How to Stop Cars and Win Enemies

By Farish A. Noor

When it comes to dealing with the grouses of the Malaysian public – many of which happen to be legitimate, mind you – it would seem that the benighted leaders of our blessed country have read every single page of the stupid book.

We recall the period when we, the Malaysian public were told by our – Malaysian – government that we had the right to speak up and that our voices would be heard. We were assured that we had the right to speak, to raise our concerns, to voice our opinions and to even state our differences and disagreements in this new Utopian, idyllic public space that had appeared out of nowhere. But no sooner than had we opened our mouths to utter the first sentence beginning with “But…”, the tear gas canisters were shot in our faces, the batons were raised, the water cannons were put to work. It is hard, as I wrote not too long ago, ‘to listen to the people while you gas them in the face’.

The latest (of many) instances of back-tracking came with the defensive posture taken by the senior leadership of this country in the face of the demands voiced by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) of Malaysia. I write this as someone who is concerned about the poverty and growing income gap among all Malaysians, and not Hindus solely. And while I cannot lend my support to any grouping that is sectarian and exclusive by nature, neither can I deny the fact that many of the complaints raised by Hindraf happen to be real – or at least really felt – by the members and supporters of the movement itself.

As an analyst however my own take on what has happened with the Hindraf issue is one that is coloured by the concerns of a political scientist: Seen purely from an objective point of view, the academic in me is boggled and dumfounded by the response of the Malaysian government to date; the latest being the tear-gassing of Hindraf protesters before the very gates of the Parliament building. One wonders how and why the plethora of other alternatives were not – apparently – given serious consideration at all. Has it come to the point where calling out the riot police is the first response that the government can give to any demand emanating from civil society?

But the list of blunders does not end there: Coming back to Kuala Lumpur by bus the day before the recent Hindraf ‘roses’ protest, I – along with thousands of others – was stuck in an infernal traffic jam of Kafkaesque proportions. Many of us in the bus assumed that a major pile-up was up ahead, and expected to find a mass of mangled cars and bodies at the head of the jam.

But instead it was one – of many – road blocks set up to monitor the traffic heading towards the capital the day before the Hindraf demonstration. As we stopped for a pause and the smokers among us kissed our cancer sticks with relish, I could not help but notice that the cars and vans that were being stopped were those with Malaysians of Indian ancestry in them. Why?

That was precisely the question asked by an irate Malaysian driver whose van was stopped and who was asked to step out of the vehicle with his entire family. Before my very eyes every single one of these Malaysian-Indians – our fellow Malaysian citizens – was asked to produce his or her identity card and to explain why they were driving up to Kuala Lumpur. It struck me as odd that any Malaysian should have to explain why he or she should want to travel in her or her own country – unless of course, we are not even free to do that any longer.

A second car was stopped and three Malaysian-Indian men were asked to step out. They looked as if they were on a fishing trip as fishing rods and nets were in the boot of the car. But likewise they too were asked to walk to the desk, hand over their IDs to the policemen, give their personal details and asked what they were doing on the road that day and why.

Though none of the authority figures present at the road block made specific mention of Hindraf, I was not the only one who noticed that most of the vehicles stopped then were those with Malaysian-Indians in them. It was too glaring, too obvious to avoid and we were all embarrassed by what was happening before us, in broad daylight.

Bumming a kretek from an Indonesian worker who stepped out of his lorry and watching the scene together, my Indonesian fellow-nicotine addict quipped: “Waduh, jelas di Malaysia juga ada rasial profiling ya! Lucu sekali. Seakan Indonesia pada zaman Pak Harto…”

I replied, with more a touch of shame than humour: “Ia, mas- walaupun Suharto meninggal di Indonesia, roh-nya datang ke Malaysia!”

Now here comes the obvious question that begs to be answered: Had no-one, along the entire chain of command and responsibility, thought of the consequences of such actions? By stopping and questioning the passengers of Malaysian-Indian background on the suspicion that some of them might be attending the Hindraf rally the day after, was there not the blatant risk that the authorities would be offending many more ordinary Malaysians who felt that once again, as Malaysian-Indians, they were being singled out for unfair treatment? And if so, what have these road blocks and checks achieved, save to alienate even more Malaysian-Indians and lend weight to the claims of Hindraf? In the book of “A Hundred and One Easy Blunders for Governments to Make”, this case comes under the chapter “How to Stop Cars and Win Enemies”.

In the weeks ahead as election fever sweeps across the country, we will undoubtedly hear more of such stories of road blocks, profiling of suspected dissidents and opponents, traffic redirected, speeches disrupted, permits for assembly denied, etc. And with every single one of these calculated blunders, the critical mass of resentment, alienation, marginalisation piles up and grows higher and bigger. Political analysts are meant to make sense of politics even in the most troubled and complex of contexts, but here I am left with no compass or map to make sense of the situation: Ours has become the reactionary politics of irrationality instead.

