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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Malaysian Indians: Resolve the issue

One thought that the situation in Malaysia, where ethnic Malaysian Indians have been carrying out a campaign inter alia for equal rights, would sort itself out. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem so. And, what a bad time for this to happen: Malaysia is celebrating 50 years of its independence from Britain.

Background

One of the underlying causes is the issue of Malays being favoured over other immigrants in Malaysia (Bhoomiputra Policy). Then there is an issue of ethnic Indians seeking compensation from the British for the plight as it was the British who brought them in 19th century from India to Malaysia as indentured labourers.

It all came to a boil on Sunday, November 25, when thousands of Indians gathered, in violation of a court stricture. One of the aims of the rally was to demand the compensation. The rally was broken up by the police. The next day the protesters, who had been charged with sedition, were released since the prosecution could not translated the words purportedly uttered in Tamil.

Then charges and countercharges were traded back and forth between government and political leaders in Malaysia and India. Even PMs of two countries spoke on the issue. Things now have taken a new twist, with 31 of the protesters being rearrested and charged with attempt to murder -- on Dec 4, 26 were charged, and the next day 5 more and the bail applications of all of them were rejected.

Here are links to two blog posts on this by Sophie:
Possible fallout

The unfortunate result of all such agitations is that the real issue gets pushed to the sidelines. I think whatever issues the immigrants have they must present it in such a way that the Malaysian would do well to address it. Now for at least some time the focus will be on the court case: the attempt to murder a police officer during the Nov 25 rally.

Discrimination on whatever counts need to be redressed. But I don't think it will serve the Indians' cause well, if they violate established rules of the land. Mahatma Gandhi managed to bring British empire to its knees by violating the rules and gathering mass support. But times have changed. Even the Mahatma would have modified his agitational approach to suit today's realities.

What should be done

Every nation, just like India, is conscious of its identity and security. How sensitive are Indian politicians and people when it comes to foreigners! Forget foreigners, each Indian state and its people are so conscious of the language and culture that their possessive obsession and intolerance find expression in many covert and overt ways. So, to that extent one has to recognise Malaysia's right to ensure discipline and order in their society.

I guess organisations like the Hindraf (Hindu Rights Actions Force) should try to change the anomalies by being within the Malaysian system; not by forcing itself out. Indian have a representation in the coalition government -- Malaysian Indian Congress is their party and its president Samy Velu is also a works minister.

The organisers of the movement should also realise that much of the Indian immigrant community is not as well off as, say for example, the Chinese. So, it's important that the leadership of organisations like Hindraf show lots of maturity and farsightedness while resolving this matter. I don't think these issues can be sorted out on the streets. The Malaysian PM has appointed a committee to look into the anomalies in representations and benefits. The Malaysian Indian leadership should seize the opportunity and get their issues resolved.

Malaysia is a multicultural country and not without a number of underlying issues. But that should not stop it from continuing to be a model for many other such pluralistic societies. It's a Muslim country but people of all other beliefs have full freedom to practise their beliefs. That freedom should not be misused. The society and the government are much more tolerant than in some some Gulf nations or even the neighbouring Singapore. It's in the interests of all immigrants as much as of Malays themselves that this issue is not allowed to escalate.

Useful links:

10 comments:

  1. well said, pradeep. im impressed tt u have been following the saga so closely. u commented like an insider! :-)

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  2. know what - somebody mentioned to me that mahatir mohammed had Hyderabadi origins , I am not sure though - he was the one behind the 'bhumiputra' policy right?

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  3. It's surprising that a government cannot look at the issue objectively. All that sane people look forward to is fairness, and basic necessities to pursue peaceful lives.

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  4. Thanks Sophie, Maddy and Swarna. Yesterday, there were reports that a Malaysian minister had said that the Hindraf activists have LTTE connections. I thought that wasn't a remark he should have made at a time when the situation was bad enough.

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  5. Maddy:
    This 2003 article in The Hindu describes Mahathir Mohammed as "an immigrant whose grandfather came to Malaysia from Kerala..."

    I don't know if he was single handedly behind the Bhumiputhra policy. May be some Malaysian readers of this blog can clarify.

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  6. it definitely wasnt mahathir who implemented the bumiputra policy. he became pm in 1981. bumiputra policy came into effect in 1971, after the 1969 racial riots.

    it was launched by the country's second prime minister tun abdul razak. see more details here -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaysian_New_Economic_Policy

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  7. Pradeep
    U mean well by all those wise comments. You have to be a Malaysian Indian of that particular strata to be able to know, and feel the frustrations. In your country minorities are spoilt! Jinnah was clever to know that 'not all will be Gandhi when he made his deals. The first malaysian priminister was Tunku Abd Rahman who was ...how I would say..nice to non malays and had them agree to certain terms and conditions that present generations disagree. Our fore fathers forgot to see not all Malays will be like him.

