Friday, April 04, 2008

The gentle giant killer

It was a simple ‘meet the MP’ sort of thing; an after dinner soiree among friends, in affluent Taman Tun Dr Ismail, and a rather unlikely place for a socialist whose life’s work has been among the poor. But Dr M Jeyakumar (“No YB, just call me Kumar”) graciously made time to meet mates who knew him from way back in Penang and from his days at Yale. Soft-spoken Kumar who was accompanied by his wife and campaign manager Rani had come to KL to be present for a briefing at Parliament on Thursday.

Kumar (pix: malaysiavotes) took us through a simple powerpoint presentation illustrating his no-frills campaign, pointing out party faithfuls and supporters who stood with him right up to that historic March 8 victory. He praised the kawan-karib activists and the efficient jentera PAS who organised nightly ceramahs, and told of dirty tactics by UMNO.

One especially disgusting flier announced that “every vote for Kumar was a vote for another Hindu temple.” One wonders if this was one reason why the number of Malay voters eroded by 0.1%; if not for the huge increase in Chinese, Indian, and orang asli voters, the MIC supremo could well remain in power today.

He spoke of the plight of the Temiar orang aslis, how the community had been exploited and left too demoralized to stand up to government agencies. Another point that got us all talking was postal votes. So what’s it all about? How do postal votes work? No one could say for sure. Not the soon-to-be installed MP, and neither the two journos who were present that night. If the EC isn’t telling, and if journalists do not know, all these new MPs had better raise it up in Parliament, so everyone agreed.

The man who snatched Sungei Siput from Samy Velu did not look anything like the giant killer that he was, which again proves how one should never judge a book by its cover. All the more timely because it's easy to see politicians as that peculiar species better known for posturing and bluster, whose face is thicker than the callous on their hands. It’s men like Kumar who restores my faith in people. His tireless work among squatters, plantation and factory workers since 1999, speaks volumes for integrity, persistence, and selflessness.

But it’s a whole new ball game now. There’s a noticeable weight on Kumar’s shoulders; Rani’s mobile phone keeps ringing. It’s that post-election whirlwind, and I pray it won’t knock a good man off his feet.

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