2014 are to be given income tax exemption equivalent to additional capital expenditure. Stamp duty exemption to buyers of buildings with GBI Certificates from tomorrow till Dec 31, 2014.

    Regional corridors
  • Government will ensure that the five regional corridors - launched during former premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's tenure - will be developed according to schedule.

    Crime
  • Target set to reduce crime index by five percent, including street crimes such as snatch theft and robberies by 20 percent by the end of 2010. Among the measures that will be taken is to increase police presence by providing stations in 50 crime hotspots.

    Hardcore poverty
  • Government committee to achieve target of zero hardcore poverty in 2010. Five thousand poor households registered with eKasih and 4,000 Orang Asli households to receive aid. Skills training programmes and income generating programmes will be provided. Federal welfare assistance to be distributed on the 1st of each month.
  • RM141 million to be allocated for 'Program Lonjakan Mega' scheme to alleviate 5,600 families from hardcore poverty.

    Finance
  • Double deduction on expenditure incurred in promoting Malaysia as an international financial centre.
  • Deduction on expenditure incurred to set up Islamic stockbroking companies.
  • To introduce a basic insurance and takaful scheme for motor insurance protection by mid-2010.
  • To expand micro insurance and takaful coverage for small-scale businessmen to benefit from coverage ranging from RM10,000 to RM20,000 with a premium as low as RM20 per month.
  • Stock market to be further liberalised to enhance efficiency. Liberalise commission-sharing arrangements between stockbrokers and remisiers by allowing flexible brokerage sharing at a minimum rate of 40 percent for remisiers and to have commission-sharing fully liberalised effective January 1, 2011.
  • Allowing 100 percent foreign equity participation in corporate finance and financial planning companies.
  • Current tax incentives to develop financial services, particularly Islamic finance, extended to 2015. Twenty percent stamp duty exemption on Islamic financing instruments.
  • Tax exemption on banking profits derived from overseas operations.
  • Effective Jan 1, 2010, government agrees to allow agencies to retain 50 percent of rentals received while the remaining 50 percent will be remitted to the government as revenue.
  • Maximum tax rate for cooperatives will be reduced to 26 percent while the fixed tax rate for non-resident individuals will be cut to 26 percent.

    Human resources
  • Income tax on employment income of Malaysians and foreign knowledge workers residing and working in Iskandar Malaysia will be set at 15 percent compared with the maximum 26 percent for the rest of the country.
  • Government to launch a scheme in January 2010 that enables EPF contributors to utilise current and future savings in Account 2 to promote house ownership.
  • The government to establish the 1Malaysia Retirement Scheme to be administrated by EPF.

Kampung Buah Pala Residents Association chairperson M Sugumaran (left) had told reporters on Sunday that the 10 residents, including himself, had been directed to sign and read out a letter of apology.

He claimed that the apology, to be prepared by the administration, was to be addressed to Lim and others for what the villagers had said and done at the height of the Kampung Buah Pala issue.

Sugumaran also said the state government had barred him and four other office bearers of the association from entering Level 28 of Komtar (where Lim's office is located) and Level 52 (Ramasamy's office) since last week.

He named secretary Joseph Stephen Draviam, assistant secretary C Tharmaraj, assistant treasurer I Pasunagi, committee member O Selvaraj, as the others who were affected.

In addition, the 10 were told to first see Seri Delima assemblyperson RSN Rayer to facilitate negotiations, he alleged.

Kampung Buah Pala, a 200-year-old Indian settlement, was demolished last month to make way for the Oasis condominium project, undertaken jointly by landowner Koperasi Pegawai Kanan Kerajaan Pulau Pinang Bhd and developer Nusmetro Venture (P) Sdn Bhd.


Residents of the demolished Kampung Buah Pala today blasted the Penang government of ignoring their plight and neglecting its duties to help them.

Residents association chairperson M Sugumaran said the government is playing games even while negotiating an amicable solution for remaining the 10 households, who have yet to take up any form of compensation.

He said the state government has demanded the 10 to sign and read out an apology letter to the state government at a press conference.

dap 2010 budget rocket cafe 071009 lim guan eng 01He said the apology to be prepared by the administration was meant for the Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (left) and others for what the villagers had said and done during the height of the Kampung Buah Pala fiasco.

He said the government had barred him and four other principal office bearers of the association from entering Level 28 (Lim's office) and Level 52 (Deputy Chief Minister 2 P Ramasamy's office) in Komtar since last week.

Sugumaran said the other banned were association secretary Joseph Stephen Draviam, assistant secretary C Tharmaraj, assistant treasurer I Pasunagi, committee member O Selvaraj.

He said the 10 remaining householders had been told to first see Seri Delima assemblyperson RSN Rayer, not Ramasamy as told to the press, to facilitate negotiations.

"This state government is inhumane. It destroyed our homes while we were still living in them and flattened our 200-year-old village.

"Now it wants us to apologise for its wrongdoing," Sugumaran told a press conference at the now uprooted village.

Family squatting under a tree

Kampung Buah Pala was once famously known as Penang's Tamil High Chaparral for its population of Indians, cowherds, cattle, goats, other livestock, unique and lively Indian cultural features and festivities.

NONEIt was demolished last month to pave for a lucrative Oasis condominium project undertaken jointly by land owner Koperasi Pegawai Kanan Kerajaan Pulau Pinang Bhd and developer Nusmetro Venture (P) Sdn Bhd.