    Indian in malaysia NEVER wanted a street demos. They have always voted the rulling coalision inspite of everything.In my view if they have to come to streets they have nothing to lose kind of state of mind. This is not India, you can have protest for everything. Here we don't behave like that!
    The Hindraf actually formed by a group of young Human rights lawyers who were at the ground seeing the disregard to human (Indian origin in particlar)lifes. Police shootings, deaths in custody with no enquiry, lack of opprtunties at job and education ( you should experinec it to know it my friend!)Even if you manage to get a job in government...phew the injustice...the promotions not based on merits or seniority ..can be only by race.And of late demolishing of temples as old as 100 yers. (Road side shrine have been demolished for a long time now we kind of got used to it) of late the autorities demolish deface of Gods and show utter disrespect to our values.
    Mean while these are happening the Hindraf. Sent memoes and pettitions to all parties concerned. Nothing happened.Uthaya kumar was harrased by police and seeked assylum in the UK. Didn't u hear about that?
    They even mobilised a group and submitted a pettition to the PM early this year. No one knows what happened to it.
    Every one now says ethnic cleansing claims are baseless etc. Then why not charge them in court and hear them out. What they think so?They must be having reasons. Hindraf is full of lawyers ...They should play by the rules don't you think so?
    They was a racial clash between malays and Indians due to some monir issue. Most victims Indians. Why no equiry or compentiation paid? Even human rights bodies cannot do anything. Many of these killing happned in police presence ..apparently. So is it not suspicious? Why not have an enquiry and clear the doubt.Belief
    (I am not Hindraf member. I am speaking as a Malaysian Indian, who has no faith in the MIC or Samy Velu).
    The MIC is busy making money for themselfs and their cronies.They are just office boys in the ruling coalision. The latest temple demolished was >100 years old just a week before Divali,and was demolished inspite of Samy Velu being there asking. And many devotees were beated and arrested.(See how much respect he has?.)
    But I see these guys are desperate and fed up of the way they have been treated for 10 years and wanted to send a petition to the British government. They just wanted to organise a rally...a group to peacfull gather at the british high com KL and submit it.
    The rest is history. Beyond the belief. The police made them look like demonstrators, and u know what all happened. Arrested them. Now 31 facing attempted charges of murder..with the AG personally appearing to prosecute. U see the video and tell me who is the victim?
    Pls don't think Malaysian Indians are asking too much. We do not expect India to support us.Is it too much to ask for moral support at least? We are always told to go back to India when ever we ask for anything. Look at the muslims. Irrespective of race every one is fighting for injustice to their brothers. Thats what Indians lack.

    So please safe your adivice in asking us to learn to be live in peace. We are peaceful. Even a worm will fight back if pushed to the corner, remember that my friend.
    This is the ony country you can change your race and descrimination is legal. Check it out!Hindu dead body snatched from wife, husband converts along with 5 year old child and the mother has to fight. She is asked to raise the child as a muslim.A lady married to Hindu with a kid, seperated to be rehabilitated (coz she had Muslim name/ parents) and then when she refused to be muslim, seperated from husband and child. the man has no wfe and child .The child given away to the muslim grand ma.You try live in this environment and tel me. A human being needs self respect and dignity even poor.
    You can check all my stories with other or in websites.They are all true I pledge. Thanks for caring


    Now they say the Hindraf has LTTE connections. Where is the proof? None so easy way out shut them off with ISA.Easiest way out for spineless and brainless idiots the rulling party.

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  8. Malaysian tears,

    Thanks for taking the trouble to put down that long comment. I really appreciate you for giving your side of the story.

    In fact, as I have mentioned in the blog post, I am not fully conversant with the ground realities; my knowledge is only from newsagency and other media reports from KL.

    Even while not venturing to get into the merits of the case, I wouldn't for a while think that Indians have no complaints at all.

    I was only making a point about street demonstrations, which we see in plenty here in India too. That's why, I, probably like many other people here, are quite against blockades, bandhs, hartals, strikes etc etc.

    I am not for a moment suspecting your grievances. In fact, today your PM Mr Badawi said he would look into the grievances, which in itself is a confirmation that Indians do have legitimate grievances.

    Malaysia is too good a country to be ravaged by strife. Hope the PM and all other leaders including Hindraf, will thrash out an acceptable formula to end the troubles once and for all.

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  9. Thanks for understanding. Infact i used to get annoyed at the rate u guys have bandhs etc in India. Malaysia is one of the most beautiful country, until the greedy politician abuse the system for personal gain. The ruling party goverment thinks it owns the goverment because they always win.
    All main news papers are owned by the main rpolitical party. In situation like now they will fan racial sentiments ..scare us off. The malays are basically nice people but can be violent u know muslims...
    Now the 5 heroes are behind bars without trial. Why not put them under trial? U should read malaysiakini on line for more accurate news.
    Ayway at least the 31 arrested might be released after the ridiculous attempted murder chare dropped...by order of the PM to the AG after meeting some indian organization reps.
    I can tell you no way the 5 arrested under ISA would be out unless a miracle happens! God safe them and malaysian Indians. Sorry now I reside overseas and was unable to log in sooner
    Thank you for your space..

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  10. Thanks for understanding. Infact i used to get annoyed at the rate u guys have bandhs etc in India. Malaysia is one of the most beautiful country, until the greedy politician abuse the system for personal gain. The ruling party goverment thinks it owns the goverment because they always win.
    All main news papers are owned by the main rpolitical party. In situation like now they will fan racial sentiments ..scare us off. The malays are basically nice people but can be violent u know ...
    Now the 5 heroes are behind bars without trial. Why not put them under trial? U should read malaysiakini on line for more accurate news.
    Ayway at least the 31 arrested might be released after the ridiculous attempted murder chare dropped...by order of the PM to the AG after meeting some indian organization reps.
    I can tell you no way the 5 arrested under ISA would be out unless a miracle happens! God safe them and malaysian Indians. Sorry now I reside overseas and was unable to log in sooner
    Thank you for your space..

    ReplyDelete