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Malaysiakini
Monday March 12

Dr M rapped over Kg Medan clashes
K Kabilan and Zakiah Koya

8:59pm, Mon: Barisan Alternatif (BA) leaders today called on prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad not to incite and exacerbate racial tensions at Kampung Medan, Petaling Selatan and surrounding areas by making statements of a communal nature. The racial clashes at the Petaling Selatan squatter areas and its vicinity since last Thursday have resulted in the death of at least six persons and the arrest of 154.

PRM leader Dr Syed Husin Ali that several statements recently made by Mahathir have been “most irresponsible”. “These kind of statements are not the kind of statements that one expects from a national leader,” said Syed Husin at a press conference attended by Keadilan leaders Dr Wan Azizah Ismail and Dr Chandra Muzaffar, PAS secretary-general Nasaruddin Md Isa and DAP secretary general Kerk Kim Hock.

The BA leaders said that the prime minister’s comments over television news broadcasts could have influenced the residents in
the affected areas. Death toll figure Syed Husin also said that it appeared that certain quarters were not
revealing the “true picture of the incident”. “We get the impression that there are efforts by some quarters to downplay the incidents. It is possible that trivial incidents sparked the clashes but the problem now has become too big to be downplayed any longer,” he said.

He added the authorities should not conceal the number of persons killed. He said “reliable sources” had informed him that the actual number of fatalities could be higher than the official figure of six announced by the police. Syed Husin said that there were also initial complaints of police not acting in a completely professional manner, thus failing to bring the situation under control.

“There were allegations from some quarters that the police were not firm enough and on occasions, were one-sided in their approach,” he said. But there were also numerous reports from residents in the areas who said they found the police presence to be useful and helpful, said Syed Husin. The PRM leader said he and other BA leaders hoped to meet deputy prime minister and Home Affairs Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as soon as possible to discuss the situation in Petaling Selatan.

Poor planning

The BA leaders stressed that it was important to discuss national unity to find ways to reduce the tension and that efforts are made to solve all outstanding problems to ensure that such incidents do not recur. They said they felt that the incident in Petaling Selatan was due to the lack of socio-economic development in these areas.

“This is a result of poor policy planning and uneven national development undertaken by the government. This problem must be
resolved in order to have a good foundation for the building of a strong and durable national unity,” said Keadilan president Wan Azizah.

Chandra, meanwhile, said that the tension in the areas could have been lessened if Abdullah had visited the place soon after the
violence broke out. He said a prompt visit by then deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim to visit and talk to the fighting parties during the Kampung Rawa incident in Penang in April 1998 had helped tremendously to diffuse the tensed racial situation there.

The BA leaders said that they will be visiting the affected areas tomorrow to have a closer look at the situation.

Residents suspicious

Meanwhile, a survey by malaysiakini at the scene of the clashes showed a heavy police presence with teams of Federal Reserve Unit (FRU), police and Public Order Riot Unit (Poru) personnel stationed along the main roads, schools, coffees shops and residential areas.

The affected areas seemed to be slowly coming back to normal with shops open for business and children going to school.

The neighbourhood where the skirmishes occurred - which include Taman Datuk Harun, Kampung Lindungan, Kampung Medan, Taman Medan, Kampung Penaga, Kampung Ghandi and Kampung Muniandy - is populated by Malays, Indians and foreign Indonesian and Bangladeshi migrants and comprises of longhouses, low-cost flats, terrace houses and wooden squatter houses.

The majority of the residents are from the lower income group, most being factory workers, mechanics and small-time businessmen. The residents are still suspicious of outsiders, particularly those of not their own race.

One Indian mother was seen preparing to send off her young son to stay elsewhere while a Malay family surveyed the damage of their window-less Proton Saga. Not far away, three cars with all their windows smashed, stood as silent witnesses.

A huge mound of rubbish at Taman Medan was swiftly cleared by the authorities this morning in preparation for a visit by the deputy prime minister this afternoon. Abdullah, who met with residents there, warned that stern action would be taken against those spreading rumours.