Sugumaran (right, in blue shirt) accused the current DAP-led Pakatan Rakyat state government of allowing the demolishment of their houses, leaving them homeless and stranded.

He claimed that a family was now squatting under a tree nearby the village, another taking shelter in an Umno-owned community hall and one more residing in a vacant motor workshop, while the majority of those evicted are now staying in rented homes.

Sugumaran criticised the state government of neglecting its duties in handling the relocation and resettlement issues of the villagers.

NONEHe said the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), not the state government, had been helping the villagers in rental payments and search for alternate decent homes.

He pointed out that under the land sales and purchase agreement between the state government and the cooperative society, all issues pertaining to the villagers, including compensation, relocation and resettlement, have to be settled first before the land title could be transferred.

However, he said Chief Minister Lim transferred the land title to the cooperative society within 19 days after coming to power without settling outstanding villagers issue, even until today.

"This is how the DAP government had rewarded us for voting for Pakatan Rakyat in the last general election,' said Sugumaran.

'Who the rightful trustee?'

Pointing to an Oasis project signboard outside the site, he noted that the developer had not stipulated anything about the double-storey houses promised by Lim for the villagers.

The signboard, he said had also stated that the project development plan was approved by the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) when legally it should have been approved by the island council MPPP.

He said the villagers would still pursue their case to determine who the rightful trustee of their land is - if it is the federal or state government, and claim damages for criminal demolition of their properties and broken promises by Pakatan leaders.

He said in its decision on Nov 10 2007, the High Court stated that the state government had failed to disclose any documents or other evidence to show that the federal government had alienated the land to the state's care.

"Thus, if it is under the federal government's trust, how could the state government sell the land to a cooperative and allow a joint venture private development project?" he said.

He called the former Chief Minister Koh Tsu Koon (left) and Lim to hold the much-anticipated live televised debate to enable the public to know the truth behind the scam.

He said a document issued by the state land office revealed that the village land title had contained several restrictions on any future development plan.

"Who gave approval to by-pass these restrictions? A Koh v Lim open debate will reveal all these," he said.


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Kg Buah Pala...pawn in a political game

In bucking the trend set over the last eight by-elections, Barisan Nasional obtained a whopping 42 percent increase in non-Malay support in the Bagan Pinang by-election on Sunday.

Political analyst Ong Kian Ming made the estimation based on the Election Commission's data when he examined the change in the level of BN support from 2008 to 2009 by 'saluran' or polling stream and the ethnic composition of the respective 'saluran'.

According to him, Umno candidate Mohd Isa Samad had also registered an increase of 4 percent in Malay support in the Negri Sembilan state seat compared to the results in the 2008 general election.

In the Sunday's by-election, Isa doubled the majority garnered by Azman Mohammad Noor when the late Umno candidate crushed his PAS opponent last year.

Isa (right with garland), a former cabinet minister, who was suspended from the party for three years after being found guilty of vote buying in Umno polls, took the seat with a margin of 5,435 votes.

Ong said that based on the results of the Bagan Pinang by-election, 67 percent of Malay voters had backed Isa.

Interestingly, a higher proportion - 73 percent - of non-Malay voters gave their support to the Umno candidate.

Three key factors

Ong identified three key factors which led to the dramatic voter swing back to BN.

  • Isa's long standing presence in the constituency as well as in the state as a former MB.
  • The weakness of the PAS candidate and machinery.
  • The salience of local issues that were perceived to be more important than national issues like the cow-head incident in Shah Alam and the Teoh Beng Hock case.

As for the postal voters, which make up 40 percent of the state constituency, Ong said Prime Minister Najib Razak's reputation and popularity as the former long-standing defence minister has ensured that Umno received the lion share of the votes.

Isa bagged 3,521 postal votes while his rival, PAS' Zulkefly Mohamad Omar pulled in a measly 601 votes.

In the 2008 general election, BN got 3,080 postal votes against PAS' 1,189.

Wake-up call for Pakatan

Ong (below) however added that the hefty swing seen in Bagan Pinang may not be so pronounced in other constituencies.

"Any swing towards the BN (elsewhere) would be much less because of the absence of postal votes and the inability to have another Isa-type candidate for Umno."

He also questioned whether BN's feat could be replicated in another racially-mixed seat where the opposition was the incumbent.

"Any seat in an urban area with a larger Chinese voter presence would not be so easy for the BN to swing to the same extent.

"It would be mistaken to think that such a large vote swing could be manufactured in another constituency, for example in Selangor or Kuala Lumpur."

Nevertheless, he said Bagan Pinang is a wake-up call for Pakatan Rakyat.

"It is a stark reminder, especially to PAS, that they cannot take the non-Malay votes for granted."

Federal Territory Putera MIC has launched a "PC for young minds" programme to collect new or used computers to aid primary schools in education.

Its chief M.Thanasekaran said for a start, 10 reconditioned computers would be given to three Tamil schools in Kuala Lumpur; SJK(T) Vivekananda, SJK (T) Edinburgh and SJK (T) Segambut.

"We started this campaign using the internet, especially via Facebook about three weeks ago and the respond has been encouraging. We aimed to collect another 25 computers by end October," he told reporters after the progamme's launching here on Thursday.

Thanasekaran said initially, focus was on primary schools in Kuala Lumpur and would be later expanded to other areas.

He said donors from outside Kuala Lumpur were welcomed and that it was willing to collect and service the computers.

Donors can contact S.Saravana Kumar at 013-6907382 or Yuvan Kumar at 012-2901523 or by sending emails to wp@puteramic.net.

