After heading Malaysia's largest ethnic Indian party for over three decades, Samy Vellu on Monday stepped down as Malaysian Indian Congress president at a time when the party is exploring ways to regain the confidence of the Indian community in the country.
Seventy-four-year-old Vellu, a minister in the successive Barisan Nasional coalition government till he lost his parliament seat in 2008 elections, has been the unchallenged chief of the MIC since 1979.
Hours after Vellu announced his decision, G Palanivel succeeded him as party president. "From the moment that I go out of the room, I am no more president," Vellu said.
"I would like to announce that I am stepping down as MIC president even though my term only ends in March 2012. I made the decision to enable my successor to make the necessary preparations, especially to face the 13th general elections," he added.
Vellu said that he was happy to hand over the baton. "I know the time has come," he said, adding that party needs to work hard to bring back Indian voters. He said the Central Working Committee of the party has also endorsed Palanivel as the new president and vice-president Dr S Subramaniam as the deputy president. This decision was in line with the MIC constitution, he added.
Vellu was re-elected as president for a record 11th term in 2009, for a three-year term ending March 2012, but decided to step down earlier. The MIC is one of the 13 parties in the ruling Barisan Nasional party. The party suffered its worst defeat in the 2008 general elections, losing six of the nine parliamentary seats it contested.
Vellu, who took over as acting president in October 1979, thanked party members for their cooperation and support. "Even though I have resigned as the MIC president, I am still an MIC member and will continue to contribute my services to the Indian community and the country in other capacities," he said.
He expressed confidence that the new Palanivel-Subramaniam leadership would be able to bring more benefits for the party and the minority Indian community. "I also wish to thank Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin for all their assistance, support and cooperation given to me while I was MIC president," he said.
There have been calls from a section of ethnic Indians for Vellu to step down from the presidency after the 2008 general elections results as MIC fared miserably winning only three of the nine parliamentary seats it contested.
Vellu lost his parliamentary seat of Sungei Siput which he had held on for four terms. Most ethnic Indians, who form eight per cent of the population, extended their support during the 2008 polls to the opposition complaining that the MIC had not done enough to uplift the minority Indian community, especially Vellu, who had been at the top for more than three decades.
Sources said after his resignation, Vellu would begin his new appointment as the nation's business envoy, particularly in the field of infrastructure, to five countries -- India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.