The spat between the two organisations has hurt the prime minister's initiatives with regard to roping in Indian votes.
After days of bashing by MIC leaders against the Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Maicci) president Kenneth Eswaran for discrediting MIC and its contributions, the ongoing dispute is expected to come to an end as Eswaran issued a statement yesterday regretting his remarks.
He also admitted that MIC has contributed to the economic and business affairs of the Indian community in the past and that MIC president G Palanivel was the joint chairman of the Malaysian Indian Economic Conference (MIEC).
In his statement, he further confirmed that Palanivel by being the minister in Prime Minister’s Department in charge of the Indian economic development unit, the two extended their cooperation and assistance for the success of MIEC.
Long history of cooperation
Maicci, although an association of various state-level Indian business chambers in the country, has been directly or indirectly controlled by MIC leaders in the past. The late SOK Ubaidullah, one of the pioneers of Maicci, who served as its president for many years, held various positions in MIC including national vice-president.
Later, VKK Teagarajan who served for several terms as president of Maicci had simultaneously served as a central working committee member and the state chairman of Federal Territory MIC.
Even the current secretary-general of Maicci, M Devendran, is the Pahang MIC state chairman and a state assemblyman. The current treasurer of Maicci, R Rajasekaran, is a MIC branch chairman from Malacca and the national vice-president P Krishnamurthy is a MIC branch chairman from the Seputeh division.
Above all, the returning officer for the Maicci elections held last week was SS Rajagobal, the chairman of Batu Caves MIC branch.
The MIC president and the key leaders of the party had always attended the important activities and functions of Maicci.
With Maicci having such an intertwined association with MIC, naturally Eswaran’s remarks did not go down well with MIC’s rank and file.
Furthermore, when the MIEC was announced, it was seen as joint collaborative effort by Maicci and MIC as Palanivel was announced as the co-chairman of MIEC together with Eswaran.
However, later, the conduct of the conferences, its findings and recommendations became the sole affairs of Maicci with Eswaran taking the lead role.
Finally, the lavish dinner held to hand over the memorandum on the findings of MIEC to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak became infamous and lost its noble purpose for all the wrong reasons – Eswaran’s remarks against MIC and for not honouring Palanivel who was also present at the dinner.
Eswaran’s adverse comments about MIC, published in his interview with the Star newspaper, in fact made the situation worse and key leaders of MIC then bombarded Eswaran with their press statements.
Subsequently, Eswaran reiterated his comments again but suddenly in a turn of events yesterday, he issued a statement regretting the remarks he had made against MIC.
Najib’s Indian initiatives hits a snag
Najib’s gestures and moves towards Indian NGOs were generally well received by the Indian community. However, the Maicci-MIC spat shows us what will happen if the prime minister over-leans on a certain NGO, ignoring the political reality.
Too much emphasis on certain NGOs and certain personalities may also create adverse remarks and may derail the intended goals of the government.
Eswaran’s proclaimed close ties with Najib and his rhetoric of championing the economic affairs of the Indian community through Maicci has irked the MIC leadership for some time.
However, MIC sources said that party leaders did not want to create an issue out of this to cause any problems or embarrassment to the prime minister as they clearly understood the prime minister’s true intentions: to garner as many Indian votes as possible in GE-13 through Indian NGOs.
Although the Maicci-MIC episode may be over, it will take some time for the wounds to heal and whether Maicci and MIC would be able to work together again on common grounds is doubtful.
In this respect, the MIEC and the subsequent row between the two organisations has in a way torpedoed Najib’s initiatives to reach out to the Indians through NGOs.
RJ Rajah is an observer and writer on politics and social issues with a keen interest particularly in Malaysian Indian affairs.