Looking back at his engagement with the community and asking how a person like him had all the energy to serve the people, one word probably describes best about our Papa: Passion! It has driven him all through the years as he served in various capacities. Papa was one of the first ever elected town councillor of Sungai Petani for nine years from 1953. He also served on the Prison’s Board, The Drug Rehabilitation Board, as well as the Ibrahim Secondary School Board.

            Even as children, we could see how passionate he was with this country he now calls home. One event that consumed a lot of his energy was when he was personally involved in the politics of the day to campaign for Malaya’s independence from the colonial masters. When Malaya finally obtained its Independence, our brother, Ravi, who was in Standard One, recalls: “I only remember the big parade in the big town padang in Sungai Petani, but I could see a lot of passion in Papa, who was involved in the celebration although as children we just followed along. To him, it was the birth of a nation, where he and his future generations could call, `Our homeland.’”

            At that time, Vijayan was only eight years old, but he also remembers his feelings as a young Malaysian and how Papa had educated him to love the new nation he and his compatriots had fought together to achieve the independence. On the eve of August 31, the people of Malaya from all walks of life and ethnicity came together to celebrate Independence Day. Papa drove us children around town to watch the fire crackers. We were shouting, ‘Merdeka!’ from within Papa’s Ford Consul with the registration plate number K6790. Because of Papa’s dedication to this nation, the word `Merdeka’ had special meanings to us even at that tender age. His passion for the country’s Independence has rubbed deep into each of our souls. We are all proud Malaysians.

            As children, we had known Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Sambanthan as Papa’s close friends. Papa was one of the founding members of MIC Kedah. In those days, whether Malayalees or Tamils, they worked well together for the common good of the migrant Indian community. As far as some of us could still remember, in those early days of our nationhood, we could see the spirit of comradeship in all our leaders. They were one people, one nation, working hand-in-hand for the good of the nation. This is the reason why our nation has progressed so much over the past five decades. It would be sad if racial and ethnic divides cause the country to be torn apart. We cannot afford to have racist remarks being made by individuals, which will achieve nothing but destroy the harmony of the racial mix in this country.

As a young boy growing up in Sungai Petani, our brother Ravi still has some fond memories of our Papa being the social worker and a grass-roots politician that he was:

 

“Papa was very active socially and politically. I remember vividly my father entertaining the late Tun V. T. Sambanthan and V. Manickavasagam at our home at different times. Once, when I was about five years old, I was standing next to him, when he lit a cigarette as a social response to his political guest.  I asked him whether I could try the cigarette.  He agreed, and I inhaled and coughed like crazy. I tried to inhale and coughed and coughed until I nearly vomited.  That was the last cigarette I ever touched. That is how I developed my hatred for smoking and promised myself that I would never smoke again.  Today, none of us in the family smoke.  My Papa also remains only a social drinker. He was a good role model from his younger days about the principles and values he stood for in life.”

 

            But, one thing makes Papa stand out from the rest. It is his personal integrity. While most people are into politics for their personal gains, Papa stuck to his principles and often trusted others too much.  Sometimes in politics, people lie or do double talk.  Our Papa, however, is an honest and straight man who will not lie or cheat. His greatest breakthrough could have come in the first National Elections but MCA had asked for the Alor Star seat to be re-allocated from MIC to MCA; with this, he lost his chance for ever to be nominated for a state or parliamentary seat. Although sometimes he would have wished to be richer, Papa has no regrets that he maintained his principles and values that he held and had been taught from young. He exemplified much of what the Scripture teaches, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). He is proud that his children also turned out well. As what Mohan, our brother, points out:

 

“If he had done what other politicians usually do, our lives would have been completely different in that we would have been much richer materially, our lifestyles would have been different and we would have had different priorities in life. I believe we would not have wanted to be set apart, and would have been more like others around us.”

 

            Although he had served the MIC for many years since he founded the Sungai Petani branch in 1954, Papa at times felt he was being sidelined. Although the MIC was started by a Christian, Malayalees were a minority in the party and the Tamil community preferred to choose their own kind. That is a political reality of ethnic-based parties in Malaysia. Although Papa once told Ravi to stay out of politics, he never lost his passion to serve his constituents as a councillor. As a father, he only wanted us to focus on what we enjoyed doing as young people and as students. He wanted us to study and do well in school.

     

 

 

His Political Life, A Legacy

 

 

            Ravi reveals how he has personally heeded his father’s advice. “In the 1990s, some senior Indian leaders in the public services and the MIC asked me to join the party.  I told them that I would only join, when the MIC Annual General Meeting was conducted in Malay and not in Tamil.  They felt insulted, but I had an underlying message which I hope they understood.   Whatever I have learned in politics comes directly from all the experiences of my Papa and his failures; as he talked the most to me about his life in politics and the lessons learned. We used to drive from Kuala Lumpur to Sungai Petani many times in a year when he was working in Kuala Lumpur, and therefore we had plenty of time to talk and discuss issues.”

            Even Mohan has the same feelings about politics these days. “Inadvertently, I got to learn that politics will be dirty and you cannot be successful as an honest politician. It may not be the arena for a committed Christian. I also learnt that community service was good and right to do. We have to be involved in helping others, without expecting anything in return.” Therefore, it is not extraordinary or unexpected when committed Christians in politics today fall out of favour with the “democratic popularity.”

            Such was the `Service above Self’ ethos that Papa kept for himself, which has now been passed on to his children. We do not think that Papa was a real good politician, by the standards of the world.  He has too many principles and stood by them; which caused him to never progress in party politics but his passion to serve for the good of the people is what stands out the most, as what our brother, Ravi in his article “My Tale of Two Papas as Friends”, correctly points out. He wasn’t the type who would give up easily despite being sidelined. The opportunity to serve was what he held so highly; therefore, the PJN award which came with a Datukship given by the Yang DiPertuan Agong was something he felt he deserved and it was of the Lord’s doing in His own timing.

            The man with a passion in life will never die. A successful politician does not get his stature by generating brilliances; he succeeds by keeping his principles and avoiding making ridiculous errors. His legacy will live on for many generations to come. This is what a book like this is all about.

 

 

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