Indian origin politician Vijayaratnam was ‘true Malaysian’, say colleagues

November 4th, 2008 - 1:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, Nov 4 (IANS) Malaysia’s Gerakan Party leaders have described the death of their Indian origin leader S. Vijayaratnam as the “loss of a true Malaysian” - someone who did his best to promote the spirit of racial integration.Party adviser Tun Lim Keng Yaik said most enduring and memorable trait of Vijayaratnam - who studied medicine in Agra, India - was his ability to mix around.

“We are proud to have had a leader like him. He got on well with everyone, be they leaders or ordinary people,” he was quoted as saying by the star online Tuesday.

Vijayaratnam, a doctor by profession, fell to his death in a freak accident Monday. He had detected a leak in the roof of his three-storeyed house, named Vijay Mahal, and fell while trying to mend it, media reports said.

Vijayaratnam’s father S. Seeveratnam was an opposition lawmaker belonging to the Democratic Action Party (DAP) while his uncle S. Rajaratnam was the former Singapore deputy prime minister and foreign minister.

Vijayaratnam became a general practitioner on return to Malaysia before he plunged into politics.

Being from a political family with opposition persuasion, his joining the Gerakan Party in 1985 was a political coup. Gerakan, with ethnic Chinese domination, is a constituent of the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN).

His Gerakan colleague Wong Sai Wan recalled, writing in The Star newspaper: “Just a few days before nomination day of the March 8 general election, it was found that there were no Indian candidates in the Gerakan’s list.

“When I asked him why Indians were being ignored by Gerakan, Vijay (as he is known to his friends) replied, ‘Never mind-lah. Why can’t the Chinese also serve the Indians? We are all Malaysians.’ This simple reply spoke volumes about this true gentleman who genuinely believed in multi-racialism. He never saw anything beneficial in racial politics.”

He was recently elected as Gerakan vice-president for the fourth time.

Vijayaratnam was often seen as the token representative of the Indian community in the party. However, this was not a view the soft-spoken medical doctor shared.

A good friend once referred to him as Gerakan’s “holy cow” - as a leader who will always get elected in party polls.

But Vijayaratnam retorted with a smile by saying: “I am definitely holy but I am no cow.”

He was also a prolific letter writer to the opinion columns of various newspapers. In the mould of the older generation of politicians, he would type his own statements and letters, and would personally fax or e-mail them to the newspapers.

Police have ruled out foul play and classified his death as having been caused by an accident.

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