  1. #1 by PSM on Monday, 18 February 2008 - 9:28 pm

    Is this any surprise?
    Come on, What do you expect from the PDBN (Polis Di-Barisan National)?
    I suppose this is what it was like during Pak Hartono’s time & South Africa’s Apartheid period!

  2. #2 by patriotic1994 on Monday, 18 February 2008 - 9:34 pm

    I was on my way from Puchong to KL on Saturday morning. Traffic was bad and I saw road block far away. I turned into LDP to take Damansara way, still, road block after the Intan area. It was not that jam. I am Chinese, I wore Yellow t-shirt (Yellow Saturday mah..). The police didn’t bother me and I drive smoothly over. I know they are looking for Indian!

    I was late for work that day… damn road block, totally unnecessary.

    I bet there will be zero (0) vote for MIC during this 12th GE. :-)

  3. #3 by Rakyat Teraniaya on Monday, 18 February 2008 - 9:47 pm

    Ha ha ha I like the name PDBN! Suits them correctly! The Diraja title should be stripped as the Polis Di Barisan Nasional are not respecting our Agong but are the “moon hau kau”s of Barisan Nasional.
    Yes now they stopped the cars and buses, the Polis Moon Hau Kau’s were happy that they managed to stop a bus and arrest 40 indians in it….
    Same thing happened 2 years back in Bemban Melaka when they tear down a Buddhist Temple and desecrated the Buddha Statue-the actually use bulldozer to destroy a statue of Sleeping Buddha…
    They had 200+ FRUs, Police Moon Hau Kau BN and Majlis Enforcement officers road block the road to and from Jasin town and stop every chinese from going about their business.
    This shows the brutality of the Police force.
    Let’s vote the DAP,PKR and PAS and show the moon hau kau’s the door….

  4. #4 by hotsync on Monday, 18 February 2008 - 10:06 pm

    wow its like nazi screening the jews but here we have our very own police state .. human rights where are you? what will our kids learn from this…racial hatred, discrimination…so hadari, so cruel…

    vote them out!!!

  5. #5 by Rakyat Teraniaya on Monday, 18 February 2008 - 10:12 pm

    Human rights passed away many years ago, died from heart disease with arteries clogged with corruption and cancer from decaying cells of police brutality.


  6. #6 by DarkHorse on Monday, 18 February 2008 - 10:27 pm

    Why should we whine?? Things are going our way! Let them frisk all Indians including those who do not share the same aspirations as these hindraf supporters. By treating all Indians with such a broad brush stroke, and by unnecessarily alienating them i.e. non-Tamils and non-Hindus, they may no longer sit on the fence!

  7. #7 by limkamput on Monday, 18 February 2008 - 11:26 pm

    ….but here I am left with no compass or map to make sense of the situation: Ours has become the reactionary politics of irrationality instead.

    Certainly, different people react differently. I was having dinner with some old friends and the conversation on Hindraf rally cropped up. Out of a group of 8 of us, easily two of them, without hesitation blamed the traffic snare on Hindraf members and not on the police. Similarly in other occasions I have heard of police’s strategy to create hatred on Hindraf by deliberately creating massive traffic jam. So the irrationality that we see may not be that irrational after all. There are people who actually think that it was Hindraf that was causing traffic jam and problems to businesses.

  8. #8 by cemerlang on Monday, 18 February 2008 - 11:51 pm

    It is something like when PDRM expects Chineses to solve Chineses’ problems, Natives to solve Natives’ problems, Indians to solve Indians’ problems, Malays to solve Malays’ problems etc. etc. and they just do not dare to be part of the problem solving process. The cops are only following orders. Isn’t our Prime Minister in charge of them all ?

    There is a saying. Keep your friends close. But keep your enemies closer.

    But Malaysian Indians are now standing up to their own representatives. It is time for these representatives to be accountable for their works.

    Again Barisan Nasional can do anything with the nation’s wealth because they have the overall power. They can say anything. They can do anything. Whereas the Opposition does not have this opportunity. Money can be like a magic wand. It can work wonders and it has been working wonders for Barisan Nasional for the past 50 years. Time to walk the talk. Let transparency and integrity be integrated into the management of the nation’s wealth.

  9. #9 by AhPek on Monday, 18 February 2008 - 11:51 pm

    The police strategy to indoctrinate the public into thinking Hindraf is causing the traffic as well as causing business losses due to traffic jams has currency because of the big government propaganda machine,Straits Times and the Star plus radio and television.Limkamput your asserting otherwise does not hold water,maybe only to the few converted visiting YB Lim’s blog.
    This in fact illustrates one of the most glaring disadvantages amongst many others stacked against anyone with views countering that from the authorities.

  10. #10 by AhPek on Monday, 18 February 2008 - 11:53 pm

    Correction:’…… does not hold any water …………..’.

