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What Indian Malaysian voters want

INDIAN Malaysian voters are said to be the deal-breakers in the Hulu Selangor by-election, according to one view. They comprise 12,453 or 19.3% of the total 64,500 voters in this parliamentary seat.

In the 2008 general election, 51% of their votes went to the Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate, Datuk G Palanivel from MIC. Palanivel lost by a razor-thin 198-majority to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)’s Datuk Dr Zainal Abidin Ahmad. The question in this by-election is which way this 50-50 Indian Malaysian support will tip.

But the dynamics are different now. Palanivel, the MIC deputy president and a favourite among some of the grassroots, has been replaced by a younger candidate, P Kamalanathan. Kamalanathan is the party’s information chief, and a public relations manager by profession. This factor alone is enough to cause indecisiveness among some voters.

There are several other factors, too, but the overriding ones are unmet promises of development and infrastructure, and Hulu Selangor’s sluggish economy. However, the personal touch of a candidate and of his or her party workers among voters, are also just as influential. As some voters reveal, the late MP Zainal Abidin, who was ill throughout, still served the constituency through proxies.

The Nut Graph chats with a few Indian Malaysian voters in an attempt to understand what influences them. These conversations, partly conducted in English and partly translated from Bahasa Malaysia, are by no means representative of the community. But they offer a glimpse into what matters most to these Indian Malaysian voters during an election, and their perceptions of the campaign.

Some unscientific observations must be stated first off: Anger against MIC and its president Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu appears higher among estate dwellers than semi-urban residents. Some voters appear torn between affection for a candidate and unhappiness with the candidate’s party. And the theory that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has wooed Indian Malaysians without the MIC does hold water with some voters.

Who: Sanasaya Jogulu, 56, bus driver, father 
Who: Vanitha Sanasaya, 24, teacher, daughter 
Their home in Taman Bukit Teratai, Sungai Choh, Batang Kali 
Date: 21 April 2010 

The Taman Bukit Teratai housing estate

TNG: What do you think of the two parties contesting?

Sanasaya: The older people are more with BN. The younger ones with Pakatan [Rakyat]. In this housing estate, there are about 300 families. It is half for BN and half for PKR. I think this will be hard to change.


Because of history. The older people are traditional and loyal to BN.

What is the difference to you between Palanivel and Kamalanathan?

I prefer Palanivel. Kamalanathan is young and new to us. He’s only come to this area once so far [during the campaign]. But three weeks ago, the Human Resource Minister [Datuk S Subramaniam] came here to tell us about [how we can find] new jobs and about EPF (Employees Provident Fund).

What do you know about the PKR candidate, (Datuk) Zaid Ibrahim?

I don’t know him. He’s never been here. I’ve read about him in the newspaper but I don’t have an opinion. People say he is campaigning more in the Malay [Malaysian] areas so I think that’s why he hasn’t come here yet.

Is the candidate or his [or her] party more important to you?

The party. My heart is with BN and MIC.

What do you think about Samy Vellu? He has been MIC president for a long time.

It is time to let others have a chance. He has been there for a long time.

What do you think about the prime minister, Najib?

He’s good. (Gives thumbs-up sign)


He freed the Hindraf people from prison. And he has come here to this area. The prime minister before him never did.

What has happened here since they announced the by-election?

The ‘killer junction’ with new traffic lights installed recently

We have a new traffic light. That junction where you turned in to come here? That is a killer junction. Many people died from accidents there. We have been asking for a traffic light for a long time but only last week they installed it.



Do you like that? That the things you want are given to you when it’s time for an election?

(Daughter Vanitha interjects
Vanitha: Some people think it is good that PKR is in charge [of the state] so BN is forced to provide the solutions during the by-election. But people also think it is negative that BN only gives priority to people’s wishes when it is election time. It makes people go [to the opposition].

(To Vanitha) What about you, what do you think of the candidates from both sides?

I have to vote BN because I am a teacher. People say they can know [how you voted] because there is a serial number [on the ballot]. Anyway, I feel free to vote for BN because I studied in a government school and went to a government university.

The government has provided enough facilities, overall. But if you look at specific areas, like here, we are not very well equipped. Until it is election time. This should change.

Are you interested in national issues, like abolishing the Internal Security Act? You are going to vote for a new Member of Parliament, so what kind of issues are you interested in?

I watch the news but I am more interested in economic and education opportunities. Whatever is related to my work as a teacher.

(To Sanasaya) What do you think of our democracy, do you want more freedom?

Sanasaya: We are already democratic. We are less controlled than Singapore, aren’t we? We can voice our opinions but it must be within limits.

Who: Two Indian Malaysian men who agreed to be photographed but declined to be named 
Where: By the roadside leading to Taman Bukit Teratai, Sungai Choh, Batang Kali 
Date: 21 April 2010

The two friends chatting by the road. Behind them is the Tamil school which was given
funds by both BN and PR for the by-election

TNG: Are you voters here?

Both: Yes

Have you met either candidate?

White shirted man: No chance yet.

What do you think of the MIC candidate?

I wanted Palanivel. In 2008, I voted for him. Now, I have to see first.

Was Palanivel a good MP?

Yes, he came here often. He is good, but the local MIC leaders in this taman are not good. They only help their family members and relatives. They are all one gang. If you’re not in their gang, they don’t help you.

But you still like the MIC party? Even though it is a different candidate now?

