Monday, December 17, 2007

Thoughts on the ISA arrests of Hindraf leaders

There is an online petition movement to protest against the use of ISA to detain the 5 Hindraf leaders. In a departure from procedural norm, the 5 were sent directly to Kamunting detention center to serve 2 years without recourse to a day in court for an open trial. I've written earlier that I would not be surprised this will happen considering how the entire government machinery (TV, radio, newspapers, etc.) have been mobilized to demonize Hindraf in any way possible, including the ultimate specious claim of their links with the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). One of the leaders, V. Ganabathirau, is a fellow party member whom Tony Pua would vouch for his strength of character and integrity.

If there is anything positive to be gained from the incarceration of these 5 men fighting for the downtrodden fellow Malaysians it would be the awakening, finally, of the Tamil Indian Malaysians from their deep slumber. Enough of the false sense of hope and belief that MIC and Umno is there to help them, let alone be their only hope for salvation. If that has been the case, 30,000 of their fellow citizens would not have braved chemical-laced water cannons and tear gas on that fateful November 25th Sunday morning. Let this serve as a wake up call and alarm that Indian Malaysians need to break the political shackles they've been locked to all this while. Let them realize that their consistent votes for the MIC and Umno all this while has been in vain. Let them realize that it's time to break out and join other fellow Malaysians in supporting and bringing about a shift in the political paradigm to an inclusive multi-racial one. Let them support leaders and parties who have that vision and are the only real solution to the troubles inflicting our country now. If there is any indication of this change, let the recent PKR ceramah in Jalan Kebun last Thursday be that as apparently more than 80% of the crowd were Indian Malaysians (I got this piece of news from the print edition of Sinchew, 15 Dec 2007). But most of all, do not let the sacrifice of the 5 Hindraf leaders be in vain. Indian Malaysians must wake up, unite with other fellow Malaysians, and act together for a better Malaysia for all.

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Friday, December 7, 2007


I have not been updating my blog for a while due to my taking some time off for a short holiday in Singapore as well as running in my first half marathon in the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon. Having just started running in July this year, I have no complaints about my performance lah...heheheh! Anyway, it's back to work now, and I think I will write a few sentences on the hottest issue plaguing our country now - HINDRAF.

I guess by now you would have been numbed either by the wide coverage of the 30,000 strong HINDRAF rally on Nov 25 in blogosphere and online media sites, or the non-stop negative coverage in the mainstream media. A week after the momentous event the word HINDRAF is still prominently visible, nevermind the fact that again the mainstream media has been ordered by the Internal Security Ministry to play down their coverage. Personally I think it's good "advice" considering how the various papers and news channels seem to fall over each other trying to their damnest best in painting the most negative, obnoxious, and outrageous angle possible to the event, as well as to the coalition itself.

However, what takes the cake thus far was the assertion by the Attorney General in court yesterday that HINDRAF is linked to the Sri Lankan Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The AG has saw it fit to personally lead the prosecution in charging 31 participants of the rally for attempted murder of a single police officer (apparently the poor guy got hit in the head by flying bricks). One wonders why he didn't choose to do so for the even more explosive court hearing of Altantuya's murder. Whatever it is, the government seems intent on blowing the issue out of all proportions. Now the IGP himself (the guy who admitted in court during Anwar's trial that he will lie in a court of law if ordered to by his superiors) has come out to reiterate the alleged HINDRAF-LTTE link.

I will be short in what I think of the whole farce. The government is having a serious credibility issue. Whatever statistics and statements they have made thus far, as well as the reaction of the rakyat shows. Some of the more memorable ones are the insistence on an inflation rate of only 2.5-2.6% this year, the still wishy-washy stand with regards to the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Shock-A-Lingam tape as well as the sorry state of the judiciary, earlier promises of revealing toll concession agreements and methodology of arriving at the 18.9% bumiputera equity figure which comes to nought, and a host of others which I believe you're familiar with. And now we have the latest which is linking a loose coalition of groups highlighting and fighting against the institutional marginalization of one of the most downtrodden segment of society with a terrorist group.

Well, it was not too long ago that various leaders of the reformasi movement and PKR were detained under the ISA for being "threats" to our national security. The then IGP claimed that these folks (included Tian Chua and RPK) were planning a violent overthrow of the Mahathir government with grenades, rocket launchers, and other armaments. Of course, not a single shred of evidence were ever produced to substantiate such wild allegations. It looks like the same is happening now with the way the police is handling the HINDRAF issue. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if the leaders would be detained under the same notorious ISA.

The thing is this. I personally do not support the wordings of the HINDRAF petition. The choice of words used such as "ethnic cleansing" really does not help in giving a good image of the leaders as being credible. Nevertheless, the key issues they are fighting for are something every Malaysians should support and recognize, which is the unfortunate marginalization of the Tamil Indian Malaysians as a result of blatant discriminatory implementation of the NEP as well as the racist Ketuanan Melayu ideology of Umno. Of course, there are other groups in Malaysia who are equally marginalized, if not worse, such as the Orang Asli and various non-Malay bumiputeras in Sabah and Sarawak, heck even the Malays themselves. But the way in which HINDRAF has responded is really a reflection of the deeply entrenched racial framework which has plagued the socio-political landscape of Malaysia for the last 50 years. Because their plight now is a result of racial policies and implementation, one really cannot blame them for responding in kind, especially considering how they've been backed into a corner for so long.

However, moving forward, HINDRAF really needs to take a less racial line, and start articulating the issues in a less confrontational manner. This is especially so when it comes to identifying their woes as a result of a particular race. Such stereotyping really would not help their cause. The key to all our problems now is because of a specific group of people - Umno. Instead of using a shotgun approach, they really should train their sight on the actual cause lest they risk alienating a whole group of non-Indian Malaysians who identify and understand the plight of their fellow citizens. Already, the way the mainstream media is being used to paint an increasingly negative picture of HINDRAF should ring alarm bells among the leaders to perhaps consider a more inclusive approach, as well as work with other NGOs and political parties. There is no point being heroes and martyrs while giving excuses for the rotten administration to lock them up in Kamunting. At this point of time the leaders should be with their supporters and people, and continue to lead them through this vital tipping point.

Some has suggested that Umno might take this opportunity to whip up sentiments among the Malays that these events are proofs that the Malays are under seige and attack, and thus reconsolidate their support base when all indications is that Umno has lost much ground. Really, why fall into such a trap and let them continue with their hegemony? In such interesting times, clear thinking and leadership should be the way. The people have marched. They have faced the brutality of the riot police. The entire country has stood up and take notice. Now is the time for HINDRAF leaders to see through their goals in a level headed manner.

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