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


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.






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,, and

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.



Change Is Inevitable If MIC Is To Remain Alive




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 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?


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

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The intense battle for positions during the MIC elections, has switched into another mode, this time its the cyberspace on the internet.

At least four websites have appeared overnight conducting online polls to pick candidates tipped to win posts at stake in the party elections slated for Sept 12.

While identity of those conducting the polls remains a mystery, these websites were conducting online polls to pick the deputy president and three vice-presidents of the 62-year-old MIC.

At the party election, a total 1,464 delegates would cast their votes to pick a deputy president, three vice-presidents and 23 central working committee members.

The deputy president's race would be a toss between incumbent Datuk G. Palanivel, former deputy president Datuk S. Subramaniam and vice-president Datuk S. Sothinathan.

A total of seven candidates are vying for three vice-president seats and they are Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam, deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk S.K. Devamany, Federal Territories deputy minister Datuk M. Saravanan, businessman Datuk S. Balakrishnan of Johor, Datuk V.K.K. Teagarajan of Kuala Lumpur, former MIC Selangor Youth secretary P. Subramaniam and P. Mariayee from Negeri Sembilan.

Party president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, who won the MIC top post for a record 11th consecutive term in March, this year at the presidential election, has endorsed Palanivel for deputy presidency and Dr Subramaniam, Devamany and Saravanan as his preferred veeps.

Short-messaging-system (SMS) is being used to inform Malaysian Indians that there were such polls being conducted online, telling them to vote to pick the new party line-up, which has about 630,000 members.

So far four sites have gone online and they can be accessed at,, and

Of the four, two website's polls has Palanivel in the lead while another has Subramaniam as the leader but the fourth ( could not be accessed due to heavy traffic.

The micpolls2009 site indicates that Palanivel had polled 69 percent, Subramaniam and Sothinathan (14 percent each) while polls has Palanivel in the lead with 57 percent, Subramaniam (30 percent) and Sothinathan 13 percent.

The poll however gives a massive lead for Subramaniam with 59.3 percent, Palanivel 13.6 percent and Sothinathan 27.2 percent.

As for the vice presidents' race, Dr Subramaniam leads in all three polls by, and micelection with 35 percent, 34 percent and 66.7 percent; Devamany has 23 percent, 22 percent and 65.3 percent while Saravanan has 19 percent, 19 percent and 34.7 percent respectively.

Balakrishnan (14, 16 and 36.1 percent), Teagarajan (7, 8 and 30.6 percent) Mariayee (2, 1 and 9.7 percent) and Subramaniam (1, 1 and 12.5 percent) respectively.

Most of these websites would close polling on either Sept 9 or Sept 10 with results expected to be released to the media a day ahead of polling on Sept 12.