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.

Hindraf alleges Pakatan double standard in Tanjung Tokong - Malaysiakini

Hindraf (Hindu Rights Action Front) in New York has come forward over the Aidil Fitri festive cheer period to welcome Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's pledge on Tanjung Tokong in Penang which is being touted as having heritage village status.

But the opposition leader should also be taken to task for his "chameleon-like stance" on the tragedy which befell Kampung Buah Pala in recent days, says the human and equal rights movement which groups together 30 Indian-based NGOs in Malaysia.

NONEAnwar has long been accused by the ruling Barisan Nasional, Umno in particular, of being a political chameleon.

"Why is that the state government suddenly seems to have power to resolve the issue of Tanjung Tokong but not Kampung Buah Pala?" asks Hindraf's International Coordinator, R Shan, in an exclusive email to Malaysiakini from the Big Apple.

"Anwar has been silent on the issue of Kampung Buah Pala. He failed to take a stand on behalf of the residents there."

Shan noted that Anwar had rightly stressed that land is a state matter and urged the residents and UDA (Urban Development Authority) to meet and discuss to settle amicably the issues of compensation, resettlement and preservation of the heritage value of Tanjung Tokong.

"In the case of Kampung Buah Pala, this approach was not taken and in fact brute force was employed," alleged Shan.

"The state government seemed to be powerless in the face of the developer, the police and the court. All it could do was to keep putting all the blame on the previous Gerakan-led state government while challenging the MIC."

Spin story goes out of control

"The Penang Deputy Chief Minister 2, P Ramasamy, even led a group to Kuala Lumpur to demonstrate in front of the MIC Headquarters just to side-track from the Kampung Buah Pala issue."

NONEHindraf pledged that it would hold a watching brief on Tanjung Tokong to see whether the residents there are bound by the dangerous precedent set by the Kampung Buah Pala fiasco.

And if not, it wants to know why double standards are being practiced?

However, it stressed at the same time that it did not want to see the people of Tanjung Tokong being taken for a ride by the state government as in the case of Kampung Buah Pala.

That Hindraf statement says that although the sale of the land in Kampung Buah Pala was initiated by the previous government in Penang, the Pakatan Rakyat government could have stopped the process at any time.

Instead, it continued to point fingers at the previous government at every step of the way as it spun the story out of control, Hindraf said.

Even the threat to cancel the approvals for the proposed condominium project did not materialise and in the end proved to be "a lot of hot air".

The movement also wants "the real history of Kampung Buah Pala", to be a matter of public record and "that there is a moral dimension to the sorry episode."

The fact remains, according to the movement, that the original British family which owned the land had decreed that it be held in trust by the government for its inhabitants and their descendents.

This, the government failed to do, and instead claimed it was state land and subsequently proceeded to sell it.

'Tantamount to theft'

In effect, it was tantamount to theft of the people's land, said Hindraf.

"The people fought bravely to save Kampung Buah Pala but their cause was hopeless after the state government declared that the condominium project could attract tourists," said Hindraf.

"How could an ugly project like a condominium attract tourists? As if tourists have never seen a condominium before and are coming all the way to Penang to gawk at the condominium on the Kampung Buah Pala land?"

NONEIn view of Tanjung Tokong, the Hindraf chief in New York wants Anwar to explain himself once and for all on the matter of Kampung Buah Pala and does not consider it a closed chapter.

Secondly, he wants him to give a categorical assurance that the Indian community matters to the Pakatan Rakyat and not just their votes during election time.

And finally, Hindraf wants to know how Pakatan Rakyat will redeem itself in the eyes of the Indian voters with Kampung Buah Pala hanging over its head.

"Anwar should bear in mind that thousands of Indians and other Malaysians risked their lives and poured onto the streets of Kuala Lumpur in late 2007 to press for their just and legitimate aspirations," said Shan.

"We urged the Indian electorate and all Malaysians to support Pakatan Rakyat last year when the Opposition Alliance solemnly promised that it would struggle for all Malaysians."

Hindraf report on Buah Pala

It now looks like that Anwar and Pakatan merely rode into public office on the makkal sakthi (people power) wave unleashed by Hindraf, according to Shan, "and had no intentions to consider the legitimate aspirations of the Indian community or others except themselves".

NONEHindraf, although never registered, was outlawed by the Malaysian government reportedly after a newspaper in Singapore claimed, without citing any evidence, that it had links with the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam.

Four Hindraf lawyers and a co-coordinator were also held under the Internal Security Act, allegedly as a result of the Singapore report, and released recently after several years in detention without trial.

Hindraf is now based in London and also has offices in India, Australia and New York, among other places.

Its main work is to release the Malaysian Indian Human Rights Annual Report every year. Kampung Buah Pala is expected to feature prominently in this year's report.