Murder of senior Indian politician raises alarm in Malaysia


The murder of a senior ethnic Indian politician has added a violent new dimension to Malaysia’s racial politics, with one leader suggesting the killing may be intended as a message not to ‘sell out’ the community.

S. Krishnasamy was shot once in the head on Friday at the unguarded offices of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) in southern Johore state. The regional political power broker had been critical of recent protests staged by other sectors of the Indian community. S. Samy Vellu, long-time president of the MIC, said: ‘I think some people feel we are useless now and so murder is now possible.

 ‘I have ordered security to be tightened in all our party offices and security for all party leaders. I hope this gun culture is isolated and will not take root.’ Mr Samy Vellu claimed ‘some Indians’ were trying to show that the MIC had sold out the community by not backing two major public protests in November last year. Some sectors of the Indian community have complained loudly about the pro-Malay policies of the government.

 He said: ‘When people think we are no longer useful, perhaps a shoot-to-kill [policy] can happen.’ Mr Samy Vellu, a cabinet minister and respected political leader for Malaysia’s 2 million ethnic Indians, has been under huge pressure to quit since some 20,000 Indians protested on November 25, alleging discrimination and marginalisation.  The protesters, traditionally government supporters, demand Mr Samy Vellu, 71, resign and have vowed to vote for the opposition in snap elections. Polls are widely expected to be held in mid-March.

The MIC is a senior member of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s 14-party National Front coalition, and had traditionally delivered Indian votes to the government. Ethnic Indians are not as numerous as Chinese or Malays, but are regarded as political kingmakers in at least 36 of the 219 parliamentary constituencies where the other two ethnicities are about equal in number. The government has jailed five leaders of the November 25 protest saying they had ‘developed links’ to Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels, a charge their lawyers strongly deny.

 Security for Mr Samy Vellu was tightened immediately after the protest, with the addition of police bodyguards. Several public appearances were cancelled. Such measures are rare in a country were politicians and the public meet often and mix easily. Some political leaders even keep their homes open for unannounced visitors throughout the day. Such an easygoing attitude may have helped Krishnasamy’s assassin. ‘We are investigating for motives, including political motives,’ national police chief Musa Hassan said.

Krishnasamy had attacked the Hindu Rights Action Force, the organisation behind the November protest. The group has also been demanding that Mr Samy Vellu quit.

‘The murder adds a worrying dimension to our politics, which has been free of politically motivated violence,’ said James Wong, a political analyst at, an independent news website. ‘Although Malaysians frequently complain of election fraud, they largely accept the outcome of the ballot box,’ he said. ‘It is not our way to settle political scores through violence.’ ‘The murder is having a chilling effect on all of us,’ said Murugesan Kulasegaran, the lone ethnic Indian opposition member in parliament. ‘Now I have to worry about my own security.’

Public condemnation of the murder was swift. Political observers say it could influence middle-class voters who are unhappy with public protests and now are shocked by the brutality of the murder. ‘There could be a mood swing among voters because politically motivated violence is so alien to our culture,’ said Mr Wong.

The government urged Malaysians to reject extremism.

SOURCE: South China Morning Post