The rally organised by Hindraf appears as a last resort to get the government to treat the Indian community with respect.
(Free Malaysia Today) When Malay-rights group Perkasa keeps making racist remarks, does it translate to all Malays’ being racist? If not, then what made the Barisan Nasional (BN) government think that all Indians out on the streets of Kuala Lumpur on Sunday were “criminals”, all because Hindraf decided to hold a rally?
The police in their bid to halt the rally to protest Umno’s racial discrimination, turned up at Human Rights Party (HRP) leader P Uthayakumar’s residence, handcuffing and taking him in for questioning.
On what grounds did the police handcuff Uthayakumar? Is he a criminal just because he organised a rally without police permit? If he is, then equally guilty are the people who demonstrated when the non-Malays complain about the loud call for prayer made by mosques.
Just as guilty are those Malays who cold-bloodedly severed a cow’s head, spit and stomp on it. And the biggest cuplrit would then be Perkasa whose founder Ibrahim Ali keeps threatening non-Malays to shut up and not question Malay rights.
Have the police taken any action against them? No and it seems the police never will.
The “Solidarity Against Umno’s Racism” march, organised by two ethnic Indian groups, the Hindu Rights Action Force and Huma Rights Party at Kuala Lumpur on Feb 27 was to protest against the government’s decision to ignore the Indian community’s strong objections over the disparaging contents in the novel “Interlok” which is a compulsory reading material for Form Five students.
On Feb 24, the Dang Wangi police rejected a formal request made by W Sambulingam, national coordinator of Hindraf, to hold the rally.
Granted that such rallies cause great inconvenience to the public and temporarily paralyse the city’s activities but what prompted it in the first place?
To keep warning the people to stay away from such rallies and not challenge the police authority is nothing but an act of bully. Is it a coincidence or deliberate move to target the Indians all because they are unhappy over the discrimination they have been putting up with? The move by the police to nab any Indian found walking on the streets of Kuala Lumpur to teach all Indians a lessons is not going to place Umno in the good books of this community.
When national laureate Abdullah Hussain goes and portrays the Chinese and Indians in a degrading manner in his book Interlok, what should be done to avoid racial conflict? Would it not be best that such a reading material be withdrawn due to its contentious nature? Instead, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also education minister, showed no empathy and decided Interlok would remain as a reading material for students but with alterations.
Rallies a last resort
But then Muhyiddin’s reaction was not a surprise since it was he who proudly claimed that he is “Malay first” and then a Malaysian.
Life always presents us with options and in Hindraf’s case, it could have decided to not go ahead with its rallies. But it did. Why? Is the purpose solely to gain political mileage? Looking at the state-of-affairs affecting the Indians, the rallies appear as a last resort to get the government to “wake up” and treat the Indian community with respect.
Yes, the rallies pose a headache to the lay person but then this seems the only way to get the “powers that be” to sit up and realise their folly. Also, unlike the cow head carried by Muslim protesters, Hindraf demonstrators did no such thing – all they ask is for their grouses to be heard and addressed in a fair manner.
How would the Indians have felt when former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad claimed that this country belongs to the Malays by virtue of it once being called “Tanah Melayu”?
The country achieved independence 53 years ago but racial discord among people of different faiths is still going strong. Why?
The nation’s oil and gas company, Petronas, takes great pride in splashing money to build mosques throughout the country. But for the non-Malays, they have to work hard at getting funds to construct their places of worship. Why this discrimination?
When issues concerning Malay rights assured under Article 153 of the Federal Constitution are raised, the Malays are quick to threaten the non-Malays, to the point of willing to kill those who question privileges enjoyed by the Malays. Is there no decent way to react apart from threats of bloodshed?
It is no exaggeration to say that the plight of the Indian community has long been ignored. It is bad enough that the MIC failed to champion the welfare of the Indians, resulting in entities like Hindraf taking shape. Why did MIC not protect the rights of the Indians and what was holding MIC back from doing so?