After laying low for several years, Isa Abdul Samad, who was Negeri Sembilan MB for more than two decades, has been given the task to reverse Umno's losing streak since the 2008 general election.

Some political observers regarded the Oct 11 Bagan Pinang by-electon as a lifeline for the ruling BN after winning only one of the eight by-elections that had been held since last year's general election.





Isa would be a factor that will ensure a victory to the coalition as he was a well-known figure among the people.

"Isa has been with us through thick and thin. The people are comfortable with his leadership," labourer K Sagesaran, 46, said.

He said that Isa also had a special trait in that he was able to remember the names of many people in the area.

Trader Salleh Misran, 40, said he was not surprised that the BN chose Isa.

"I was still in school when he became the menteri besar. I find that he mingles easily with the people and at one time he himself advised me to study hard," he said.

A Pasar Tani trader Saudah Soib, 60, said Isa was always there when villagers organised events or when there was death in their village.

"Even when he no longer hold any ministerial post, he still fulfil invitations from the villagers," she said.

Tun Mahathir

who is former Umno president, had previously objected to the party fielding Isa, whom he considered a tainted leader.
When asked whether it would jeopardise the coalition's winning chances, he said: "I think it is good. We will win." However, when asked on the majority, he said: "I won't know that. Probably will increase. I guess."



THE failure of the Pakatan Rakyat to save Kampung Buah Pala after making numerous promises, including those by Pakatan supremo Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, is a major blemish on the Pakatan Rakyat in general and the DAP in particular.

The DAP, a former opposition party, has seldom lost debates with its political opponents, having perfected the art of challenging opponents, side tracking or clouding issues and using the media to browbeat challengers.

But now that the DAP is a ruling party, at least in Penang and three other Pakatan states, the fact that such tactics are still being employed indicates that the DAP’s mind is still in the “opposing” and not ruling mode.

The election ended on March 8, 2008 and soon thereafter, Pakatan was sworn in as the ruling coalition in five states. But nearly two years into the new game, some Pakatan leaders have problems adjusting to the new realities.

No doubt they were unexpectedly and suddenly elected and did not have the hands-on experience to handle complex issues. Nevertheless, they were expected to show a steep learning curve.

Pakatan leaders did well especially in Perak, until the state’s fall to Barisan, showing exemplary unity of purpose and dedication. However, elsewhere, it has had trouble getting its act together.

The Kampung Buah Pala incident, if intelligently handled, could have been a great success story for Pakatan, especially the DAP, but that opportunity is now lost and coalition is fighting charges of incompetence.

The DAP, in particular, the least experienced of the three Pakatan allies in ruling, is trying to extricate itself from the Kampung Buah Pala blunder by blaming the Barisan, especially Gerakan.

Gerakan was once admired for turning the state into a centrepiece of the global electronic industry but its fortunes waned, and in 2008, the people rejected it in favour of the Pakatan/DAP.

The DAP has inherited an island that was once a shining example of success and is now in decline, and has the unenviable job of pushing the state up the success ladder at a time of economic slowdown and retreat in global foreign investment.

It is a tough job for the new rulers of Penang and for them to get bogged down in a village populated by just 24 families is a thankless task that could have been better handled.

The DAP should not blame others, says Kampung Buah Pala resident’s association chairman M. Sugumaran.

“The thing is that the Pakatan made promises and we believed them, and they were elected. But when the time came to deliver, they could not.”

Pakatan raised expectation and won big in 2008, without regard to the consequences, and now faces a backlash for failing to deliver.

Lim and his colleagues have given numerous reasons why they could not save the village – from the lack of political power to high cost of relocation and having to look after other Penangites. Some are valid while others are just excuses.

No matter how the Lim-Dr Teng debate goes, Kampung Buah Pala has been demolished and the former residents scattered, with only the memories of their former rustic life.

The Pakatan, for its part, is counting the political cost of the failure to save Kampung Buah Pala which has turned into an emotive issue among Indians.

The issue may well be the turning point in Indian perception of Pakatan as a friendly, caring and helpful coalition. -COMMENT BY BARADAN KUPPUSAMY


Where was Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim in the Kg Buah Pala issue?

The latest initiative taken by Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the De Facto
Leader of the opposition in voicing his concern for Tanjung Tokong is
definitely welcomed. But HINDRAF is surprised and disappointed that he
chose to observe a stony silence in the Kg Buah Pala issue - an issue
which is not very different from this Tg. Tokong situation.

The rhetoric of every Malaysian “Anak Saya” seems very shallow now
when no voice was heard from him as the Leader of the opposition party
in the Kg Buah Pala issue.

Dato Seri Anwar, stating that the land issue comes under the purview
of the state authority has urged the authorities, UDA and residents
to discuss and address the issues of compensation, resettlement and
preservation of the heritage value, but why did he stay silent on the
Kg Buah Pala issue? Didn’t the State authority have the power then to
preserve Kg Buah Pala or the Indians are so insignificant in the
opposition’s Malaysian agenda?

The residents of Kg Buah Pala are as much citizens of
Malaysia as anyone else. They fought tooth and nail by
themselves to preserve their land, only to be finally crushed by the
high handed and insensitive approach of the DAP/PR
government in Penang. Where was DSAI throughout that episode?

HINDRAF had urged the Malaysian Indians to throw in their
support for the opposition in hope of a change. It now seems quite
transparent that the Malaysian Indians have again been short changed
with the double standard practiced by the opposition similar to what
had been done to the Indians over the last 52 years by the
racist/facist UMNO led government.