Under control

National news agency Bernama reported Selangor police chief Nik Ismail Nik Yusuf as saying that police received 11 calls reporting fights in the area since yesterday but all turned out to be hoaxes. He said police today detained 23 more suspects, bringing the total number of those arrested to 177. Police also seized 34 more weapons last night, including knives, machetes, folding knives, iron pipes, Molotov cocktails, parangs and a tub of petrol.

Those detained were being questioned for offences under the Penal Code including murder and rioting, he added. Nik Ismail assured the residents that police had the situation under control and residents were free to move about in the area.

Monday March 12

Police urged to tell all on Kg Medan clashes
Susan Loone

6:43pm, Mon: Police should be transparent and release all information on the Kampung Medan clashes to defuse tension and
dismiss rumours regarding the situation, an opposition leader said today. Keadilan vice-president Tian Chua said that until today, the public have no clear idea on the actual sequence of the incidents and reason for the outbreak of violence.

“It is unclear whether different cases were interconnected with each other. The police should also reveal the basis for the detention of the 154 people,” he told malaysiakini. “It is totally unnecessary to conceal basic information of the situation from the public and, more importantly, the residents
themselves,” he added.

About 200 people clashed in Kampung Medan, off Old Klang Road, Petaling Jaya, on Thursday, resulting in one death and about a score of people wounded. Petaling Jaya OCPD acting SAC II Sheikh Mustafa Sheikh Ahmad said in The Sun on Saturday that the clash started when several youths playing with slingshots broke a car windscreen at the Desaria flats.

He said it had nothing to do with a previous dispute the Sunday before last between a group of people holding a wedding reception and another arranging a funeral. Since Thursday, however, six people have died after sustaining serious injuries and 37 others wounded.

‘Not ethnic conflicts’

Yesterday, Deputy Inspector-General Police Jamil Hohari said that the police have arrested 154 people of whom 95 were Malays, 56 Indians and two Indonesians. Of the 37 people who were injured in the clashes, with four seriously wounded, 34 were Indian and three Malay.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Selangor Mentri Besar Mohd Khir Toyo have stated that the incidents in Kampung Medan were not ethnic conflicts. According to police, the situation is calm at the moment.

Meanwhile, Chua said that transparency in handling sensitive communal sentiment is the key to prevent further erosion of public
confidence. “The government should mobilise civil society and neighbourhood organisations to restore goodwill,” he said, adding that such efforts must involve both Barisan Nasional and Barisan Alternatif component
parties.

Meanwhile, Parti Sosialis Malaysia S Arutchelvam urged the authorities, to calm down the situation without prejudice and dismiss all rumours and misunderstandings related to the incident. “The situation has to be addressed immediately. At the same time, we have to find out why all this is happening,” he said.

Commission of inquiry

DAP chief Lim Kit Siang called on the cabinet to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate into the causes of the clashes. He added that the cabinet must also find out why the police have failed to take pre-emptive measures after clashes on the Sunday before last.

Lim also urged the cabinet to take a serious view of the ‘inflammatory’ statement made by local Umno state assembly
representative for Kampung Medan, Norkhaila Jamaluddin, who said that the Malays have “long been patient although the Indians have attacked us again and again”.

Last Friday, Norkhaila had told malaysiakini, “Every three or four months, we hear of incidents such as these. We (the Malays) have long been patient and many have been ‘terkorban’ (ending up as victims).” Of her statement, Lim said, “The cabinet should ask Attorney-General Ainum Mohd Saaid to study as to whether Norkhaila had committed sedition in inciting ethnic clashes in her constituency and whether sedition charges should be filed against her.”

Monday March 12

Dangerous stakes of racial games
P Ramasamy

2:42pm, Mon: All is not well with race relations in Malaysia. The conflict that took place in the last few days in Kampung Lindungan, Kampung Gandhi, Taman Medan, Kampung Dato Harun and Taman Desa Ria seems to be an essentially a Malay-Indian affair.