These days you hardly get to see an Indian face at government departments. All the top government posts are occupied by the Malays. Whatever happened to the non-Malays? Because of the discrimination and no prospect for promotion, non-Malays have moved to work in the private sector where they do get some recogntion for their efforts.
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s 1Malaysia concept is hardly of concern to the fast-food chains who lack non-Malay faces at their premises. And the fact that some Malays like the residents of Section 23 in Shah Alam who refused to let a Hindu temple take shape in their neigbourhood speaks volumes of the failure of 1Malaysia.
Dead in custody
There have been several cases of Indian men caught by the police ending up dead while in custody. Why is this happening and who is looking into this matter to ensure it does not happen again?
Detainee A Kugan died in police custody and the policeman said to have physically abused him was declared a free man by the court. Why?
Malaysia’s refusal to allow the Hindraf rally to take place is an act of arrogance and disrespect. Even the call made by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) to Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein to respect Malaysia’s international and legal obligations and allow Sunday’s Solidarity March Against Racism to proceed was ignored.
HRW’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, said: “The Malaysian government’s opposition to peaceful marches results in three big losers: the rights to free expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly.”
“The Malaysian government’s commitment to diversity and development is betrayed when it refuses to permit peaceful criticism of its policies and programmes.
“Banning this march makes a mockery of the principles the government pledged to uphold when it assumed its seat on the United Nation’s Human Rights Council,” Robertson said in press statement.
Hishammuddin had earlier said that Hindraf would not get a police permit to march.
“It is a banned movement… It doesn’t have locus standi to ask for a permit,” he said.
The government banned Hindraf after it staged a massive demonstration in Kuala Lumpur in 2007. Meanwhile, HRP has applied for registration and its application is still pending.
Post-2007, has the government become so insecure and afraid of the Indian community’s anger that it quickly started a crackdown on the HRP’s right to peaceful assembly?
Recruitment drive On Feb 13, barely two weeks before the scheduled march, HRP initiated a grassroots information and recruitment drive in several states, dispatching convoys of cars loaded with activists wearing the group’s distinctive orange T-shirts and carrying posters, banners, and assorted promotional materials to various locales.
Police, however, stopped the convoys at roadblocks and diverted participants to police stations, where many were detained.
The police arrested at least 59 people on various grounds. In one instance, participants were held for driving in a convoy without a permit. In other instances, police charged the activists with illegal assembly, interference with on-duty officers, obstructing traffic and moving in a large group in a busy area.
Some participants, held overnight, were offered their freedom if they gave up their orange T-shirts, but when it became clear they would not do so, they were released on bail.
On Feb 20, police in three locations broke up HRP forums designed to explain the group’s concerns about certain issues and to continue membership recruitment. The police claimed that permission to hold the forums had been denied.
HRP leaders were among some 59 arrested and eventually all were released on bail. In a further pre-emptive move, M Gobalakrishnan, the person named on fliers as the contact for further information in Hulu Selangor, was picked up at his home by six plainclothes officers and detained hours before the local meeting was to begin. Police also sealed off the forum site. Gobalakrishnan has since been released.
In November 2007, between 10,000 and 30,000 people participated in the first Hindraf-organised demonstration.
The then prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi reportedly said that Hindraf leaders undermined national security by threatening racial and religious harmony.
Following the protest, the government detained five Hindraf leaders under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and banned Hindraf.
The rally's estimated to be 100 000 people gathered outside the Petronas Twin Towers at midnight, early Sunday morning.At least 240 people were detained, but half of them were later released. One day before the rally, police arrested three HINDRAF lawyers, P. Uthayakumar, P. Waytha Moorthy and V. Ganabatirau for sedition charges. Uthayakumar and Ganabatirau posted bail of 800 Malaysian ringgits each, but Waytha Moorthy refused bail as a sign of protest.