8 March: How Samy Vellu met his Waterloo on his birthday

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Samy Vellu - Photograph: Malay Mail

Today, 8 March 2017, is the 81st birthday of former MIC president Samy Vellu. Benedict Lopez recalls how the outspoken politician met his downfall in one of the country’s biggest electoral shocks.

I vividly remember Malaysia’s 12th general election was also held on 8 March 2008, which fell on International Women’s Day.

All Samy Vellu’s supporters were gathered in Sungai Siput with a big cake and garlands to celebrate not only his birthday but also his expected victory in the Sungai Siput parliamentary seat. A large pull-out in a local Tamil daily was also reportedly planned.

But as the results trickled in, it dawned upon everyone that Big Sam would finally meet his Waterloo. So, all his supporters quietly dispersed.

Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj

When the final results were announced, the brash, flamboyant Samy, who had been a member of Parliament for 34 years, was humbled by a humble respiratory physician (Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj of Parti Sosialis Malaysia) on his third attempt!

It was bitter medicine for Samy, who once said, “An army can come (to Sungai Siput) but I know how to fight it out.”

“The people in Sungai Siput are with me. They are my strength. I have strived for them and served them.

“I have made Sungai Siput a very beautiful town. Not only that, I have solved every problem of the community. I have made Sungai Siput a really good place to live in.”

Famous last words.

So at least two lessons for the rest of us:

  • pride comes before a fall
  • we should never give up, even in the face of formidable odds

Carry on the struggle.

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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. An eternal optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits and privileges found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one that he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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