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Malaysian-Indian minister switches party

Kuala Lumpur, Aug 6, 2010:

Senator T. Murugiah, a deputy minister in the prime minister's department, has joined the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), the largest party of the Indians in the country.

Murugiah, who was the youth wing chief of People's Progressive Party (PPP), a smaller party with a significant number of ethnic Indians, was sacked after he fell out with PPP chief M. Kayveas, whom he tried to topple last year.

Both parties are constituents of the ruling alliance Barisan Nasional (BN).

MIC secretary general T. Rajagopalu said Murugiah had offered to bring along 10,000 new members, including his supporters from the PPP, The Star newspaper reported on its website Friday.

He claimed that the decision to accept Murugiah, who joined as an ordinary member of the MIC, was in line with Prime Minister and Barisan Nasional chairman Najib Tun Razak's wish "to see the MIC as the biggest party for Indians in the country".

Malaysia is home to 1.7 million ethnic Indians, a bulk of them Tamils, who support several parties of the ethnic Indians in the BN and opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

Most of the ethnic Indian parties are either individual-led or family-based, despite having organisational set up at different levels, resulting in feuds and differences that are aired publicly.

Another recently-formed party of the Indians, the Malaysia Makkal Sakthi Party has said it plans to hold elections by the end of October "to resolve its leadership tussle once and for all".

Party secretary general Kannan Ramasamy said Friday elections were necessary "to defuse the crisis and prevent the party from losing the support of the people".

The party has been rocked by internal conflict since the end of last year, with one faction, aligned to president R.S. Thanenthiran, and another, aligned to deputy president A. Vathemurthy, expelling each of the leaders and taking their woes to the Registrar of Societies (ROS).

All BN constituents fared badly in the general election in March 2008, losing their traditional two-thirds parliamentary majority and control of four states.

Next round of election is due in 2012, but there is speculation that Najib might advance it.



Malaysian Indian Congress