The PM believes that the former MIC chief, who held the parliamentary seat for 34 years, can help turn the tide, say sources.
PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister and Barisan Nasional chief Najib Tun Razak has sought the assistance of former MIC supremo and ex-Sungai Siput member of parliament S Samy Vellu in a bid to recapture the constituency in the forthcoming 13th general election.
Sources reveal that Najib met Samy Vellu end of last month asking for help to ensure the ruling coalition won back the seat, which it had lost at the 2008 general election.
“Yes, they met and the PM wanted Samy Vellu’s help in getting back Sungai Siput. Samy Vellu still has a good amount of support in the parliamentary seat. A new candidate would face an uphill struggle.
“The PM felt Samy Vellu’s presence in the constituency could clinch the seat. He can guide the candidate, whoever it may be, in the run-up to the elections,” said a source who did not want to be named.
They also revealed Samy Vellu’s two-year term as the country’s special envoy for infrastructure to India and South Asia, has been renewed. His term was to have run out at end of this year. The post comes with ministerial status.
Last Saturday, Najib visited Sungai Siput alongside Samy Vellu. MIC president G Palanivel, who was also present during the visit, made the announcement that Samy Vellu has been appointed the BN coordinator for Sungai Siput, replacing R Ganeson.
While it is unclear if Palanivel made the announcement through a press conference or otherwise, only Tamil Nesan, a vernacular daily run by Samy Vellu’s family, published the report. FMT could not reach Samy Vellu for comment.
Palanivel tight lipped
Samy Vellu lost the Sungai Siput seat, which has about 52,000 voters, to PKR’s Dr Michael Jeyakumar by a 1,821 vote majority in 2008. The seat is Chinese majority with 24,000 voters followed by Malays (14,000), Indians (11,000) and Orang Asli (3,000).
Palanivel has been tight lipped over who the candidate for the seat would be. There were speculations over the candidate for the seat and among those mentioned were MIC vice president SK Devamany and MIC secretary general S Murugesan.
Devamany is the Cameron Highlands member of parliament. Sources said Palanivel would replace Devamany, who is also deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, as the BN candidate for Cameron Highlands at the next general election.
Sungai Siput has always been in the hands of the MIC until the last general election. It has been traditionally contested by the MIC president under the BN ticket.
Samy Vellu contested the seat for the first time in 1974 and the constituency became his fort for 34 years until 2008. There have been calls within the MIC for Palanivel to contest the seat at the next general election.
But indications are that Palanivel, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, was not keen on the seat, preferring a safer Cameron Highlands instead.