Loved him or not, Tun Samy Vellu was a hardworking, charismatic leader

The late Tun S. Samy Vellu (second left) seen with former MIC secretary-general Datuk S. Murugesan (second right). The former MIC man recalled the “golden days” with Samy Vellu, who was a stickler for time and spared no one in getting the job done right.

By Bhavani Krishna Iyer, RK Indumathinii

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 15 – Tributes from leaders both in the country and outside as well as recall of warm memories by party members of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) continued to fill up social media sites following the death of the late MIC President Tun S. Samy Vellu this morning at the age of 86.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted “Saddened by the passing away of Tun Dr. S. Samy Vellu, Former Cabinet Minister of Malaysia and the first Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awardee from Malaysia. Heartfelt condolences to his family. Om Shanti.”

DAP Member of Parliament for Iskandar Puteri Lim Kit Siang in a statement described Samy Vellu as a “great fighter and the country has lost a great son with his demise. RIP.” Kit Siang also recalled how Samy Vellu was once responsible for the former’s six-month suspension from Parliament in 1992, “but there was nothing personal between us as we have the greatest respect for each other.”

Dr Venkates Rao, President YouthCorp Malaysia and former chairman of PuteraMIC Chennai / India Chapter spoke of Samy Vellu’s diligence and commitment to work and the inspiration he provided him when he was a struggling young man finding his way around at work.

In his “A Thank you Note to Tun Samy Vellu”, Dr. Venkates said:

“Today we lost a legend, a leader who would go above and beyond for our community and the country. Tun was a tough man and through his directness and his no nonsense approach aspiring leaders had the opportunity to grow and mature under his guidance.

“Putera MIC was the brainchild of Tun which he founded in 2007 to recruit young Indians amongst graduates, professionals and entrepreneurs to come together and give back to the community and elevating the status of the Indian community in Malaysia from being known as only labourers to a community that is well respected within the social standing of Malaysia.

“I was extremely fortunate to be part of this effort back in 2007. Back then Datuk P Kamalanathan was appointed to lead the youth wing and I was elected as the national council member to setup the Chennai/India wing as part of the Putera MIC International Chapters worldwide. At a mere age of 21 years old, I was extremely honoured when the party president then, Tun would actively engage with us either via telephone calls or in person during every trip he makes to Chennai, albeit professional or personal.

“Tun was a man who had progress at the fore front as during each of the call and visit he required us to update the progress of our setup. He was not easily appeased by excuses…..He expanded our networks by insisting that we tag along his meetings with the local leaders in India and spoke very highly of us during the meeting to ensure that we had access to local leaders in India should any emergency crop up.

“One lesson that stuck with me was that leaders do not have weekends. An incident that I will never forget is when I was a student in Chennai and it was 6am on a Sunday, Tun had just landed in Chennai and we were not aware that he was visiting. He rang me at 6 am and lo and behold I was fast asleep and did not pick up his call. 3 hours later I woke up and saw his miscall, jumped on my feet and rung back. From the other side he asked me “Why did you not pick up?” to which I replied that I was asleep since it was the weekend. I was immediately sternly reprimanded “Weekends are not for leaders, what if one of your people are in trouble? There are no Sundays or Mondays to be a leader, now come over.” That stuck with me, a leader lives for his people, and Tun walked the talk.”

“To this very day, I will always hear his voice “ini semua kerja orang gilala” when I’m about to lose my cool and I can immediately smile and stay composed. That is the kind of effect Tun had on me.”

Former MIC man recalls Samy Vellu’s ‘golden days’

Former MIC secretary-general Datuk S. Murugesan recalls the ‘Public Days’ that were held by Samy Vellu during his tenure, to assist the public who needed assistance from the party.

“Initially he used to do it at his home but as the crowd grew bigger, he moved it to Netahji Hall at MIC HQ. (Every Tuesday). Anyone with any problem can come and see him face to face at those meetings. No appointments were required. No matter how big the crowd, he will attend to each one of them personally,” he wrote on his Facebook post today.

Murugesan had at that time volunteered his services as a lawyer on those Public Days, to deal with issues involving legal matters.

“The way he handled those problems were always ‘hands on’ and immediate. Whenever possible, he will attempt to solve the problem there and then. Immediate phone calls to whomever that is required. That’s when Branch Chairmen, Town Councillors, ADUNs and MPs will get early morning calls when the problem involved their areas. For this reason, most of us never switched off our handphones,” he wrote.

“Typically, the sessions will start at 5.30 am. I will wake up early and rush to MIC HQ to be there before him. However, each time, he will be there before most of us. Can’t believe a man can get dressed up in full suit and be up and ready before 5.30am,” he wrote.

Murugesan who had served as the party’s secretary-general during Samy Vellu’s tenure was sacked in 2010 by the leader who ruled with an iron fist, when he had criticised him for using his presidential powers to sack four party members.

The duo patched up after Samy Vellu resigned from the party’s president’s position in Dec 2010, after holding the position for 31 years.

“Whatever your feelings towards him or your political affiliations,” there is no denying of the impact he has left behind in the political landscape of Malaysian Indians, Murugesan said.

“He was a legend in his own right.”

Samy Vellu was the Sungai Siput Member of Parliament from 1974 to 2008, and served as the Works Minister from 1983 to 1989 and again from 1995 to 2008.

He was also the longest-serving MIC president, helming the party for 31 years since 1979, as well as one of the longest-serving ministers, having been in the Cabinet for 29 years.

Samy Vellu leaves behind his widow Toh Puan R. Indrani, son Datuk Seri S. Vell Paari, daughter S. Mangayerkarasi, daughter-in-law Datin Seri Shaila Nair, four grandchildren and a great-grandson.