Samy Vellu’s most outstanding achievement after 24 years as MIC Minister and President – Indians as the underclass in Malaysia as well as new criminal class 

DAP Perak forum on “Astro and Indians as the Underclass”
by Lim Kit Siang

(IpohSunday): In another two days, MIC President Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu should be celebrating the  24th anniversary  of his appointment to the Cabinet as he was first appointed Works Minister on 21October 1979. 

When Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad steps down as Prime Minister in less than two weeks’ time,  Samy Vellu will be the longest-serving Cabinet Minister, of both broken and unbroken service, as he would be more senior than Datuk Paduka Rafidah Aziz who was first appointed Minister for Public Enteprises in September 1980, Datuk  Dr. Lim Keng Yaik, who first entered Cabinet as Gerakan President as Primary Industries Minister in August 1986, or even the next Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who was first appointed to  Cabinet as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in July 1981 but spent four years in the political wilderness from 1987-1991 when he supported UMNO Team B against Mahathir though he never joined Semangat 46 when it was formed by the UMNO Team B leader, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. 

But what has Samy Vellu achieved for the Indian community in Malaysia for  nearly a quarter of a century as the top-most Indian leader in government?  There are at least two developments in the Indian community in his 24 years as MIC President and sole Indian Cabinet Minister which are  to his eternal  discredit, but which he cannot shirk or disclaim responsibility.  One is captured by  the title of the Star TV Focus Asia current affairs programme which the satellite television provider Astro censored –  “The Indian Underclass”.  The second is the emergence of Indians in Malaysia as the new criminal class. 

When Samy Vellu became MIC President and Cabinet Minister 24 years ago, the Indians in Malaysia have not become an “underclass” in Malaysia, to the extent that a news programme under that title is regarded as “sensitive” – not because it is untrue, but because it is too true! If the Star TV programme is untrue, it could be criticized and be put right by countering it and portraying the true picture. The problem arises  when it reflects the true situation of the Indians in Malaysia 24 years after the political supremacy of  Samy Vellu – and denials and rebuttals would have little credibility. 

When did the Indians become the criminal class in Malaysia?  This is a sad phenomenon in the past decade, for which the MIC, and its president, Samy Vellu cannot escape responsibility or liability reflecting the socio-economic abyss which have become the trap of so many Indians. 

I am reminded of the conference entitled “The Malaysian Indian in the New Millennium – Rebuilding Community” which was supposed to be the conference to end all the conferences of empty-talk of the past four decades, as real action was to ensue to liberate the Indian community from its  litany of growing despair – Indians have the lowest life expectancy at 67.3 years, the highest dropout rate, the highest incidence of alcoholism and dadah addiction, the largest number of gangs is made up of Indians, with 60 per cent of serious crimes committed by them. 

But last year’s conference, which was supposed to be a wake-up call for the Indian middle class “to emerge out of its cocoon to face the reality of a community weighed down by numerous social ills against a bleak socio-economic backdrop”,   has proved to be another major flop after all the hullabaloo about its hopes and promises! 

Professor P. Ramasamy who spoke before me has correctly diagnosed the root cause of the malady of the Indians in Malaysia becoming the underclass and new criminal class – the lack of full citizenship rights and participation in the nation-building process. 

The twin problem of the Indian underclass and new criminal class  faced two hurdles – the double denial, by middle class Indians that it is a problem and by the Malaysian government and society that it is a Malaysian problem. 

When declaring open this forum, DAP Deputy Secretary-General M. Kula Segaran had called for an independent public inquiry into the spate of police shootings and killings, as the majority of the victims were Indians, and particularly the most recent police killing of 19-year-old V. Vikines, together with two others, Puvaneswaran, 24, and T Kathiravan, 25,  who were shot dead after the police said  they ignored orders to surrender and opened fire on police personnel in Nilai some ten days ago.

There have been conflicting versions about the trio, who hailed from Klang, with the police alleging that they had been responsible for a spate of armed robberies but Vikines’ family claimed that the youth was  an innocent schoolboy.

In a true democracy  where the principles of accountability, transparency and  good governance are given priority, there would be no  dispute as to the need for an institution like the Police Ombudsman to conduct independent investigations into the police shooting and killing of Vikines, Puvaneswaran and Kathiravan as well as the spate of other police killings – but this is not the case in Malaysia.

The 11th national general election is around the corner, between two to eight months, i.e. as early as December this year or June next year.  So long as Malaysia practises electoral democracy once in four or five years, the aggrieved and downtrodden in the country must be able to make their cries  for justice and redress heard loud and clear during the important months in the run-up to a general election.

This is also the time for the Indian community to make their voices heard and their legitimate demands felt – to enjoy  the full political, economic, educational, social and all other citizenship rights as full members of the Malaysian nation and community.  If they cannot get their voices heard in these few important months in the run-up to the next general election, then they are unlikely to be heard after the next general election – with or without Samy Vellu as MIC President and Cabinet Minister.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman