M'sian Indian party to retain old guard for poll
Wed, Feb 20, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA'S biggest ethnic Indian party will field its combative leader in next month's national election, the party said on Wednesday, despite growing dissatisfaction in the community over his leadership.

The Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), a partner in Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's ruling coalition, also kept most of its old guard as candidates in the March 8 election, it said.

The Barisan Nasional coalition is widely tipped to retain power at the polls, although with a reduced majority, with many Indians accusing the multi-racial coalition, dominated by ethnic Malays, of racial discrimination.

The coalition has governed Malaysia in various forms since independence in 1957.

Topping the MIC candidates' list is its long-serving leader, S. Samy Vellu, who told reporters the polls could be one of his biggest political tests since he took over the party in 1979.

He said he has no immediate plans to quit politics despite conceding that he was falling out of favour with Indians.

'I think the Indians may not like me now. That's why I thought if I go, maybe they give a better support to the Barisan. I take it that way,' the ebullient 71-year-old said.

'I know Indians don't like me nowadays, so let us see,' said Mr Samy, who is also Malaysia's longest-serving minister.

More than 10,000 ethnic Indians marched in the capital last November in an unprecedented rally to complain about a lack of job and education opportunities.

The protest was organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), an independent group. The government later detained five of its leaders jailed under tough internal security laws.

Last weekend, some 300 Hindraf supporters staged a street protest in the capital to demand for the release of their leaders before police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse them. Nine protesters were arrested. -- REUTERS


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