On March 8, 2008, the public in unity had made the change hoping
that the opposition will step in and ensure that public interest
is taken care of rather than feeding their own political agenda based
worn out BN formula of ethnic political calculations.

The model created by the opposition leader in selective treatment for
the diffrenet ethnic groups for the same land ownership problem leaves
the Indians in KBP, in Penang and in Malaysia totally skeptical about
the what PR truly means to them. The message sent by the De Facto
leader in his recent statement coming even before the Kampung
Buah Pala issue has settled, just shows his inseincerity as far as
social justice is concerned. His concern seems to be to get the votes.
It sets a dangerous precedent for the things to come. DSAI has
portrayed himself to be working for all Malaysian irrespective of
their origin. How false! How disappointing!

Notwithstanding the biased approached taken by the opposition against
the Malaysian Indians, HINDRAF is in full support of any pro-active
action taken by the state authority to safeguard Kampung Tanjung
Tokong for its historical value although it failed in Kg Buah Pala.- R.Shan HINDRAF International Coordinator

5:18 PM

MIC POLLS 2009



The MIC polls on Saturday will decide the direction of the party and will be a test of Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu's grip on the party going into his final term after 33 years almost unchallenged as the president.

A determined Samy Vellu has assembled his own team in incumbent deputy president Datuk G. Palanivel, who is defending his post, Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam, Datuk S.K. Devamany and Datuk M. Saravanan to clinch all the three vice-president tickets and any 23 of 27 candidates for the 23 seats in the central working committee (CWC).

Former deputy president Datuk S. Subramaniam and vice-president Datuk S. Sothinathan, both of whom are going for the No. 2 post, and several other candidates have called for change and they believe that that can only be possible if Palanivel is defeated to weaken Samy Vellu.

The losses suffered by the MIC at the last general election could weigh on the balloting pattern.

This makes the election probably the most tense and most watched in the 63-year history of the MIC.

Campaigning officially ended at noon today but the wooing of the 1,464 delegates is expected to continue into the wee hours of tomorrow right until voting time.

A Selangor delegate who declined to be identified said MIC members and the Indian community in general wanted leaders who can boldly voice out the aspirations of the Indian community and also work well with other component parties so that the party would regain its respect.

Another Klang Valley delegate said the MIC faced the task of regaining the support of the Indian community.

"In the last general election, the MIC lost many seats because the community turned to vote opposition candidates," he said.

Party veteran and vice-president Datuk S. Veerasingham is for Samy Vellu's team. "Everyone wants to try the catchy word 'change' which has been used by (US president Barack) Obama. Samy Vellu's request to the delegates is to vote those he endorsed so that they can work with him," he said.

Universiti Putra Malaysia lecturer M. Neelamegham said that while change was the key word for most of the candidates, they had failed to focus on what type of change they were talking about.

He said whatever the change, emphasis must be on more opportunities for youth members and empowerment of MIC state leaders.

"Even until now MIC has come out with so much of planning, (but) they have to implement it and focus on their future programmes," he said.

Universiti Sains Malaysia senior lecturer M. Sivamurugan said that in making their decision, the delegates should look at the characters of the candidates and focus on the need to strengthen the party following the near wipe-out at the last general election.

"The changes are very important and should be drastic ... the party and members have to prepare for the next general election," he said.

Another attention grabber will be the race for the 23 CWC slots for which the president has endorsed 27 of the 63 contenders.

"This election is going to be a disappointment for Samy Vellu because many candidates who are not in his list will likely win," said a woman delegate.

Samy Vellu retained the top post unopposed in March for a record 11th consecutive term that will end in 2012.


THE BEGINNING OF NEW ERA IN MIC .


NOW AT THIS MOMENT WE ARE LOOKING AT A LEADER WITH A MISSION AND VISION.

DATO SOTHINATHAN ,

SHARES A DREAM AND DIRECTION THAT OTHER PEOPLE WANT TO SHARE AND FOLLOW.

A LEADER WHO CAN CLEARLY ARTICULATE WHY WERE DOING, WHAT WERE DOING, TO FACE NEW CHALLENGES AND DEMANDS FROM THE RAKYAT. THE 1MALAYSIA WAY.

Aspirants for MIC party posts are banking on the 'vote for change' theme which swept Barack Obama to power, to work for them as well at the MIC party elections this weekend.

All three deputy president candidates - incumbent, G Palanivel, former deputy president, S Subramaniam and current vice president S Sothinathan are campaigning on the platform for change.


The Tamil press is playing up the fact that party president S Samy Vellu is also chanting the change mantra to ensure his man G Palanivel wins the three-cornered contest.

The candidates have also taken their campaigns into cyberspace. Apart from Palanivel, the other two have their own websites to promote their cause.

Sothinathan's campaign site can be viewed here whereas Subramaniam's site is here.

The impact of cyberspace was evident in the 2008 general election when Samy and almost all MIC reps were wiped out.

But he is still entrenched in the party. In MIC presidential elections, Samy retained his post uncontested when 48 of 53 nominations for his challenger M Muthupalaniappan was rejected by the elections steering committee.

Food for thought

Candidates for presidential elections must obtain a minimum of 50 nominations from branches.

Similarly there are currently four poll sites in relation to the elections. Though they might not have a bearing on the eventual outcome, it would serve to gauge the popularity of the candidates.

