Being Frank by Frankie D’Cruz, as published in Malay Mail today.
IF you’re looking to understand a political leader so out of touch with his party, I’ve got one for you: G. Palanivel.
For one who started the crisis in the MIC and seems unable to stop it from reeling out of control, the party president has indulged in trigger-happy behaviour.
This “quiet” man has gone ballistic. Step by insidious step, he’s on a sacking spree of dissenting members and on Monday kicked his gaffe machine into high gear by going on a collision course with Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Palanivel does not want a non-Indian BN secretariat to steer the administration of the MIC until fresh party polls. He said it was a grave act of injustice to let third parties (BN) “to run our beloved party”.
“The deputy president (Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam) may be willing to allow third parties to run MIC and lose our self dignity and respect, but I will not.” Courageous?
Actually, the secretariat was mooted at a meeting on Monday, the second called by Najib to find a solution to the MIC dilemma. Palanivel did not attend as he had to send his wife to hospital, leaving Dr Subramaniam to meet with Najib, BN deputy chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor.
After Tengku Adnan disclosed the outcome of the meeting to the press, Palanivel lashed out that despite informing Najib that he had an emergency and was sending Datuk S. Sothinathan to represent him, the party secretary-general was not allowed in.
“Sothinathan was only informed of the proposals but (they were) more like decisions as announced by Tengku Adnan,” he said in a statement.
As the leader of the third largest party in the BN and natural resources and environment minister, the least he could have done was to call Najib, Muhyiddin or Tengku Adnan for clarification.
Confusion reigned. To some, Palanivel had finally awakened from slumber and taken a strong stand against outside intervention, specifically Umno, in MIC affairs. They said Dr Subramaniam had selfishly bowed to Umno to wrest control of the party.
Later that evening, Dr Subramaniam in a statement said: “In the meeting (with the three BN leaders) there was only a discussion on the BN acting as facilitators in mediating in areas of dispute. There was no proposal for the BN to run the MIC.
“The meeting further affirmed that the MIC resolves its issues by following the RoS (registrar of societies) directive.”
Here’s the thing: Palanivel, who agreed at the first meeting with Najib to implement the decisions of the RoS that found irregularities in the party elections, followed through with his promise to take the regulatory body to court.
Soon after Tengku Adnan’s press conference, he instructed lawyers “to challenge the decisions and acts of the RoS”.
Was his decision to take the matter to court an attempt to prolong the crisis and further destabilise the party?
Dr Subramaniam’s view: “It’s absolutely disgusting the president had procrastinated on this issue and had allowed something which could have been solved easily in the early days to become a major problem that now necessitates third party intervention.”
The tragedy is that Palanivel is putting his head in the sand and ignoring the issue. Indeed, there is a refusal to face up to a host of other potential crises.
His absence of strategic thinking across the ruling coalition includes such crucial areas as taking on the BN chiefs, bringing more problems to the alliance already weighed down by socio-economic issues and risking deregistration of MIC by the RoS.
Clearly, outside help to resolve infighting in MIC would cause the party to lose its dignity. The perils of inviting mediators from outside the party remain a regrettable part of MCA history when BN appointed then secretary-general Tun Ghafar Baba to intercede in the leadership dispute between Datuk Dr Neo Yee Pan and Tan Koon Swan in the 1980s.
Would Palanivel invite party stalwarts to help the feuding factions to close ranks? He can’t, because MIC veterans do not support him. That means he’s alone in this war.
The majority in MIC want him out. Everyone in BN wants him out. All confidence in his ability to lead MIC has been shredded.
When will he get this message, and go?
He’s guilty of staggeringly bad judgment and there’s been hardly anything proper about him in recent months, both as MIC president and the natural resources and environment minister. Think Camerons.
His portfolios demand a duty so important — to protect Malaysia environmentally and guide Indians of the country. He hasn’t done that. So, he doesn’t deserve to stay on. Leaders have to do their jobs well and Palanivel has nothing to be proud of.
It’s strange that the impact of fast-sinking ship MIC and the environmental damage to Cameron Highlands have yet to awaken him.
The former journalist has gone from Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu’s anointed successor to bumbler in chief, careening from one odd ruling to the next, embarrassing both party and Putrajaya.
MIC on his watch is a story of under achievement and Indians need a brave and wise leader to restore their self-respect, natural entrepreneurship and the will of every family to improve its lot through its own efforts, without depending on handouts.
Not that Dr Subramaniam, the health minister, would be able to effectively lead a divided Indian community that is more literate and observant compared to when Samy Vellu took control in 1979 — even if the good doctor claims he has the support of two-thirds of the party’s grassroots, with 102 out of the 150 MIC division chiefs and 2,500 of the 3,700 branches on his side.
I can’t think of anyone now who would run through a brick wall for MIC.
Although there’s plenty of blame to go around for the sorry state of the MIC, there’s something Palanivel and Dr Subramaniam could do today to ratchet down tensions and build trust: Tell their inner circles to clam up.
There is a method for achieving success in politics and starring in your very own daily soap opera should never be part of that plan.
The greatest danger for any politician, especially a minister, is being laughed at — mockery is the hardest thing to recover from in politics.
Frankie is editor emeritus of Malay Mail. He can be reached at email@example.com or on