SEREMBAN: Gerakan vice-president Datuk Dr S. Vijayaratnam died in what is believed to be a freak accident after he fell from the rooftop of his four-storey shoplot along Jalan Tuanku Hassan.
Dr Vijayaratnam, whose clinic is located at the ground floor, had apparently gone to the rooftop to inspect a leak when he slipped and fell to his death.
The 58-year-old former Plantations and Commodities parliamentary secretary was checking the building, known as Vijaya Mahal, as some parties had expressed their interest to rent the second floor.
Datuk Dr S. Vijayaratnam.
State police chief SAC II Datuk Osman Salleh said since Dr Vijayaratnam was not seeing any patients for the day, he decided to go up to look at the condition of the top floor.
“His nurse told us that he would go to the higher floors regularly. He came in at about 11am and took the keys for the top floors from the female employee,” he said.
The first floor is rented by a law firm while the second and third floors are rented by a company which provides computer classes.
Osman said police have classifed the case as sudden death.
“Preliminary investigations revealed that he may have slipped from the rooftop. There is nothing to indicate the involvement of a third party to suggest that he had committed suicide,” he said.
A police forensics team was also brought in to look for clues.
Osman said a set of keys to the upper floors was also found beside the deceased’s body.
“At this point in time, we do not think this is politically motivated ... he has no political enemies,” he said.
Osman said Dr Vijayaratnam was still alive after the fall but succumbed to his injuries a short while later. He suffered massive head injuries.
His brother Jothiratnam 49, said he last spoke with the deceased on Oct 23 before leaving for Rome.
“He was his usual jovial self ... this is shocking,” said Jothi, a freelance lecturer.
Jothi, who returned last night, said his brother did not suffer from any medical condition which could have been a factor in him taking his own life.
A neighbour who declined to be named said the deceased had a penchant for doing repairs himself.
“This building was very special to him. If he could do the repairs himself, he would prefer to do it himself,” he said.
The deceased’s friend who did not wish to be named said Dr Vijayaratnam was supposed to meet a contractor at his house along Jalan Dato Klana Ma’amor at 10am but delayed it to noon.
“He had plans to renovate his house. The contractor rushed the deceased’s wife to the clinic when told of the incident,” he said.
Dr Vijayaratnam, who is survived by wife T. Anusha and four children aged between 11 and 26, won the Gerakan vice-presidency for the fourth consecutive term in the party polls held on Oct 11. He received the second highest number of votes from a list of 10 candidates.
The doctor-turned-politician comes from a family of politicians. His father, the late Dr S. Seevaratnam was Member of Parliament for Seremban Barat between 1969 and 1974, and was also DAP national treasurer.
His uncle, the late S. Rajaratnam, was Foreign Minister of Singapore from 1966 to the mid 1980s.
Dr Vijayaratnam entered politics in 1981, the same year he entered private practice, after having served the Government for eight years. He was appointed a senator in 2002.
“I come from a family of politicians, so I’ve always been interested in politics,” he told The Star’s BizWeek in an interview late last year.
“When you are a doctor, you meet all kinds of people – rich, poor, corporate, blue-collar and white-collar. People in sickness also tend to expose their problems because psychology is a part of medicine.
“When they open up, you get drawn into their problems. Then comes the desire to try and do something to help them,” Dr Vijayaratnam said.
The former parliamentary secretary of the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry also told BizWeek that Gerakan was his party of choice from the start because of his strong belief in a non-racial approach to Malaysian politics.
Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said he and his party colleagues were extremely shocked and saddened by Dr Vijayaratnam’s sudden demise.
“We have lost a committed comrade and a close friend,” he said in a statement. “Dr Vijayaratnam has been a very dedicated and loyal leader of Gerakan since 1980. He has been a vice-president since 1999, and was also the chairman of Gerakan’s International and Inter-ethnic Relations Bureau.
“We pay tribute to a true Malaysian. Dr Vijayaratnam frequently contributed articles to the media to articulate the party’s ideology and stand on various issues of national concern,” he said.
Gerakan members said they had lost a true Malaysian who did his best to promote integration and instil a sense of muhibbah (racial harmony) not only among party members but also with everyone he met.
Party adviser Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik said Dr Vijayaratnam’s most enduring and memorable trait was his ability to mix with anyone he met.
“He was a disciplined party leader who got on well with all members, whether they were at the leadership level or grassroots members,” he told The Star.
He said Dr Vijayaratnam’s travels around the country over the years were on his own accord and got him elected vice-president for three consecutive terms.
“We are proud to have had a leader like him,” said Dr Lim.
Party deputy president Datuk Chang Ko Yuan, who has known Dr Vijayaratnam for more than 24 years, said the man was a dedicated and committed party member.
“He is a true Malaysian who always talked and argued for ... using the Malaysian perspective to tackle issues faced by the party,” he said.
Chang described Vijayaratnam as an accessible and friendly leader who played his role to help expand the party.
Wanita chief Datuk Tan Lian Hoe said she would miss Vijayaratnam’s humility most of all.
“It is very sad and so shocking. We didn’t expect him to leave us so soon,” she said.