Malaysian Ministers must get rid of the “frog in coconut shell” mentality and learn the first basic rule of global society — we must accept and withstand international scrutiny of national policies in the same way Malaysian leaders castigate injustices of other countries like the Palestinian and Iraq issues.
Only yesterday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi spoke up for the Palestinians and criticized oppressive Israeli policies — and rightly so. Similarly, with the frequent Malaysian government criticisms of United States policy in Iraq.
However, Malaysian leaders cannot demand double-standards in international society where they exercise the right to criticize unfair policies of foreign governments like the hot-button Palestinian and Iraq issues and yet claim the privilege of being spared from international scrutiny by foreign governments and leaders on Malaysian events and developments.
This is why the outburst of the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz on Wednesday telling off the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi to “butt out” and not to interfere in Malaysian internal affairs for the Tamil Nadu leader’s comments on Sunday’s Hindraf demonstration is so ridiculous and out-of-place, as if the Malaysian government is insisting on the unilateral special rights of not being subject to any international scrutiny for its national policies while enjoying the liberty to speak out against international injustices like those affecting the Palestinians and Iraqis.
Nazri’s outburst at Karunanidhi’s call to the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take immediate and appropriate action to end the “sufferings and bad treatment” of Tamils in Malaysia was given extensive coverage in the Indian media — just like the subsequent Karunanidhi’s reaction to Nazri’s outburst.
For instance, the Calcutta Telegraph in its report headlined “Malaysian courtesy: Lay off – Karunanidhi’s plea on Tamil rights sparks war of words” said:
Karunanidhi today said it was his “duty” to “defend” Tamils and he was prepared to accept any “punishment” for doing so.
Told about the comments of Aziz, the chief minister said: “If there is any punishment for doing the duty, I am prepared to accept it.”
Karunanidhi pointed out that he did not criticise the Malaysian government. “I don’t want to reply to his (Aziz’s) remarks. I don’t want to get into a tit for tat. It is my duty to defend Tamils.”
The Calcutta Telegraph also reported on the Indian Parliament scene on the Sunday Hindraf demonstration in Kuala Lumpur –
Today, MPs from Tamil Nadu disrupted both Houses of Parliament, demanding that New Delhi pressure Kuala Lumpur to protect ethnic Indians there.
Some MPs raised slogans against Malaysia and demanded the Indian foreign minister make a statement on the issue, forcing proceedings in the Lok Sabha to be suspended briefly.
“We have expressed our concern over the condition of Indian-origin Tamils in Malaysia,” said CPI leader D. Raja, who hails from Tamil Nadu.
“They are subjected to repression and discrimination. They are fighting for equality with other sections of Malaysian people.”
The Economic Times of India today also reported the “uproar” in the Indian Parliament caused by Nazri’s response to Karunanidhi.
It said Nazri’s remarks “created a ruckus in Parliament, with parliamentarians demanding that the government, which has remained silent on the matter, take up the issue with Kuala Lumpur.”
Lok Sabha members from Tamil Nadu, cutting across party lines, on Thursday came out in full force to denounce the reported discrimination of ethnic Indians. Their noisy protest, which also got support from some other sections of the House, prompted the Speaker to adjourn the proceedings for half an hour.
Led by Congress member SK Kharaventhan, the agitated MPs spoke about purported ethnic discrimination against Indians, mostly people of Tamil origin, in Malaysia, and demanded that New Delhi address this issue immediately. As the members urged the central government to take steps to “protect” the ethnic Indians in Malaysia, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, cautious of the diplomatic sensitivity involved in the matter, asked them not to say anything that would affect relations with the friendly country.
As their protest gained momentum, some members from the BJP benches were heard referring to the alleged demolition of temples in Malaysia. On his part, the Speaker ordered some reference to the reported police attack on the Indians. “We are a very responsible democracy. We don’t discuss… any other country in such a manner,” he said. ..
In the Rajya Sabha, too, Tamil Nadu MPs registered their protest, prompting deputy chairman K Rahman Khan to come out with an assurance that the government would definitely take note of it.
The BJP asked the government to raise the issue before the UN and the Commonwealth while the CPI expressed concern over “discrimination and repression’ of people of Indian origin.”
The Malaysian Government and Cabinet must be mindful of these international repercussions which must be fully taken into account in any decisions taken by the government and police in a proper handling of the Hindraf demonstration to ensure that they can withstand international scrutiny from all viewpoints whether nation-building policies or international best practices on democracy and human rights.