Although the cause of the conflict was not really ethnic in nature, the row between two ethnic groups, one preparing a wedding
celebration and the other preparing funeral rites, led to a initial clash in which motorcycles and cars were damaged. In less than week, this small-scale conflict which could be have been resolved by the fast action of the police, turned into a full-blown racial clash causing the death of five persons - four Indians and one Indonesian - and injuring more than 37.

While the top government leaders want very much to downplay the racist aspect to these clashes, there are other parties which have taken sides. For instance, the state assemblywoman of Taman Medan, Norkhaila Jamaluddin, whose last election victory was assured by non-Malays and Indians in particular, came out with a statement saying that Indian provocation caused Malays to retaliate.

Saturday’s Utusan Malaysia frontpage carried a photo in which the Selangor chief minister was consoling a Malay man who was injured on his arm. An impression was given by this irresponsible paper that the victims were all Malays. Now if Umno politicians like the above and papers like Utusan Malaysia are playing the their own racial games, how can we expect a speedy solution to these conflicts? Furthermore, Indians have accused the police of inaction as the main cause of their present sufferings.

Ethnic hatred

But the greatest tragedy of racial conflict in Malaysia and elsewhere is that the real culprits seldom get punished. Those who die, suffer and get injured are innocent people, those who have no role in the particular conflict. The present recent clashes in these areas in Kuala Lumpur is testimony that those who died, injured and lost their homes are really innocent people, those who were totally unaware of happenings in their surroundings.

More importantly, these racial clashes between Malays and Indians have taken place in areas that are socially and economically
depressed. The combatants and victims are members of the working class who have real no enmity with one another. But then the nature of racial politics, symbolism of Malay dominance, the racial discrimination of Indians, class exploitation of Malays and Indians together have combined in the most nefarious ways to bring out ethnic hatred among these ethnic groups.

State agencies are themselves partly responsible for the present conflict. Years of neglect of depressed areas, lack of proper housing, lack of space for recreational purposes, lack of inter-racial committees to manage conflict and others have caused irreparable damage to inter-ethnic relations in the country.

The affected areas are not so much housing estates of the middle- and upper-middle classes, but areas of working class concentrations such as the ones mentioned earlier. Here there is little or hardly any interaction among ethnic groups. Only during elections time, these housing concentrations matter in terms of obtaining votes, but after that there is total neglect. Some of the political parties that have an idealistic conception of Malaysian politics hardly get involved to address the day-to-day
pressing problems of the working class of different ethnic origins.

Cavalier attitude

What is so glaring about these racial clashes is the fact that the law enforcement agencies such as the police hardly took the initiative to nip the problem at an earlier stage. Numerous police reports and others have not really mattered to the police. Complaints from the different ethnic groups have not registered significance with the police.

Indians generally feel that the police force, being entirely staffed by members of one race, is hardly responsive or sensitive to their grievances. Even Malays reacted harshly when there was an attempt made to put the blame on outsiders. It was pointed out to a Umno politician that despite numerous complaints, even the government took a very cavalier attitude to their problems.

A time has indeed arrived for the government to take a very serious look at the ethnic situation in the country. It is of no use calling for Malay unity when the country is about to explode into a nightmare of racial and ethnic warfare. What is needed for Malaysia at the moment are level- headed politicians who would take a more macro approach to the country’s problems.

Rather than mechanically calling for Malay unity to arrest the inevitable slide of an ethnic party, politicians should address national problems. Chief among these is the question of national unity and the promotion of better and more progressive race relations in the country. Not race relations on the basis of Malay hegemony or Ketuanan Melayu. Such symbolism merely serves the existing status-quo and not the rank and file Malays and others. I really think that the different races in Malaysia harbour no animosity against each other. It is the nature of the political system in Malaysia that is fundamentally responsible for the present state of racial and religious polarisation among the different races.

Unless the present or future governments address the root cause of racial animosity, Malaysia would make no progress politically, socially and economically. Let us seize the bull by the horns and deal with the matter with honesty, transparency and responsibility.

P RAMASAMY is a professor of political economy at the Political Science Department, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and has academic interests in Malaysian politics and labour. He has written quite extensively and is currently focusing on conflict management in Sri Lanka.

Monnday March 12

Bloody early warning signal
CHIAROSCURO
MGG Pillai

3:03pm, Mon: What frightens in five days of violence, terror and fear in Petaling Jaya is not of people killed and wounded, nor of 400 policemen surrounding an area supposedly under control, or ordering us to disbelieve rumours without telling us why when the government's leaden response suggested worse, but the cynicism surrounding it.

Where racial and political harmony is presumed with pious intonations to pat itself on the back for it, combined with
threats when official equanimity is challenged, it takes but little to throw it out of gear. When disparate communities
and races find their political, social and cultural bonds fraying with neglect and political chicanery, something must
give.

As in Malaysia. What caused the fracas last week and how it spread are unimportant. But how it was handled and
contained is. Officials insist what happened was not racially tinged, but allowed the media to suggest it was Indian
gangsters against the Malay residents. There were portentous statements of what should not, but little words
of reassurance or goodwill.

Selangor Mentri Besar Mohamed Khir Toyo, and a state assemblywoman, visited the Malay areas, but not the
Indian, in the large, deprived urban poor concentration in Petaling Jaya where it all took place, and the MIC the
Indian areas. The MCA and the Gerakan stayed out. Why? The MIC president, S Samy Vellu, went over the weekend
because he canceled an earlier visit as "security could not be guaranteed." But the PPP president and his beta noir, M
Kayveas, upstaged him and went earlier. The deputy prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, also visited the area, but
he should have gone earlier than he did.

Finger-pointing

But how they reacted told a different story. The MIC, after calling a press conference, got cold feet, and called it off.
The presence of 400 policemen, with water cannons and other paraphernalia that are a common sight at opposition
rallies, said what words could not portray. What happened was, indeed, more serious than the government was
prepared to reveal, including a measure of official panic. And, to not put a fine point to it, a semi-official finger-pointing. Malaysiakini quoted the Taman Muda state assemblywoman, Norkhaila Jamaludin as saying that the
Malays in the area have "long been patient although the Indians have attacked us again and again." In other words,
she, a government backbencher, challenges the official denial that what happened was racial.

The violence occurred in an horribly deprived area, where gangsterism predominates in appalling social, health and
economic conditions. One living nearby said it reminded him, in some areas, of the appalling slums of Mumbai. An
over-exaggeration, but it is in relative terms. Such areas exist in every major town and city in Malaysia. It does not
take much to ignite, especially if it reflects national preoccupations. The genteel racial confrontations in the national arena -
between Umno Youth and Suqiu; the PAS-Umno talks on Malay unity accentuating the racial divide, however you
look at it, between the Malays and the non-Malays; insisting one political party is not Malay because it accepts
non-Malays as members; the needling confrontation between government and Chinese community over a school
- must eventually trickle down to affect racial tension in every community. This cannot be denied.

'Betwixt the cup and the lip

When those who govern insists multiracial unity could exist only upon reaffirming the iron-clad rights of one community,
the multiracial bounds of Malaysia necessarily weakens. When political correctness suffuses it, with parties not daring to speak up even in closed-door conferences, as over the Suqiu proposals to the second National Economic Consultative Council, the bottled-up feelings must erupt when least expected.

The government should act quickly to show that what happened in the area around Taman Desa Ria is not the harbinger of what could. I would have expected cabinet ministers and multiracial groups calling on all and sundry to reassure. That has not happened. Why? If what happened was not serious, why the show of force the police laid on? Why has not Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad visited the areas yet?

The rumours that spread complicated what happened, with reports of isolated incidents far from the affected area. But what happened in Petaling Jaya is not the first. An incident last week in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, with a few casualties, involving the Malays and Indians, but distinctly not racial, raises other fears. It took Malaysia three decades from May 1969 to exorcise
the racial demon. And less than two years to reappear in a more diabolical form to strengthen the racial divide. What
happened last Thursday is an early warning signal. But isthere anyone listening?

