Yet another foe bites the dust…

The MIC has come under the spotlight over the past week for sacking yet another presidential would-be Datuk M. Muthu Palaniappan. There are opposing views within the party over the summary manner in which challengers to party chief Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu have been axed, writes SUGANTHI SUPARMANIAM

The MIC has done it again.

In less than a year, another party leader who declared his intention to contest against party president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu in party polls in March has been sacked.

Former vice-president Datuk M. Muthu Palaniappan joins former Klang division chief Alex Thiagarajan in being sent to the dog house for trying to undermine the veteran leader's authority.

Muthu Palaniappan is claiming that the charges against him were just an excuse to get rid of him so that Samy Vellu could assume the top post unchallenged.

Within three months of stating his intention to contest against Samy Vellu, Muthu Palaniappan was given a show-cause letter to explain his statements in Makkal Osai on Nov 11 and in an interview with Malaysiakini last month. Both statements were deemed detrimental to the party.

He was called for a hearing last Tuesday and expelled the next day.

While there is support for the move within the party, there are also pockets of resistance to what is being called "hasty and unnecessary action" against Muthu Palaniappan.

MIC Youth chief T. Mohan said that action was taken against Muthu Palaniappan to send a signal to members that everyone was equal before the party.

"He will be seen as getting special privileges to say what he wants just because he is contesting against the president if action was not taken against him."

He agreed that some might think Muthu Palaniappan was sacked because he had a fighting chance of winning the election, but added that discipline was more important to the party.

"Samy Vellu would have won anyway. It would not have been a tough fight at all for him as Muthu Palaniappan is not the right candidate to stand against him."

MIC Youth advisory council chairman S. Ramis was of the opinion that the board's decision was justified and that the party still respected democratic principles.

"It is an action that should have been taken a long time ago. I think Muthu Palaniappan had gone overboard with his statements."

A senior party leader, who preferred to remain anonymous, dismissed speculation that Muthu Palaniappan might have been able to topple Samy Vellu if he had not been sacked.

"There can be change but it should be for the better. I don't think Muthu Palaniappan would have even got the required nominations. Even if he did, he would not have won."

The leader, who has been with the party for more than 30 years, said the Negri Sembilan strongman's expulsion was justified and would not tarnish the MIC's image.

"What has party image got to do with one individual? Will Umno's image be tarnished just because a few of them are now being questioned for money politics?"

But some members expressed unhappiness with the move to expel Muthu Palaniappan.

Another veteran, who declined to be identified, said the expulsion had given the image that Samy Vellu was afraid of a contest and was worried of losing or winning with a reduced majority.

"Although he would have won anyway, the expulsion has given the impression that the president is afraid. It's the wrong action at the wrong time," he said, adding that the expulsion was uncalled for.

"He should have been let off with a warning and Samy Vellu should have tested his support on the ground by allowing the contest."

Party veteran Datuk V. Govindaraju said the move was "unethical and very, very, wrong".

"Why is Samy Vellu afraid of a challenge? He is a dictator who has killed democracy in the party," he said, adding that Muthu Palaniappan would have beaten Samy Vellu if he had been allowed to contest.

"Under his leadership now, the party has gone to the dogs and and I am sorry that Samy Vellu has done what he has done. There is no freedom of speech in the party," he said, adding that Samy Vellu should step down as party president.

Former Sungai Siput division chief M. Loganathan described the expulsion as a "very childish move".

"It's not only damaging to the party but also to the Barisan Nasional," he said, adding that Samy Vellu was clearly behind Muthu Palaniappan's sacking.

MIC secretary-general Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said the party respected the disciplinary board's decision.

"Muthu Palaniappan has the right to appeal against the decision and I hope he will avail himself of the opportunity to appeal." – NST