Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on Wednesday, 31st December 2008:

Oh Samy! 

Maybe long-time MIC chief S. Samy Vellu is acutely aware of the thickening master plot to oust him from power. Maybe he feels threatened. Maybe he wants to divert the attention of the media from his inevitable exit.

Maybe Samy Vellu wants to score brownie points with the ruling elite by playing the hudud card to try and swing Indians votes at the Kuala Terengganu by-election for the government.

If not for these plausible explanations, the unpopular and self-styled leader of the Indian community would not be nitpicking on the hudud issue. Neither would Samy Vellu challenge opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to state his stand on PAS' intention to introduce the Islamic penal code.

It is given that there has been back and forth word games between PAS and the rest of Pakatan Rakyat on problems relating to a set of punitive Islamic laws. Although there has been no clear resolution, it is evident that hudud is not on the Pakatan Rakyat agenda. Husam Musa, the proponent of the law, has also acknowledged PAS is having difficulty convincing its PKR and DAP partners.

Although the lines of debates within the opposition coalition are smudged on hudud laws, I would like to draw Samy Vellu's attention to the fact that Pakatan Rakyat allows for the discussion of different issues.

An authoritarian leader like Samy Vellu must find it rather hard to understand the need for democratic space to brainstorm various issues, even if they centre around the implementation of hudud laws.

It is true that the Indians supported PAS during the March general election. But Samy Vellu must also be aware that the swing in support for the opposition stems primarily from the fact that Indians are fed-up with MIC and Barisan Nasional.

After 50 years of independence, Indians are aware that the ruling UMNO-led government will do nothing to uplift the socio-economic conditions of the minority community.

MIC, a political party which enjoys a client-patron relationship with UMNO, is not in a position to push for the empowerment of Indians. Neither do they have the political or financial clout.

In short, MIC is a non-relevant grouping of individuals who have earned the wrath of Indians and done nothing tangible or sustainable for the Indian community.

Samy Vellu's response to any pressing urgency concerning the community is that he would meet Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. This is unsatisfactory and mere rhetoric.

The MIC is struggling to regain the confidence of the people through a re-branding exercise. Therefore Samy Vellu should focus on this ambitious endeavour and stop harping on issues concerning hudud laws.

The implementation of hudud laws is subject to amendments to the Federal Constitution and clearly PAS would not be able to get the two-thirds majority to amend the Constitution.

Therefore, the issue raised by Samy Vellu with Anwar is irrelevant. It is clear the aging politician wants to strengthen his hold on power by playing up on issues that Barisan Nasional is highlighting for its political mileage.

But, in this case MIC has lost the plot and Samy Vellu has no voice in the Indian community.

* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang