CPPS' Statement on Banning of HINDRAF
The Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) is disappointed with the decision taken by the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar to declare the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) an illegal organisation. This move by the Ministry of Home Affairs is an infringement on the basic human right to expression and contradicts the Prime Minister's previous commitment to opening up the democratic space and allowing more open discussion in the country.
This decision is telling of the dismal state of civil liberties in Malaysia, and sends these signals to the domestic and international community. The CPPS finds ludicrous that HINDRAF, in trying to voice out very legitimate grievances of the consistent socio-economic marginalisation of the Indian community, has been labelled as a threat to "public order, peace, security and morality" (The Star, Thursday 16 October 2008).
According to the Minister, HINDRAF would also pose a threat to the prevailing racial harmony enjoyed in Malaysia presently. This spells caution that any interest group speaking on behalf of the economic marginalisation of their particular community would be considered as a threat. Instead of banning HINDRAF, the Government should have called for an open, rational discussion in order to ascertain the problems and issues raised, and in seeking constructive solutions to overcome them.
This move may instead fuel further resentment by minority ethnic groups who are legitimately raising concerns of their particular interests. Discussion and dialogue on grievances or perceived injustices should be encouraged, not stifled.
Suppressing dissent under the guise of national peace and security is in fact counterproductive to fostering true national unity amongst the citizens of the country. Genuine national unity begins by identifying real problems and struggles being faced by all interest groups in the country. The CPPS is also concerned that the government is planning on identifying specific members of HINDRAF or anyone associated with the group.
The CPPS urges the government to reconsider its ban on HINDRAF and respond to grievances of various ethnic groups by engaging in further discussion and working towards reaching mutually beneficial solutions. This draconian method of suppression is not sustainable in the long run. It is hoped that this move by the Ministry is not the beginning of a more extensive clampdown on civil society in Malaysia.
If Malaysia truly desires to become a democratic country of developed nation status, it must not suppress opinions of any interest groups, much less those who are already downtrodden upon and at wit's end.
Tan Sri Ramon V. Navaratnam,
Director Centre for Public Policy Studies
Kuala Lumpur 16th October 2008
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