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Monday, August 8, 2011

Astro programmes: ‘Palanivel solicited RM5m’

MIC chief G Palanivel is questioned over his use of a party letterhead to solicit for RM5 million from the Prime Minister's Department on behalf of a private company.

PETALING JAYA: MIC president G Palanivel is accused by a branch chairman of practicising cronyism by soliciting RM5 million funding from the government on behalf of a private company.

His loyalists, however, reject the claim, stating that Palanivel was not aware of the financial workings of the project – a community development TV programmes to be aired on Astro Vanavil.

The issue is over a letter signed by Palanivel on a MIC letterhead and addressed to the Prime Minister’s Department, requesting the sum for the community development TV programmes.

Palanivel, in the letter dated March 7, asked for the amount on behalf of Vanakkam Malaysia Dotcom Sdn Bhd for two programmes called “Paarvai” (Outlook) and “Malarchi” (Development).

The Tamil language programmes consist of a daily community bulletin and two weekly magazines to cater to the Indian community. Currently, only “Paarvai” is on air every weekend.

Under the proposal, the daily production cost of the 365-episode “Paarvai” is listed as RM8,000, while “Malarchi” is produced at a cost of RM40,000 for two episodes a week, other documents seen by FMT revealed.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak launched “Paarvai” at the Tamil New Year celebrations organised by MIC in April this year.

A check by FMT also revealed that Vanakkam Malaysia Dotcom is owned by M Thiagarajan, a Bernama TV Tamil news reader and RG Desigan, a former RTM staff.

‘Why not funds for education instead?’

While Palanivel’s letter sought RM5 million for the two programmes, it could not be ascertained if the full amount was disbursed by Prime Minister’s Department.

“It is not important how much the prime minister gave for the programmes. The issue is why must Palanivel ask the prime minister to fund a private outfit?” asked a MIC branch chairman.

“There are several programmes with similar content as ‘Paarvai’ being aired on Astro. So, what’s the necessity for another programme to cater to the Indian community?”
“It’s a case of Palanivel abusing his position as a leader of the Indian community and indulging in cronyism,” said the branch chairman.

He wants Palanivel to explain why he sent the proposal letter on behalf of Vanakkam Malaysia Dotcom.
“The community has been sidelined in the past 54 years, especially in education. So, what is the point of pleading for funds for TV programmes and not for education?” he asked.

When contacted, MIC information chief VS Mohan said the party had nothing to do with the programmes or the company.

“Despite the programmes being launched by the prime minister at the new year celebrations, the programmes do not belong to the MIC at all,” he said.

Palani has no knowledge over funding

However, MIC central working committee member KP Samy said that the programmes were MIC’s “brainchild”.

He said Palanivel had suggested and proposed the programmes to the government as a way to uplift the community but had no knowledge of the financial aspects.

“The budget issue involves Astro, Vanakkam Malaysia and the government,” said Samy, a close Palanivel ally.

“Of course, ‘Paarvai’ was launched during the MIC’s event but the president has no idea of any financial dealings behind the programme,” he told FMT.

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