Since the “chaotic” press conference with private investigator P. Balasubramaniam’s widow on Saturday, Persatuan Minda dan Sosial Prihatin (PMSP) activist Ramesh Rao Naidu has become the talk of social media.
It was his second controversial media appearance in less than a year – the first being his involvement with former Sarawak Tribune journalist Lester Melanyi last July – and critics are accusing him of being paid by Barisan Nasional (BN) to protect its image.
But the self-professed “pro-BN” activist is unfazed by the scorn heaped on him because he feels his intentions in both cases are sincere: to expose the truth and support the political party he believes in.
He said what he did was no different than what the “pro-Pakatan NGOs like Suaram” do when it came to uncovering controversies, except he was pro-government.
“People can say whatever they want about me. I’m a BN supporter, so what do you expect from me-lah? To support PKR? I support BN and defend BN.
“But it’s not all the time I support BN. If they are wrong, they are wrong,” Ramesh said in a telephone interview with The Malaysian Insider.
Ramesh denied he was on BN’s payroll, saying he would be living a far cushier life if this were true.
“If it’s true Datuk Seri Najib Razak (has hired) me, I would have a very comfortable life. But I have not even met the PM.
“I don’t even know if the PM knows me. Though I do wish I could have a cup of coffee with him,” he added.
Ramesh said he had not always been a supporter of the ruling coalition, saying he was part of the 1997 reformasi movement and rooted for the opposition parties until they finally took power in Selangor and Penang in 2008.
Disillusioned by their “broken promises” on affordable homes and uplifting Indians, he switched allegiances after seeing BN do more “with his own eyes”.
He also found the government to be helpful whenever he met them on behalf of PMSP, which he formed in 2012 with his friends to help those in need.
Ramesh said he was driven to volunteerism because of his own difficult background, coming from a poor family and losing his parents when he was young.
“PMSP helps anyone who comes to us… We help Chinese, Indians, Malays, we help people from PKR and DAP, even.
“We don’t discriminate. In fact, 85% of the Indians I’m helping are from PKR. We have all the records in our office,” said Ramesh, who makes a living through a publishing firm he owns.
He said PMSP was made up of 15 seriously committed members who helped the needy by bringing their problems up to the relevant authorities or organising fundraisers.
And this was how PI Bala’s wife, A. Santamil Selvi, entered the picture, he said. She was among many seeking aid from his office.
“She came to me to get help for her children’s education. She needed RM20,000 to pay for their college fees. I told her I know a number of NGOs and could do a fundraiser for her.”
But being a pro-BN man, and having known both Santamil and her late husband for years, Ramesh said he decided to also get to the bottom of their allegations on Altantuya Shaariibuu’s murder.
“I asked her (Santamil), ‘did you see Altantuya being murdered’? She said ‘no’. I asked her, ‘do you know for sure Najib killed Altantuya’? She said ‘no’.
“So I told her, then how can you make such accusations? It’s not proper. You’d better clarify all this to the media,” said Ramesh.
But the press conference on Saturday went downhill when the “white man cornered her and made her angry”, said Ramesh, referring to ABC Four Corners journalist Linton Besser.
“She started well, saying ‘I want to apologise to Najib and his family’, then when the white man started to provoke her, the whole thing got out of hand.
“I don’t know why the whites are so interested in Malaysian politics. In the first place, I didn’t even invite him to the press conference, only the local media.”
He said those who accused him of bribing Santamil to appear at the press conference should provide proof.
Critics also asked how a bankrupt like him could come up with RM20,000, but Ramesh said the money was not his.
He launched a fundraiser for Santamil on Saturday, and has so far received RM1,800 from various people.
Ramesh said he expected to achieve the RM20,000 target in 10 days and would hold another press conference to announce their success and the donors.
He added that people were wrong to call him a bankrupt, adding that the courts discharged him last year, as he had been paying about RM300 to RM350 a month to settle the debts.
“I became a bankrupt because my friend used my name to buy a car and failed to service the loan. So the car got repossessed.
“He has already passed away, so I had to take full responsibility of paying the monthly instalments.” – March 14, 2016.