AP International

Riot Cops Quell Malaysian Violence

by SEAN YOONG Associated Press Writer

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Riot police backed by trucks with water cannon fanned out across Kuala Lumpur's poor suburbs Sunday to quell ethnic violence that has killed five people in four days.Fights between Malays and ethnic Indians broke out early Sunday in at least two more areas on the outskirts of the city, and three people were attacked with knives overnight, said police Deputy Inspector-General Jamil Johari.At daybreak, hundreds of police manned checkpoints and stood
in groups on street corners in riot gear.

Residents said the violence stemmed from a dispute between an Indian funeral procession and Malays celebrating a
wedding. They said a drunken Indian man kicked over a chair at the Malay party, leading to a fight that quickly
escalated amid racial friction in the area.Racial divisions are a sensitive issue in Malaysia. Riots in 1969 between the dominant Malay Muslims and ethnic Chinese, the largest minority, left hundreds dead. Ethnic Indians -- who are Hindu -- account for 8 percent of Malaysia's 22 million people.

Jamil said the latest death was reported Sunday, when a man died in hospital from injuries from the fighting. Another
person died overnight, but police released no details about the victim.Four of the five people killed were ethnic Indians as were
most of those injured.Of 154 people arrested, 88 were ethnic Malays, Jamil said. Muslim Malays make up about 60 percent of the population.

State Police Chief Nik Ismail Nik Yusoff said some of those arrested would probably be charged with murder, which
carries a mandatory death penalty in Malaysia. Most people arrested faced weapons charges. Seven people had been
released and more would be freed on Monday following questioning, Nik said.The government has insisted the fighting is not racially motivated, but witnesses said the clashes were between rival ethnic groups using machete-like knives called parangs,
hockey sticks and iron staves.

Rathakrishnan Muniandy, an ethnic Indian resident, said his 19-year-old son Suresh was nearly killed in an attack
Thursday night by a group of five Malay men.''They asked my son whether he was Muslim or Hindu,'' Rathakrishnann said at the hospital where his son was being treated. ''He said Hindu, they took their parangs and slashed him in his neck and on his chest.''

Police seized 96 weapons, including eight homemade bombs, parangs, samurai swords, catapults, chains, steel pipes,
batons and axes, Jamil was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama.About 700 police were deployed to the area, which comprises five villages that are home to about 2,000 families, mostly poor laborers or squatters. Two police helicopters patrolled the skies overhead.

Speaking before Sunday's fighting, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad insisted that police would quickly bring the
situation under control.''I can assure the people that the police will look after the situation,'' Mahathir told local television. ''It will
settle down.''

Sunday, 11 March, 2001, 07:23 GMT

http://news.bbc.co.uk

Police clampdown on Malaysia violence

There have been several days of violence

By South East Asia correspondent Simon Ingram

Tension remains high in a squatter settlement on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, following
clashes between rival ethnic groups which have left at least five people dead.More than 150 people have been arrested in the troubled squatter district of Kampung Medan since trouble first erupted on Thursday.

Machetes, knives and other weapons have been seized.Dr Mahathir has says the trouble is not racially motivated The authorities have played down suggestions that the trouble, which was triggered by a petty row between Malay
Muslims and ethnic Indians, is related to ethnic tensions.Journalists who toured the area on Sunday morning say a
heavy police presence, backed up by water cannon, remains in place.

Machete-wielding youthsThe authorities are desperate to avoid any repetition of the ugly clashes of the past few days.Almost all the casualties have been ethnic Indians, members of Malaysia's third largest racial group.Community leaders have accused the police force of failing to protect them from the gangs of machete-wielding Malay youths blamed for carrying out a series of cold-blooded attacks.

Malay groups in turn say the Indians were responsible for provoking the trouble. Some families have moved out of the area fearing for their safety.Racial motive denied Government leaders have sought to play down the extent of the disturbances. Sunday's Malaysian newspapers quote the Prime Minister, Doctor Mahathir, as saying that it was wrong to describe the violence as racially motivated.

But when people start spreading rumours that Indians are attacking Malays, then people come out and clashes happen,
Doctor Mahathir said.Ever since bloody riots between Malays and ethnic Chinese in 1969, the government has regarded its record of maintaining racial harmony as one of its proudest achievements.These incidents are a reminder that while Malaysia's
problems are nowhere near as severe as those of neighbouring Indonesia, ethnic tensions still lurk beneath the surface.


