Samy Vellu mellows but still can’t pull the crowd

By Regina William (The Edge)

SUNGAI PETANI: The cultural performance function at the Kaliamman temple off the Sungai Lalang main road was supposed to begin at 7pm on Monday, but even after 8.30pm, only a handful of people were present.

The group of journalists who had gone to the temple in the hope of catching MIC president Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu, who was to have been the guest of honour, were disappointed when told he would not be making an appearance.

The event was supposed to have been part of the Bukit Selambau by-election campaign programme for both Samy Vellu and the Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Datuk S Ganesan.

Posters had been put up all over town to publicise the cultural performance by local artistes. But the posters included a picture of Samy Vellu and Ganeson, which could explain why the expected crowd did not show up.

For wherever he goes, Samy Vellu now seems to draw the "wrong'"crowd who would not hesitate to walk up to him and tell him off in a language that is not fit for print.

On nomination day, a well-dressed Indian man had walked up to him and sarcastically told him to stay in power forever and to continue thinking only of himself and not the community.

Samy Vellu had planted himself in Bukit Selambau way before nomination day, making numerous visits to areas with a big Indian presence and pleading for them to return to BN.

After leaving the temple, journalists were told Samy Vellu was hosting a dinner for voters at Cafe Siam in Taman Peruda. The scene there was a stark contrast to the temple. Every table at the restaurant was crowded with mostly Chinese voters.

The event was organised by Gerakan, but MIC hosted the eight-course dinner, with more than 400 people in attendance. Would that translate into votes for the BN candidate?

A Gerakan official attending the function said during the last general election, only 25% of the Chinese there backed the BN candidate.

While those in attendance were busy chomping down the spread, Samy Vellu took to the rostrum. However, his speech was drowned out by the din of the diners, most of whom were not paying attention to whatever he was saying.

"Tolong sokong calon Barisan Nasional. Hanya BN sahaja yang boleh membawa kemajuan di Bukit Selambau (Please support the BN candidate. Only BN can bring development in Bukit Selambau)," was his impassioned plea to those present.

Later, Samy Vellu revealed that nightly dinners were being organised for the different communities as part of BN's strategy to woo voters, all of these being fully sponsored by the MIC.

So were the capatis dished out to fewer than 50 people who had showed up to hear Ezam Mohd Nor speak in Bandar Baru later that night. The capatis were gone even before he arrived.

The next morning, over a cup of coffee at his favourite Indian restaurant Ananda Bhawan in Sungai Petani, Samy Vellu spoke to The Edge Financial Daily.

A mellow Samy Vellu said he had spent more than three weeks in Sungai Petani, having only four hours of sleep daily at a hotel. "I go to bed at 1.30am and I am up by 5.45am, that's all the sleep that I need to keep me going."

amy Vellu believed that at least 40% to 45% of the Indians are now fully behind BN, compared with 20% in the 2008 general election. Many would sneer at his optimism, but only the voters of Bukit Selambau could prove him right or wrong come April 7.