Samy’s challenger set to be expelled or suspended

By Baradan Kuppusamy, The Malaysian Insider

MIC presidential challenger Datuk M. Muthupalaniappan is to face the party's Disciplinary Committee on Tuesday for allegedly tarnishing the "good image" of the party and faces either suspension or expulsion, opening the way for incumbent Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu to be returned unopposed for a 10th term as president.

"It would be a sham victory and we will not accept it," a senior MIC leader said on condition of anonymity, expressing the feelings among the party grassroots.

Muthupalaniappan denies the charges and will not appear before the committee, which is headed by Samy Vellu henchman Tan Sri G. Vadivello, because his terms to have not been met.

Because he will not turn up to answer the charges, he could be summarily suspended or expelled.

Either way, Muthupalaniappan's spirited challenge to defeat Samy Vellu, who has been president since 1979, will be over.

"I had hoped for a clean, free and fair fight but this is not the case," Muthupalaniappan told the Malaysian Insider in an interview. "If it is a fair fight I would have won hands down as the grassroots mood is really hostile. Everybody is crying out for change."

"These are really difficult times for the MIC and the community and a free and fair election that gives MIC delegates an open chance to choose would have been really very good for the party and the Indian community," he said.

Muthupalaniappan, a former MIC vice-president, is charged with tarnishing the party's image in several press statements last month.

Muthupalaniappan had declared last month he would challenge Samy Vellu and had since been crisscrossing the country, canvassing for support and was receiving enthusiastic response, but the charges have completely derailed his campaign.

He needs 50 nominations from MIC's 4,000 branches to qualify and was confident he could garner three times that number.

Party insiders said the decision to punish Muthupalaniappan under the catch-all "tarnishing the image of the party" is really designed to stop him from continuing with his challenge.

Muthupalaniappan is charged with tarnishing the good name of the party by questioning election losses suffered by the MIC on March 8 last year, the sacking of party leaders and the opening of branches and closing of branches in an election year.

The charges were made in a letter dated Dec 23 and signed by Vadivello.

Muthupalaniappan replied, denying the charges, and had asked for full details of the complaint and identity of the complainant.

He had also requested the party's Central Working Committee or CWC set up an independent inquiry committee if at all the inquiry was to go ahead because Vadivello was not impartial and besides had taken part in the decision to charge him.

However Muthupalaniappan did not receive any replies but was instead ordered to appear on Tuesday to answer the charges and since he has decided not be appear because his terms were not met, he could be summarily suspended or sacked.

If he is suspended even for a short period, Muthupalaniappan cannot contest as chairman of his branch in Negri Sembilan when nationwide branch elections start from Feb 7.

"Consequently being not a branch chairman he is automatically disqualified from contest for the president's post in the MIC election," party insiders said.

"This is an indirect way to knock him off even before the election for president starts," they said. "This is a clear abuse of powers to stop a legitimate challenge."

"Samy Vellu should not do this. He should fight fair and defeat any challenger. This shows he is afraid he could be defeated," they said.

Despite the massive polls losses Samy Vellu, who has been president since 1979, is seeking re-election for a 10th term and hopes to win and continue as president for another three-year term.

However the mood among the party rank and file is hostile and party insiders said Muthupalaniappan would have easily qualified to challenge if he was not charged.

"Charging Muthupalaniappan sends the wrong signals to the party grassroots that Samy Vellu is still in control and critics who side with him would be severely punished," the insiders said.

Although it was earlier announced the presidential election would be held in March this year and a presidential election committee chaired by Penang MIC leader Datuk K. Vijayanathan was formed but up to now no date has been fixed for the election of a new president.

No other challenger besides Muthupalaniappan is likely as the two potential contestants – deputy-president Datuk G. Palanivel and former deputy president Datuk S.Subramaniam – don't want to upset the apple cart but want to wait for Samy Vellu to hand over to either one of them when the "time comes."

Samy Vellu is also cleverly playing them against each other dangling the big prize before them and ensuring that they don't, together with others, gang up against him.

With Muthupalaniappan out of the way the path is wide open for Samy Vellu to retain his post without any problem but that victory could be rejected by party members and the community as a "sham."

It would alienate MIC members and worsen the contempt for the party in the Indian community and any chance of a successful re-branding and return to respectability remains futile.