They are micelection2009.com, micpolls2009.com, micelections2009.com and micfuture2009.com

Since the party came close to being virtually wiped out in the March 8 general election, there are questions that delegates really need to ponder prior to casting their votes.

Is Indian community ready to embrace change?

In light of Samy's unprecedented 11th term in power, is it possible? If change is vital to MIC, why didn't Samy stay neutral, instead, he's promoting his preferred team.

If Palanivel and Subra wanted change, why did not they initiate or implement them when they were occupying the hot seat at different points in time, by making room for a younger breed to come to the fore?

Can there be changes if the MIC's No 1 and the same tired faces are still ruling the roost? The delegates this weekend have an onerous task.

RELATED POSTS:

DATO SOTHINATHAN : INTERVIEW WITH MALAYSIAKINI

Change Is Inevitable If MIC Is To Remain Alive

MIC ELECTION - PEOPLE'S CHOICE FOR CHANGE

VISION FOR CHANGE

BELIEVE IN CHANGE-VOTE FOR CHANGE

Sothinathan : I don't speak about any particular individual and I don't want to do that to rise in politics





In an exclusive interview with Malaysiakini, deputy presidential hopeful S Sothinathan defends himself against accusations of caste and money politics.

What happened between you and MIC president S Samy Vellu?

Actually there is no friction between us. What happened is that I understand the present change in the political scenario in the country after the March 8 elections. I think there is a need for a young and vibrant leadership in MIC. I think we need to embrace this change if we want to remain relevant to the community. On that basis, I told him (Samy Vellu) that I wanted to go for deputy presidency... and there was total agreement all this while. But in May, I didn't know there was a change in (his) mind... they wanted to remain neutral and remain as what they were (maintain status quo for deputy presidency)... which I feel would not help us anymore.

So I stood firm in my decision to go for number two... because a much more dynamic leadership has to be established for MIC to remain relevant. On that basis, I stood by what I felt was right. I think that is the correct thing to do at this moment. Because of that, they might not be very happy with my decision. But I am not really interested in that. Because I am more interested in staying relevant to the community, the party must be relevant, the leadership must be relevant. If that change cannot be brought about, I don't know where we are heading towards.

For a long time, it was said that you would be the appointed successor and the president was giving the same impression. Now that the situation has changed, do you feel betrayed?

I don't feel betrayed because in politics you must be brave enough to face anything. In politics, if you are fearful or very dependent on something, you will never succeed and you can never lead a community. We are talking about leading a community. When you are leading a community, when something unfavourable comes, you must accept it. It does not mean you must be dejected, you must move ahead with bravery and determination. In my case, I am not dejected because I take this as a greater challenge, and if I make it in this challenge, this is what is going to give me the real strength in politics.

You have always been seen as Samy Vellu's man. Do you believe you can stand on your own feet?

I am very determined and I feel very strongly about it. As I told you earlier, this is what is going to decide the future. If I can get the mandate, this is what will give me the real strength to lead the community and the party in future.

On the president's recent attack against you, that you are nothing without him, and that you speak with a forked tongue.

I don't practice this kind of politics. It has never been my style of leadership at all. Because I just speak what I feel is right. I don't speak one thing here and another thing there. That is not my way of campaigning. All the delegates (that) I have met will vouch for this. I have been very open to say what is my reason (for contesting)... it is purely to say what I can do for the party if they elect me. I don't smear anybody's campaign.

Why is he doing this then? His attacks have always been towards S Subramaniam, now suddenly he is focusing on you.

Only he will know why he is doing that. I remain focused on what I am doing because I am not going to be disturbed or distracted by what others are doing.

Do you feel hurt by his attacks?

In politics, you got to face all these things. You can't be too sentimental about it. You have got to be practical about things.

How are your proposed reforms different from that of your rivals? Even Samy Vellu is talking about change.

My question is very simple. They have all been there in this position. What change have they brought? I am asking them (the delegates) to give me a chance (to change things). When you talk about change, for 25 years they have been there as deputies, they couldn't bring this change. Give me the opportunity to bring about the change. When someone who has been there for such a long time, I mean at this particular stage in life, to talk about change, I really don't understand what (that) change is all about.

Change means, change for the better. If there is a transition, if someone comes to take up the leadership, they should have the age with them. Not someone who is about to retire, comes into politics, and says 'I want to lead this community'. A man's most productive period is in the range of 45 to 60... and that is what I say, let us believe in that. Let us believe in a man's productive period... and not those who have gone past those times, and come back to say 'I want to bring about change'. You must have the physical strength and mental strength to lead a community, not just the wish to do it, but also the stamina.

So you are saying that your rivals have 'missed the boat' to bring about change

See... Samy Vellu became president of MIC at the age of 44. You can see the kind of changes that he brought into the party. The kind of enthusiasm...it was really great. Look at (Barack) Obama at the age of 47. I mean for being a black, everyone thought he would not do well but he is doing a fantastic job. Because they have the courage and determination and also the physical and mental strength to carry out what they feel, to carry out their vision. This is what is necessary.

How do you rate your chances, going against two heavyweights?

We are talking about a new leadership. To remain relevant, the society looks for young leadership. Given my advantage in those areas and given my experience, I am sure these will be advantageous for me. They (his rivals) have been in that position (deputy president) and people can see what they have done, and at the same time, I have been in the low position (vice-president), people can see what I have done. And they know my style of leadership, and the leaders on the ground can access what will be good for the party and community.

So you are saying that the delegates are mature enough to vote for change?

There are many things going on. There is a lot of intimidation, there are a lot of money politics, which I hear. Although I don't practise that, I do hear (about it). I am talking about change. I don't want to subscribe to all these. When I talk about change, I am talking about some new ways... people must genuinely support, then only we can lead this community. If there is no genuine support, then I think we are wasting our time.

Can you elaborate on the intimidation of delegates?

Sometimes when you go and see the delegates, they are threatened not to see us. A lot of things... when they express support, they come under intense pressure. All this is not good for the present generation, it will not look good in the eyes of the community.

On the issue of caste politics, you have been accused of campaigning along those lines?

Throughout the 49 years of my life, I have never been brought up in that manner. My family has never taught me all those things. I myself am not sure who belongs to which caste. I have never practised caste politics in my life. I do not know who belongs to which caste, unless they explain to me. I have never done that. Although many people who claim that (accuse him), are the ones who practise it, but they put the blame on others who are innocent. The public is the best to decide, the public knows who preaches caste and who preaches money politics.

I mean, one can go and say 'I don't do this, somebody else does this' but at the end of the day, each and every single individual in MIC and also the public knows as a matter of fact who preaches all these things.

Are you saying the president also does this?

Let the people decide, they are all informed about what is happening. I am not pointing at any individual.

Do you agree that the practice of caste politics is rampant in the party?


It rises during elections. This is not good for the party. When we talk about the Malaysian Indian Congress, I think we should represent all Indians irrespective of caste. I think our greatest challenge is that we don't work along caste lines. We should try to integrate and unite the Indians. If we talk about caste, we are not going to unite the Indian community forever.

It is said that caste politics is one of the factors that turn away the younger generation from MIC...

I would not say it is rampant. It surfaces during elections, you can see that it is rampant (only) during elections, and then it disappears but rises again during elections, people tend to go along those lines. It is not a healthy trend for us.

How do you eliminate caste politics?

I think it all comes back to the leaders. We should always avoid ourselves from this kind of political campaigns. We should just go on our own merits, 'What I can do', 'What kind of changes can I bring for the community' and 'How can I improve the lot of the community?'. If we go along those lines, we can revamp.

There is also the perception that you are 'tainted' with regard to the Telekom shares issue scandal. How do you think this negative perception will affect your chances?

This is an issue which arose in 1991/92. It is now almost 18 years. After nine years (following the issue), I came into politics, I was the political secretary (to Samy Vellu), I became a member of parliament, where I won (the Teluk Kemang parliamentary seat) by a majority of over 5,000 votes in the by-election, I became the secretary-general of the party, thereafter in the 2004 general election, I won with an 18,000 vote majority, I was promoted to a deputy minister, I also won the (MIC) elections as vice-president. And when election comes, there are no other issues, and they try to plant things and create issues out of nowhere and try to taint somebody's image. This is very unbecoming of present politics.

I think one must go on one's own merits. I have a first class honours degree in business administration from University Malaya, I don't think any other Indian has achieved that yet. I also have a second (class) upper degree from University of London in law. Colleagues of mine have done well in their lives, I have sacrificed my whole life for the public, and today when I see these kind of things, I am sure many other youngsters or professionals will never want to engage in public life (by entering politics). But still I take it as a challenge.

Let people say what they want, the public knows what is right and what is wrong. They know about my integrity, I will go on that. I will go on public perception, not on individuals' lies which is being spread around. When you don't agree, they come and taint you and you are a useless man, when you agree, you are a great man.

It is wrong to say that it is an individual perception, to a certain degree, it is the public's perception because of your association with the matter.

Those things have been answered and cleared. People are now trying to bring back the same issue, just to tarnish one's image. This is a smear campaign that is going on. I have gone so far in politics, today you can see how organised my campaign is, so the only way (for his detractors) is to smear one's name. I am not going to smear anybody's name. I am going to go on a very clean campaign and go on merits.

If people believe in me, believe in the change, if they support me, I will do what is necessary for the community. If they are going to believe in this smear campaign, there is nothing much I can do for them.

Critics are saying that it is not the second tier, but change is only possible if the president steps down.

He has indicated that after these elections, he will give way to whoever is elected. This is known to everybody.

But now he is saying that he might stay on...

That has to be decided by the MIC members. If we don't embrace change, we have to face the consequence of it. I firmly believe in that. You can deny, but you cannot run away from that fact.

Do you perceive him as a stumbling block?

It all depends at the end of the day. The decision has to come from the members or the delegates. They have to make the bold decision. If they want to remain relevant, they have to be brave enough to make the decision. If they don't want to, I think nobody can change our destiny.

Based on the feedback, do you think the delegates are 'brave' enough to make the change?

I am very confident about that.

The president has already named his preferred choice. If someone else wins, will it create further divisions like what is happening in MCA?

The problem that we are facing now is the perception of the community. It is not the problem over the choice of one individual. It is the community's perception that we have pay heed to. If we don't do that, we have to face the wrath of the community.

You can go down to the community and find out what is their preference, what they expect. Remember, at the end of the day, it is the community that makes the party, it is not the top leaders that make the party. If the community says it wants this and that, and if we don't pay heed to that, we are gone.

Going back to the earlier question, if you win the deputy presidency, and you have all these ideas for change but a president who disapproves of your presence there. Would this not be a stumbling block?

The president cannot disapprove when the choice is made by the delegates. It has to be accepted. That is what leadership is all about.

But would he not make it difficult for you...

No, no, no... one man cannot deny the decision of the majority. How can that happen, no way... let it be any of the three (who is elected). It has to be accepted. If you cannot accept it, then you can't be a leader.

Critics say that MIC's glory days are over and it cannot regain lost ground. Do you agree with this?

I think we are on the verge of that. That is why I am talking about change. If we are not prepared to embrace change, we must face the serious consequences. The community is expressing a lot of interest in the MIC elections, they are looking forward to how these elections is going to take place, what will happen. This is what is going to give them hope or... these elections are very crucial to MIC.

Some say that this (your decision to contest) was orchestrated...

Let me make this very clear. There is no orchestration. I have made a very clear, a very bold decision, I am going for broke. Either I make it or I forget about it. There are no two ways about it.

If you are defeated, what will be your next plan?

I think the best is, whoever wins, led them lead the party. I am not going to get involved, and be a nagging point.

Will you quit politics?

That, I will decide after Sept 12.

So this is a 'do or die' battle?

Yes, for me it is definitely a 'do or die' battle. My intentions are very clear, very sincere. I have all my positions in the party, but I have made this bold decision to go for broke simply because I believe change is inevitable. I believe in this change (for MIC) to remain relevant. Only then is there meaning to my existence in MIC. If that doesn't happen, I don't think there will be any meaning to my existence in MIC...

Did the president try to talk you out of it?

Nobody tried to talk me out of it. As a matter of fact, they know when I make a decision, I stand firm by my decision.

Was the president surprised by your decision?

No. He knows that I have made a decision. I think he knows very well about the whole situation. I am very surprised by his late decision to put back his choice of candidate.

Was it a wise choice? How do you rate his line up?

I wouldn't want to do any rating because I only have one vote to cast like any other delegate. Let us look at the wisdom of the delegates.

Critics also say that Barisan Nasional component parties, including MIC, are too subservient to Umno. Do you think this attitude must change?

In politics one has to speak without fear or favour. You must speak your mind. If you feel something is right, you must stand by it... when you feel something is not right, you must be able to speak up. There should not be any fear or favour... because in politics, we are there to determine the future of the community. Every single decision that you make, affects the public. We must speak without fear or favour, and do not look at the feelings of one or two individuals in any particular group. That is the best approach... I do not want to dwell on the past, let me look at the future.

Since the 2008 elections, has the re-branding exercise of MIC brought about any change or has the party remained stagnant?

I think we are going through a very crucial test now. That will be answered by the delegates. Rather than me answering that, I will leave it to the delegates to answer (in the elections). They will be able to give an indication as to whether we paid heed to the calls for changes.

There is also the perception that the rot is far too entrenched from top to bottom in MIC. Will the members be willing to embrace the change or is the party in need of a complete overhaul?

They have to. My personal opinion is that we have to embrace change.

If one day you become the president, how different will the party be?

You will see that for yourself. Believe me.

Some have accused you of money politics?

I don't have money, I have not been in any employment since the March 8 elections. I have devoted my time to the activities of MIC. Since March 2008, I have been at the MIC headquarters virtually everyday, working for the party... at that moment, all these so-called people were never there. Nobody was there, everyone abandoned MIC. They all believed that was the end of it. But now when elections come, everybody is there. When I was busy campaigning, people say I don't turn up at MIC. The last three months, I have been busy campaigning but before that, every other day, MIC leaders and the public know that when they come to the MIC headquarters, I am always there to serve them.

This is what people should look at, I never ran away from my responsibilities. Despite having professional qualifications, despite being admitted to the Bar, I can always go back and do something on my own. But I was not interested because I owe an obligation to the community, to the party, where I held various positions. Just because I lost the general election, lost my government post, it means that I can run away, abandon this party and go? I stood firm by the party, through thick and thin I was there to make sure that things go very well and that we can bounce back. You can see whether others did it or not.

It was speculated that you were there every day in lieu of the promise that you would be named by the president as his preferred candidate.

No. It was not a promise. But I felt there was an obligation on me that when the party is going through a crisis, when most of its members of parliament and state assemblymen have lost their positions, you think it is wise for me to abandon the party and look after my own fortunes... I felt there was a serious obligation to work for the party at that difficult time and I did that wholeheartedly. Although I did go through a lot of difficulties in my personal life, I never shirked away from my responsibilities.

On the possibility of joining the opposition if you do not succeed...

I am very confident about winning this elections. I believe that change will take place. Change is the only way forward. It will take place. So let me stay focused on that.

So you will always be true to BN?

Yes.

RELATED STORY: SOTHI : Change Is Inevitable If MIC Is To Remain Alive

www.malaysiakini.com (7/9/2009) Sothi: Change is a task for the young, not old

Fortes fortuna adiuvat
is an antiquated Latin adage which suggests that the Goddess of Fortune smiles on those who are courageous.

And when dawn breaks this Saturday, S Sothinathan will be hoping that the celestial being smiles for him when on the terrestrial plane, some 1,400 MIC delegates decide his fate on Sept 12.

Those who know him well say that he is ambitious, but others did not expect this man of few words to do it and they thought he lacked the guts, but he has proved the doubters wrong.

While the pundits debate on whether it is a wise move or simply political suicide, the father of three however has no regrets about having cast the dice.

But why did he do it?

Because there is no room for sentiments in politics, declares Sothinathan, who also stresses that it is not an art for the faint-hearted.

Drawing inspiration from the likes of Barack Obama, he firmly believes that change is inevitable if MIC is to remain alive.

Rivals have missed the boat

And why should the delegates pick him?

Because just like the American president and unlike his rivals G Palanivel and S Subramaniam, who are in their sixties, the 49-year-old politician feels that age, strength and stamina are on his side.

He mercilessly drives the point home when it is pointed out that the other two contenders are also talking about transformations.

As far as Sothinathan is concerned, the 'productive years' of man are between the ages of 45 and 60 and in that context, the duo, he agrees, have 'missed the boat'.

"My question is simple. They have been there in this position (deputy president). What change have they brought? For 25 years they have been there as deputies, they couldn't bring change..."

"When someone who has been there for such a long time, I mean at this particular stage in life, to talk about change, I really don't understand what (that) change is all about."

"If there is a transition, if someone comes to take up the leadership, they should have the age with them. Not someone who is about to retire..."

True enough, when Malaysiakini caught up with him at his seafront office in his hometown of Port Dickson last week, the former Teluk Kemang MP was full of vigour despite the intense campaign which has seen him criss-crossing the peninsular to canvass for votes.

'This is not orchestrated'

However, his decision to contest for the deputy presidency has irked his mentor, the formidable MIC president.

Stopping just inches from outrightly calling him an ingrate, a slighted Samy Vellu later accused his protege, with whom it is said he shared a father and son relationship with, of deceiving him and reminded the latter that he is what he is because of him.

But Sothinathan shrugs this off with a smile, saying: "Actually, there is no friction between us."

According to the outgoing MIC vice-president, Samy Vellu was initially receptive to the idea of him ascending the party hierarchy. "But come May, there was a change in (his) mind."

Unperturbed by the feathers he may have ruffled, Sothinathan says: "I am not interested in that. I am more interested in the party remaining relevant..."

Is he hurt or discouraged by the president's attack? Not at all. "In politics, you've got to face all these things. You can't be too sentimental about it. You got to be practical about things."

He also stresses that 'unlike the others', he did not abandon the party following its near fatal electoral whipping last year, which also robbed Sothinathan of his MP title.

Prior to the president endorsing the incumbent Palanivel for the post, speculation was rife that Sothinathan is on track to being named the anointed successor. But soon rumours of a tiff began to circulate.

Still there are those who refuse to believe that the challenge is for real.

Some claim that it is a mere charade to break the votes for the president's former deputy and nemesis S Subramaniam, and once the contest is over, the duo will kiss and make up. And a new master plan will be put into work.

Sothinathan however rubbishes this claim.

"Let me make this very clear. There is no orchestration. I have made a very clear, a very bold decision, I am going for broke. Either I make it or I forget about it. There is no two ways about it."

In view of this, the former deputy minister says the focus is on his bid to vanquish the president's choice and the president's foe. And the underdog is confident of sinking his teeth on the coveted prize.

'President has to accept the victor'

On the possibility of the embattled party being plunged into further crisis if Samy Vellu does not accept his victory should the delegates vote for him, Sothinathan puts it bluntly: "One man cannot deny the decision of the majority."

He stresses that the president has to acknowledge the victor irrespective of who he is. "If you cannot accept it, then you can't be a leader."

Responding to critics who accuse MIC of being too subservient to Umno, Sothinathan vows to speak without fear or favour when it comes to defending the community.

"You must speak your mind. If you feel something is right, you must stand by it... when you feel something is not right, you must be able to speak up."

In 2005, he did just that and caused a stir when he erupted in Parliament over the government's de-recognition of a medical university in Ukraine which has a sizable population of Indian Malaysian students.

Although the incident boosted his popularity in the community, it however earned him a three-month suspension as deputy minister. His crime: not toeing the party line.

But Sothinathan, who holds a first class honours degree in business administration apart from being a qualified lawyer, is not without controversy either.

The alleged hijacking of nine million Telekom shares in 1992 continues to be a Sword of Damocles, and although the then Anti-Corruption Agency cleared Samy Vellu of any wrongdoing, Sothinathan has never been able to scrub himself clean off the 'taint' for his alleged role in the scandal, which continues to be the most potent weapon in his detractors' arsenal.

When quizzed on this, he dismisses it as a smear campaign.

"Those things have been answered and cleared. People are now trying to bring back the same issue, just to tarnish one's image. This is a smear campaign that is going on."

'I have never practiced caste politics'

Sothinathan also strongly denies the accusation of playing the caste card with the hope of striking a royal flush in this poker game of high stakes.

"I have never practised caste politics. I have never been brought up in that manner. My family never taught me all those things."

Describing the ongoing campaign as being replete with the politics of money and fear, which he claims to be innocent of, the MIC leader says the fingers which point at him belong to the chief perpetrators of caste politics themselves.

"One can say 'I don't do this, somebody else does this' but at the end of the day, each and every single individual in MIC and also the public know as a matter of fact who preaches all these things."

Asked if the president is also guilty of this, he quickly adds: "Let the people decide, they are all informed about what is happening. I am not pointing at any individual."

While MIC leaders do not openly admit it, caste is an important factor in determining the office bearers and by virtue of being 'Gounders' both Sothinathan and Subramaniam are banking on the same votes.

On how different MIC will be if he becomes president some day, a confident Sothinathan smiles, and says: "You will see that for yourself. Believe in me."

Related posts:

INTERVIEW WITH MALAYSIAKINI

MIC ELECTION - PEOPLE'S CHOICE FOR CHANGE