Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hindraf’s interpretation of the Malaysian Political reality

I refer to Ken Gan’s article in the Malaysin Mirror reproduced in Malaysia today of the 22nd of Sept 2009 titled ‘The Indian dilemma and Hindraf’.

He adds nothing new to our understanding in Malaysian politics from his article. He just repeats what is already a common refrain from the DAP/PR viewpoint. "Hindraf did not cause the tsunami of the 12th GE, Indians cannot get anywhere by engaging in monoethnic politics, the young PR state governments cannot do much, so it is unfair for Hindraf to bark up that tree, there are more Indian reps in the legislatures now than before, KBP fiasco was not a result of a Chinese government being unjust to the Indians, the key to solving the Indian problem is by need based affirmative action, not race based actions."

An episode like the destruction of Kampung Buah Pala really is revealing about the reality of Malaysian politics. It is so blatantly clear that the forces arraigned against the poor villagers are big money, the DAP/PR state government and the federal UMNO/BN government. So effectively, we have a nexus of Big Money and the State against the marginalized people –the weakest section of Malaysian society, the Indian poor. Numerically they are small, politically and economically they are weakest. The way the State and Big Money has come down on them in the last few days speaks for itself.

Ken Gan and the likes of him do not quite understand the true basis of the conflict in KBP. It is not about Chinese and Indians, it is not about which tree we should bark up. It is not that simple. It is really about the structure of power and the concentration of power in the power elite of this country and they way they operate – often with impunity . The power elite of our country are:
  1. The UMNO Putras
  2. The Chinese, Malay and Indian Big Money
  3. Big Business Executives
  4. Senior Civil Servants
  5. The Royalty
  6. The Foreign Corporations in the country

In order to understand better the way they operate let me illustrate with the following example. Enough has been written on Kampung Buah Pala, so let me take another developing situation in Penang.

The way the land issues are being dealt with in Penang is very telling about all of this. Decisions are being made craftily by the DAP/PR government in Penang that clearly favours the big moneyed developers . The latest issue is the corridor zoning issue in Tanjung Bungah in Penang. The residents of Tanjung Bungah say the State Draft Development Plan as it is written establishes the boundary of the primary corridor, which is the high density area, at a certain point before Tanjung Bungah. But the DAP/PR government now refers to the zoning map (another document, conveniently) which has extended the corridor boundary into Tanjung Bungah, which is contrary to the written document. They (DAP/PR Govt) say the Zoning map is the authoritative document not the State Draft Development Plan.

You can actually see who the DAP/PR represents in this ambiguous situation. The way they have interpreted and decided, the Developers gain and the people of Tanjung Bungah stand to lose. This decision favours Big Money. In the case of Tanjung Bungah the Penang State government cannot create the illusion of the Chinese government being wrongly accused on the basis of race. The DAP/PR government will continue to make decisions like this on land matters, because this is where they have unfettered powers and where you can see them clearest.

I give this case which is about to explode in Penang, shortly, to clarify this reality of our Malaysian Politics. The conflicts around the country today has much to do with way this Power elite operate. The instruments by which they operate are
  1. Corrupting Money
  2. Know-who Networks
  3. Control Instruments such as:
i. Parliamentary/Legislature Majority

ii. The appointment of judges

iii. The ISA

iv. The Seditions Act

v. The Official Secrets Act

  1. Synergistic use the different instruments of control
  2. Media created Illusions

It is becoming clear that it does not matter whether it is BN or PR who hold the reins of power, ultimately it is the power elite in the background,that wields true power. BN/PR are illusions of a difference. There is very little difference, especially for the poor and the marginalized. Ultimately, politics is about how the resources of the country are divided up. So more to the poor and marginalized will mean less to the rich and powerful. So when the rich and the powerful control the resource decision making levers of the country, what you can expect is a continuation of the poverty creating and marginalization processes. That is what Hindraf is realizing now after 18 months of PR governments in the 4 states. This is the politico-economic basis of this change in Hindraf’s view.

Hindraf said, recognize the heritage value of the KBP village as a basis for retaining the village for the poor – this is a reasonable position to take given the history. But Big money does not care for all this., they just brush it aside with impunity, create an illusion of greedy villagers and a racist Hindraf in the media. This is not the work of the UMNO or BN but the work of DAP and PR. So what is the difference between them in fronting for the Power Elite? Not much. When the villagers argue on the basis of their equity in the land, the entire Power Elite operate to marginalize them as powerless squatters – the courts, the police, the federal and state government and the media. So when Hindraf stands up for the Indian villagers, they are standing up against this powerful nexus in the country.

In effect Hindraf is now fast evolving to represent the interest of the Indian working class. Though it originated as a Hindu Rights Group, today it is evolving into an organization that represents the Indian working class interest. Since both UMNO and the PR both are trampling upon working class interests with impunity, Hindraf finds itself diametrically opposed to both the coalitions. And it is not afraid to speak up, so speak up it does regardless of who is involved.

Some (like Ken Gan in their supreme wisdom) may and do say this is foolish. When both sides continue to hurt you, it will only be foolish to not speak up for what is happening now for the illusion of the carrot sometime out in a dubious future. One can only be spoilers if there is going to be substantive change. When there is not going to be change, where is the issue of being a spoiler.

Ken Gan’s superficial articulation of the situation I feel is a purposeful attempt to damage the Hindraf point of view which is too close to the truth for the comfort of the Power Elite. He tries to marginalize Hindraf – creates an illusion of disarray , promotes arguments such as why is Hindraf being racist - marginalization and poverty exists in all races, mono-ethnic politics is a thing of the past and so on. People like Ken Gan just become spokespersons for the continuing source of injustice in our country against all, Malays, Chinese and Indian.

But we must all work to demolish the illusion that he and the likes of him try to create , so we can all get the change we so sorely desire. True change, not what political parties promise.
Vive La Makkal.