L fights rumours to contain gang clashes

Govt fears unsubstantiated rumours spreading in the capital will add fuel to three days of Indian-Malay fighting, which has resulted in five deaths

By Leslie Lau IN KUALA LUMPUR

FOLLOWING three days of racially-charged clashes in a working-class area near here, the authorities are fighting
to contain unsubstantiated rumours from spreading throughout the city.Even though the fighting between Indian and Malay gangs were confined largely to a cluster of working-class neighbourhoods in the Old Klang Road area, rumours that
violence had reached other parts of the city have spread quickly.

'My men are checking all sorts of rumours when they could be better deployed to improve the security situation in the
affected areas,' Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Jamil Johari said.Five people - three Indians, one Indonesian and one whose race is still not known - have been killed since Thursday in sporadic fighting.

Racial overtones have emerged from the clashes and the authorities fear that those from outside the affected neighbourhoods could get involved in the fighting.Thursday's clashes started from a quarrel that resulted from a car accident, according to the authorities. Rumours of a gang clash spread quickly in the area and rapidly escalated into a pitched battle between rival Indian and Malay gangs.Tension is especially high among Indians because three of those killed in the clashes were from the community.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad was quick to point out that the fighting was not racial in nature, adding
that police would take action against rumour-mongers.'It is not like what happened in Indonesia,' he said late on
Saturday.

But while downplaying the incidents, the authorities here have also begun searching for explanations into why the clashes occurred between Malays and Indians.Datuk Lee Lam Thye, a member of the National Unity Advisory Panel and a former Member of Parliament, urged the government to investigate the reason for the clashes.'We cannot take inter-racial harmony in our multi-racial nation for granted,' he said.

Fighting over the last three days was triggered by a minor quarrel over a Malay wedding party and an Indian funeral
procession in the area.An Indian resident on his way to attend a relative's funeral was upset that a Malay wedding party had blocked the road and the father of the bride was assaulted subsequently.

Tension intensified over the next few days before fighting erupted on Thursday.But residents' frustrations with the authorities for not providing adequate security in the neighbourhoods are believed to be also at the root of the clashes.Police say the affected area has a high crime rate in the country. The area is also predominantly working-class and depressed despite being located just a stone's throw away from more affluent neighbourhoods in Petaling Jaya and Subang Jaya.

Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said yesterday that he would accompany Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khir Toyo for a dialogue with Indian residents there on Thursday.

Tuesday March 13

Unanswered questions on clashes: BA leaders
K Kabilan and Leong Kar Yen

6:31pm, Tue: An independent commission of inquiry must be formed to look into ‘unanswered questions’ as well as police behaviour in checking Malaysia's worst ethnic clashes since May 1969 at Kampung Medan and the surrounding areas, Barisan Alternatif (BA) leaders said today.

The leaders earlier visited victims of the clashes at the Universiti Malaya medical centre. Twenty-three victims are being treated at the hospital for slash wounds with one in critical condition at the hospital’s intensive care unit. The racial clashes at the Petaling Selatan squatter areas and its vicinity since last Thursday have resulted in the death of at least six persons and 52 injured - majority of them Indians. Hospital sources and family members, however, say that the death toll could be
higher than six.

Police have arrested 190 people for various offences, including murder and rioting, since a neighbourhood quarrel escalated into a violent clashes between the area’s Malay and Indian communities. Outsider attacks Keadilan leader Dr Chandra Muzaffar said a commission of inquiry was needed to look into the underlying causes and the factors that triggered off the racial riots.

“From what the victims told us, it appears that there are many unexplained and unanswered questions on what actually appened
there,” said Chandra. Other BA leaders said that victims had lambasted the unprofessional attitude taken by the police force after they established a strong presence in the affected areas to control the situation. Keadilan Youth leader N Gopalakrishnan said the victims had informed the BA leaders of the passive role played by the police in protecting them.