  11. #11 by limkamput on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 - 12:29 am

    Ah pek, may be I did not put myself clear. What I was saying is: although many of us may think (and rightly so) that it is irrational for the police to do all those nonsense, but from the police point of view, it may be a rational thing to do because they (the police) believe there are people out there who actually think that traffic jams were caused by Hindraf members and the police were just doing their job. Two of my friends were such people. It is sad, but true.

  12. #12 by hiro on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 - 12:51 am

    I believe this is time to take class action and use whatever means to embarrass the government. Police harrassment is real, and under the circumstances unjustifiable. There are good judges in the courts still. We only need one to decide in favour of the people to lend legitimacy to the issues highlighted by the opposition parties.

  13. #13 by BlackEye on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 - 1:24 am

    “ is irrational for the police to do all those nonsense, but from the police point of view, it may be a rational thing to do ..”

    What do they say about dogs barking at their own shadow??

  14. #14 by peace on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 - 4:37 am

    And what did they said about the PDBN being under-staffed?

    With such lousy management and priority of task allocation, even providing the PDBN a force of another 1 million policemen will be a futile effort.


  15. #15 by brammma14 on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 - 9:14 am

    Why in the 1st place they don’t want to give permit for peaceful gathering by childrens to give roses to PM? Who want to danger the lifes of kids when arrange for this gathering. So, definetely it would be a peaceful gathering. But, PDBN tranformed the gathering as violent gathering. Everything has and end and I think the end is coming this 8th March.

  16. #16 by ktteokt on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 - 9:21 am

    PDBN is only good at action against those who are innocent and helpless. Have you seen them taking action against the powerful and guilty?

  17. #17 by reshmin on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 - 9:53 am

    Hi Bro & Sis, No matter whatever done by UMNO lead Barisan Nasional Government under the leadership of PM Tidur/Sleeping PM won’t reduce the activities of HINDRAF. We will keep on pushing for the benefits of future generation on Malaysian INDIANS in this country.


  18. #18 by badak on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 - 1:06 pm

    Pak lah one smart old man..He one Samy to step down ,Samy refuse,Now he is using HINDRAF to his adventage,UMNO members are going around asking its members not to vote for M.I.C CANDIDATES.

    Yes the opposition will win more seats but this will made UMNO even stronger. End of the day the big losers are the Chiness and Indians.


  19. #19 by mauriyaII on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 - 5:26 pm

    Now it is racial profiling of the Indians. Who would be the next? Any rational guesses?

    The MCA and GERAKAN poodle dogs of the UMNO should put on their thinking caps if the answer is not apparent.

    Stand up for fairplay, justice and equality for ONCE and be counted as men. Don’t be castrated and impotent ‘yes-men’ of UMNO.The future generations would spit on your graves and curse your parents for bringing you forth.

    The MIC dog didn’t even have the courage to stop the police from taking action on children and parents who went peacefully to present roses to the imbecile PM. He could term them as criminals.

    Hope the fence sitters in the MIC, MCA and GERAKAN would join hands to show that they are aware of the political situation in the country and vote for the Opposition.

    Your votes will count more than the votes of the others.


  20. #20 by AhPek on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 - 6:10 pm

    No, limkamput,it’s in fact the other way round ie because of the powerful government propaganda selling the idea that it is Hindraf that is causing the traffic jam and thereby also causing losses for businesses in the city large section of the public has come to think it is.That is how effective this indoctrination is ie if you keep saying it often enough people will begin to believe it.

  21. #21 by RocketDAP on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 - 7:33 pm

    The Polis thinks the road blocks will act as scare tactics but it is backfiring as people are getting upset and it shows that actual marginalization of race is happening right before our own eyes…….and Mar 8 is payback time……


  22. #22 by seals on Wednesday, 20 February 2008 - 1:10 pm

    VOTE OPPOSITION!!! Deny 2/3 for BN Vote DAP!!!!!
    VOTE OPPOSITION!!! Deny 2/3 for BN Vote DAP!!!!!
    VOTE OPPOSITION!!! Deny 2/3 for BN Vote DAP!!!!!
    VOTE OPPOSITION!!! Deny 2/3 for BN Vote DAP!!!!!
    VOTE OPPOSITION!!! Deny 2/3 for BN Vote DAP!!!!!
    VOTE OPPOSITION!!! Deny 2/3 for BN Vote DAP!!!!!
    VOTE OPPOSITION!!! Deny 2/3 for BN Vote DAP!!!!!
    VOTE OPPOSITION!!! Deny 2/3 for BN Vote DAP!!!!!
    VOTE OPPOSITION!!! Deny 2/3 for BN Vote DAP!!!!!
    VOTE OPPOSITION!!! Deny 2/3 for BN Vote DAP!!!!!
    VOTE OPPOSITION!!! Deny 2/3 for BN Vote DAP!!!!!

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