(Yellow shirted man interjects)  
Yellow shirted man: Now we have to see first, la. Both sides also didn’t do much. Not until now, when it is election time. That school (points to school behind them), both BN and PKR gave money for repairs because of this by-election.

What do you think of the Selangor government under Pakatan for the last two years?

They are OK. Selangor executive councilor Dr Xavier Jayakumar  gave us land nearby for Hindu and Muslim cemeteries. That never happened under BN.

Did you buy Maika shares last time?

White shirted man: Yes. All gone. Still haven’t got anything.

So even though you lost money, you still voted for MIC in 2008?

Ya, because I like Palanivel.

What do you think about Zaid Ibrahim from PKR?

I want to meet him first.

What do you think of the prime minister, Najib and his policies, like 1Malaysia?

White shirted man: You tell me what is that. What is that?

(Yellow shirt man interjects)

Yellow shirted man: Whatever it is, don’t make this place like Ijok [after the by-election]. During the by-election, the BN gave this and that, there were so many infrastructure projects. Now, it’s a forgotten town again. I have relatives there and that’s what they tell me.

Who: Amarawati Desangu, 43, rubber tapper and single mum of five children 
Where: Ladang Sungai Jernih, Kerling, after a campaign stop by PKR candidate Zaid 
Date: 18 April 2010


TNG: Did you know Zaid Ibrahim before this?

Amarawati Desangu: Just from television.

So what do you think of him after his visit here?

Keadilan has helped us a lot here. When our houses flooded in January this year after a storm, they gave us food, clothes and school things for the children. BN never came.

The previous Keadilan MP was sick and people say he didn’t do much.

But he sent his people from Keadilan to help.

Have you ever seen Palanivel here while he was MP for four terms?

No. I heard he goes to Kuala Kubu Baru but he didn’t come to this estate.

What do you think of Samy Vellu?

I only see him on television. He talks about fixing this and that but nothing happens here.

Estate workers waiting for Zaid

How long has Keadilan been active in this estate?

More after 2008.

Who did you vote for in 2008?


How much do you earn a month?


Who: Chennaih Karpiah, 53, rubber tapper and PKR Ladang Sungai Jernih branch chief 
Where: Ladang Sungai Jernih, Kerling, after a campaign stop by PKR candidate Zaid 
Date: 18 April 2010

Chennaih (left, in yellow shirt), with Zaid at a meet-the-people session on the estate

TNG: When did PKR start a branch here?

Chennaih Karpiah: After the elections in 2008.

So how did you know about them in the 2008 election?

It was because of Hindraf, we heard about the gathering in Kuala Lumpur in 2007.

How did you find your former MP PKR Zainal Abidin who was very sick?

He sent his people to work with us. PAS has also come to help. They gave us RM2,500 to help repair our temple (points). PKR has also helped us get new houses here, on the condition that we work.

People say Palanivel was very popular also.

The estate temple, repaired with the help of a PAS donation

He only visits the towns. He doesn’t come to the estates. In 2007, he said he didn’t need the Indian [Malaysian] voters. He said he could count more on the Malay and Chinese [Malaysian] votes.

Would you like MIC better if Samy Vellu wasn’t the president?

Even if Samy is out and Palanivel takes over, it will be his cronies who rise. The people still won’t get anything. I am still waiting for my Maika shares. I bought RM5,000 worth 25 years ago. Till today, there is nothing. favicon

See also:
BN’s “nice guy” offer for Hulu Selangor  
On the Hulu Selangor trail
Irrelevant PR rhetoric 
Is Zaid’s drinking relevant?  
Campaign delusions and contradictions
Hulu Selangor’s significance
What will Kamalanathan do?  
Hulu Selangor’s four-corner fight

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5 Responses to “What Indian Malaysian voters want”

  1. M.K. says:

    It looks quite even up to now. Let us pray for a PR victory!

  2. lambov12 says:

    Hulu Selangor voters, WAKE UP! BANGUNLAH! Now it’s time for you to change.

    Zaid Ibrahim is definitely a better choice to be your MP. Not all Malaysians enjoy to have such an MP in their area.

  3. shocked says:

    “I have to vote BN because I am a teacher. People say they can know [how you voted] because there is a serial number [on the ballot]. Anyway, I feel free to vote for BN because I studied in a government school and went to a government university.”

    First respondent’s reply is really saddening, fully based on ignorance and fear towards government. Sigh, this is the state that most people are in…they should all WAKE UP! Government school, government university, it’s all the RAKYATs MONEY! It’s your RIGHTS to have a proper education. I hope you conveyed this message to her! SIGH!

  4. YM says:

    The BN lies again — before voting, they do this and that; after [voting], they are gone. Why not give the PR a chance to serve better!

  5. Daas says:

    Sigh, I am really disappointed by the respondents in this interview. Voting for the sake of loyalty and “My heart is with BN and MIC”. I wish they understand that loyalty to the political parties gives them nothing, but to measure the efficiency of the political party on the basis of community’s well being is far more important.

    Besides, I am also a student of a public university, but I do go against the corrupted and useless education system that Malaysia has.

    “He freed the Hindraf people from prison. And he has come here to this area. The prime minister before him never did”. LOL. So if Osama bin Laden visits the area, he will be a good man then? Freeing Hindraf from prison? Haha, come on people, look at yourselves, ask yourselves, are you living in a good condition? And if not, do you want your future generation to suffer the same fate?

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