Friday, September 25, 2009

Najib finds new Indian allies, bypasses the MIC

Former Hindraf national co-coordinator Thanenthiran is president of Makkal Sakti. — File pic

By Baradan Kuppusamy- The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 — The invitation card is glossy, in gold colour and of superior quality, in keeping with the VIP who is guest of honour at the Oct 10 launch of the new kid on the block — the Parti Makkal Sakti Malaysia.

The VIP will be Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who appears to be signalling that he is not going to solely depend on Barisan Nasional (BN) stalwart parties like the MIC and MCA to reach out to the non-Malay communities.

He will launch the new Indian-based party formed by former leaders of Hindraf at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park in Serdang next month in a strategy which bears similarities to his father Tun Razak Hussein's move in the 1970s to welcome more political parties into the establishment fold.

For this reason, it is significant that Najib is launching the party which received recognition from the Registrar of Societies in a “matter of weeks” on May 11.

His presence indicates that in the changed political landscape after March 8, 2008 which saw BN allies like the MIC, MCA, Gerakan and PPP fall like tenpins, Umno is finding and creating new allies.

Leaders of the new party have already pledged to campaign for BN in the upcoming Bagan Pinang by-election.

With MIC's and even the PPP's failure to reform and reinvent under Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu and Datuk M. Kayveas, Umno may well be searching for new partners. The Makkal Sakti party could well play such a role.

A lot is riding on the party formed by former Hindraf national co-coordinator R.S. Thanenthiran, 47, who is president.

The party has yet to make an impact but Thanenthiran said it has been working quietly to recruit over 50,000 members, getting the divisions established and setting up best practices.

“We made an impact at Kampung Buah Pala trying to save it from demolition. The Indian community knows about it,” he said.

He says Najib’s presence is an honour but claims that the party is independent and only wishes to serve the people.

“The Prime Minister is launching our party and we are honoured but it does not mean we have lost our independence,” Thanenthiran told The Malaysian Insider.

“We are working together with him as partners… we walk together for the benefit of the Indian community,” he said.

“It is true the BN did not do much for us in the past 52 years but the Pakatan Rakyat has done even less for us in the past two years,” he said.

“BN under Datuk Seri (Najib) is beginning to do for the Indians in major areas and we welcome it. We want to work with him to get a fair share of the nation's resources,” he said, giving reasons why Najib was invited to launch the party and open the annual general meeting.

“We invited Selangor Chief Minister (Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim) to open a culture night the same day but he declined,” Thanenthiran. “We tried… you can’t blame us.”

Najib’s decision to launch the Makkal Sakti party is a milestone in Indian politics in Malaysia.

It not only suggests the increasing irrelevance of the MIC, but also sidelines the many Indian-based NGOs that claim to be offshoots of the Hindraf movement, including the yet-to-be registered Human Rights Party headed by lawyer and Hindraf founder P. Uthayakumar.

Having the ear of the Prime Minister is a major boon for the Makkal Sakti Party which has asked Najib to act on three main areas of concern for the Indians.

These are turning all 543 Tamil schools into fully-aided schools, 10 per cent Indian recruitment in the civil service and at all levels and socio-economic help to uplift the Indian urban poor.

Thanenthiran said Najib told them to give him two years to act on these issues. “You all watch what I do,” Najib told them, according to Thanenthiran.

The MIC for them is already irrelevant.

“We won’t be here if the MIC had delivered,” said A. Waythamoorthy, the former Perak Hindraf co-ordinator who is deputy president.

“If they had delivered there would not have been a Makkal Sakti movement in the first place, no 2008 tsunami and we won’t form a new party,” he said.

The party would also actively campaign for the Barisan Nasional in the Oct 11 Bagan Pinang by-election because leaders feel it is a BN-ruled state and another PR or independent win would not make any difference for the Indians.

“In Bagan Pinang we want to show we can bring Indian voters for the Barisan… it is an acid test for us,” Thanenthiran said.