Archive for February 16th, 2008

Police crackdown on Hindraf rose campaign – another day of international shame for Malaysia

Another day of international shame for Malaysia – the firing of tear gas, chemically-laced water cannon and use of excessive force by the police against peaceful demonstrators and children during today’s Hindraf rose campaign in Kuala Lumpur .

Over 200 people have been arrested, reportedly including children, with allegations of manhandling by police.

Why was it necessary for the crude display of police force against peaceful Malaysians and children who wanted to use the Valentine Day to present roses to the Prime Minister at the Parliament grounds and to appeal for the immediate and unconditional release of the five Hindraf leaders unjustifiably detained in Kamunting Detention Centre under the Internal Security Act? Read the rest of this entry »


Sack Zam as “caretaker Information Minister” if he continues to misuse RTM/Information for BN propaganda and spread falsehoods against Opposition

I had commended the Election Commission Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman for fixing a 13-day campaign period for the 12th general election, which is longer than the previous five general elections between 1986 to 2004, i.e. 10 days each in 1986, 1990 and 1995, nine days in 1999 and eight days in 2004.

This is however only a small step towards conducting a free,fair and clean general election and there are many areas which the Election Commission Chairman must address to ensure that the Malaysian election system can be internationally acclaimed as of world-class standard in terms of its efficiency and being fair, free and clean.

For a start, I call on Rashid to address two issues:

Firstly, make nomination for the general election a disqualification-free process. At present, preparing for nomination is as traumatic as preparing for a major legal case for lawyers or sitting for higher degree examinations in universities.

Let us have a disqualification-free nomination process whereby no proposed candidate could be disqualified for any technical mistake in filling up the nomination form. There should only be disqualification of candidates for fraudulent claims but not for technical mistakes which should be allowed to be corrected during or even after the nomination. Read the rest of this entry »


Hindraf and the Pluralisation of the Malaysian-Indian Community

By Farish A. Noor

Since it came to the public stage of Malaysian politics the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) of Malaysia has been cast as a troubling phenomenon, but to whom? Predictably the reaction of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) and its leadership has been to respond to Hindraf’s demands by stating that it is a troublesome organisation that is bent on dividing (and consequently weakening) the Indian community. Hindraf however has defended its actions on the basis that the MIC has singularly failed to defend the interests of the Hindus of Malaysia, and that the leadership of the MIC is entirely beholden to the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition instead. The vernacular Malay press in turn has attacked Hindraf on the grounds that it was seen and cast as being ‘anti-Malay’; though Hindraf in turn has proclaimed its loyalty to the concept of Malaysia as a universal idea while rejecting the notion of Malay cultural and ethnic supremacy.

Needless to say, these manifold configurations and postures has made it difficult to locate Hindraf on the Malaysian political landscape; but it has also expanded that very same political landscape to include a new range of disaffected and marginalised political actors. What many critics have failed to recognise is that despite the verbal pyrotechnics employed by Hindraf, it has actually contributed to the pluralisation and complexification of the Indian minority, and by doing so has rendered the simplistic mode of race-based politics in Malaysia more and more difficult.

While Hindraf’s appeal to the Indian minority in Malaysia is primarily communal and sectarian it has also introduce a cleavage – both political and ontological – in the Malaysian-Indian community itself. Hindraf’s sustained efforts to highlight the marginalisation, alienation and discrimination in all walks of life did not merely challenge the staid rhetoric of the Malaysian state whose brand of multiculturalism dates back to the mode of race-relations first developed during the colonial era, but more importantly rendered hollow the MIC’s claim to be the main representative, patron and protector of the Malaysian-Indian community.

Many of the accusations levelled by the leaders of Hindraf towards the leadership of the MIC and its President Samy Vellu in particular were based on long-held grouses that were nurtured over Samy Vellu’s long stewardship of the party: During the time of Samy Vellu the MIC expanded its patronage machinery and used its educational outreach unit, the Maju Institute of Educational Development (MIED) to sponsor the education of more than 10,000 Tamil schoolchildren. In 1982 Maika Holdings was created by the MIC to help pool together the economic resources of the Indian minority so that they could collectively invest in Malaysia’s economic development. Maika however was criticised by some as a patronage arm of the MIC, despite the fact that it was built from the collected sum of RM 106 million that was raised by many poor Tamil families. Following a succession of mismanagement scandals, Maika faced serious losses and many of the Tamil families could not recover their investments. In the face of growing criticism of his leadership Samy Vellu maintained a strong grip on the MIC: S. Subramaniam, who was brought into the MIC during the time of former MIC President Manickavasagam, was one of the strongest opponents of Samy Vellu, and accused the latter of mismanagement of the party. Nonetheless Subramaniam was defeated at the MIC Annual General Meeting of 2006, shoring up Samy Vellu’s position in the party even further. Read the rest of this entry »