Keadilan president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said that according to some of the victims, their attackers were outsiders and people not known to them. Gopalakrishnan added: “Some of the victims also told us that their children were in the safe custody of their Malay neighbours. They claim outsiders were largely responsible for the attacks.” Waive fees Azizah also commended the efforts by doctors in attending to the injured.

PRM president Dr Syed Husin Ali, while urging the relatives to be calm, called upon the government not to impose any
hospital fees on the victims of the clashes. He hoped the government will agree to the BA leaders’ proposal for a meeting to
discuss ways on how to overcome the underlying root causes of racial tension at the Kampung Medan area.


Yesterday, the BA leaders had called for a meeting with the government as soon as possible to discuss the situation in Petaling
Selatan. The leaders stressed that it was important to find ways to reduce the tension and that efforts be made to resolve all
outstanding problems to ensure that such incidents do not recur. PM cancels visit DAP secretary general Kerk Kim Hock called upon the Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to visit the victims as well as the affected areas without delay. Mahathir was to have visited the victims at the medical centre today morning but cancelled it at the last moment.

In a statement, PAS youth leader Mahfuz Omar said the tense situation at Petaling Selatan was a result of the government’s
race-oriented policies. “The present race-oriented policies of the government will only create damage to national integration,” he said.

Meanwhile police said that the number of arrests have increased to 190, including two for rumour-mongering. Selangor police chief Nik Ismail Nik Yusoff said that the police have banned all forms of public gatherings and speeches for the time being as a result of the incident.

Yesterday 148 people were brought to court for remand orders. Police said they were being investigated for a variety of offences including murder, which carries the death penalty here.

Tuesday March 13

NGOs launch team to counter rumours
Leong Kar Yen

8:05pm, Tue: A number of non-government organisations (NGOs) have sent a fact-finding team into the areas affected by the recent racial clashes in Petaling Jaya to provide first-hand information to counter the proliferation of rumours. A coalition of 17 NGOs, calling themselves the ‘NGOs for a Violence-free community’, sent the team early this morning into Kampung Medan, the epicentre of the violence which has claimed six lives since last Thursday.

“We have set up a formal fact-finding team to compile information from the ground on a daily basis. We can then pass the information gathered to organisations such as the media and other concerned groups,” said Suaram’s Cynthia Gabriel today.

She said that there has been unsatisfactory reporting by the media and a lack of details given to the public “At the same time the government has not been very transparent on the issue,” she said. Gabriel added that the people in the affected areas should be given more information and the media ought to be more forthcoming with information in order to deter rumours, which have further inflamed an already tense situation.

The committee, which includes the NGOs Suaram, Era Consumer, Sisters in Islam and the Women’s Aid Organisation, has also sent a team to visit those injured warded at the Universiti Hospital today. When asked how the team would gather information and how it was going to differentiate between fact and rumour, Gabriel said that “the team would be getting information first-hand from the residents of the affected areas and from a cross-section of the people there”.

She lamented that rumours have circulated due the government’s lack of openness. “The authorities should inform the public as to how the incident began, how it had gotten out of hand and how the police were unable to cope definitively with the situation,” she said. Meanwhile, according to the national news agency Bernama, two suspected ‘rumour-mongers’ have been arrested.

Squatter areas

The racial clashes at the Petaling Selatan squatter areas and its vicinity since last Thursday have resulted in the death of at least six persons, 52 injured, and the arrest of 190 people. The neighbourhood where the skirmishes occurred - which include
Taman Datuk Harun, Kampung Lindungan, Kampung Medan, Taman Medan, Kampung Penaga, Kampung Ghandi and Kampung Muniandy - is populated by Malays, Indians and foreign Indonesian and Bangladeshi migrants and comprises of long houses, low-cost flats, terrace houses and wooden squatter houses.

The majority of the residents are from the lower income group, most being factory workers, mechanics and small-time businessmen. Gabriel said the NGOs will also be recruiting religious leaders to visit the troubled areas to appeal for peace and calm. “We are very concerned with what is happening and we will continue with our efforts until the problem comes to an end,” she said.

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