Star Tuesday, March 13, 2001 Time to put things right for Kg Medan residents News analysis by WONG CHUN WAI IT
Started with an Indian security guard on the way back from work at 3am on March 4. He found a tent erected in the middle of the narrow road in Kampung Medan, off Jalan Klang Lama, for a wedding. For reasons known to him, he became agitated and started kicking the tables and chairs.
His action angered the Malay family that was preparing for the wedding, and they rushed out to beat him up. But armed with a parang, he returned with five others to retaliate. A fight broke out. He ran towards an Indian house, a few hundred metres away, presumably for refuge where a wake was being held, contrary to earlier reports that the fight started because the funeral procession was blocked by the tent. The group of Malays, who thought he was a member of the household, then set fire to a car and two motorcycles. But the spark came four days later when fights broke out after Indian children playing with catapults broke a van windscreen.
The angry van owner, an Indian, sought compensation from the children's parents. He was joined by his driver, a Malay, but some villagers who saw the commotion thought that a Malay was threatening the Indians. By then, the rumours were flying of an Indian-Malay fight. As with all rumours, more versions followed, resulting in mounting tension among the Malays and Indians in the area. It had nothing to do with politics and religion. Both cases were trivial neighbourhood quarrels. If there was any racial element, it happened that it involved Malays and Indians.
But the incident in the squatter area has left six people dead and 24 hospitalised, as at yesterday. Police said 183 people comprising 100 Malays, 14 Indonesians including two women, and 69 Indians have been arrested. Security forces also seized almost 100 weapons including home-made bombs, machetes, knives, samurai swords, catapults, chains, steel pipes, batons and axes. The incident has shocked Malaysians, although it is an isolated case, as Malaysia has maintained an enviable record of racial harmony in its 44-year history, except for the May 13, 1969 riots. Malays and other bumiputras make up 64% of Malaysia's 22 million population, Chinese 25% and Indians about 8%.
Although Kampung Medan and the 47 surrounding areas are located in Petaling Jaya and Subang, both middle-class and racially mixed-areas, the villages are, in contrast, squalid. Their wooden houses are marked by rusty corrugated zinc roofs, small workshops and illegal workshops and stand worlds apart from the nearby glitzy Sunway Lagoon Resort Hotel. For years, the villagers in Old Klang Road, Taman Datuk Harun and Kampung Lindungan have complained of their garbage-strewn narrow streets and dusty environment. The 160,000 people in these squatter areas have had to put up with clogged drains and no proper electricity supply. Police have admitted they neglected the areas, which had achieved notoriety for gangsterism, drug addiction, juvenile delinquency, fights and even incest. Violence has been a way of life and over the last three years, there have been no fewer than 40 cases of violence involving the squatters and those living in the vicinity. In incidents over the past few days, the villagers have blamed outsiders for the violence.
But until yesterday, the police were still trying to determine whether the assailants were locals or outsiders. What is important is that police believe that the majority of the victims were innocent. The entry of Indonesians has further angered the villagers, who have to share basic necessities which they regard as luxuries. Restoring law and order would be just one aspect of returning normalcy to the area. The police have promised to set up three new police beat bases and more manpower for effective policing. There will probably be more Rukun Tetangga patrols involving vigilantes of all races and more inter-racial activities will be held. While these follow-up actions are necessary, it would not solve the plight of the squatters in the long run. The authorities must not forget the socio-economic aspects in finding a solution in Kampung Medan and its vicinity. There has been unhappiness, for example, among some segments of the villagers over the allocation of low-cost houses with accusations of favouritism.
The Malays, being a larger group, probably feel they deserve more assistance but the Indians also consider themselves marginalised by the continuing depressed living conditions. We cannot deny that these are contributing factors to racial and economic polarisation. Kampung Medan should not be a flashpoint. The authorities had better wake up because the opposition has been working in the area, understanding the growing resentment of the people. Two days ago, the authorities moved in to clean up the garbage and provided street lights after the visit of Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo. It's a case of better late than never.
The police have performed professionally in this incident, despite the expected criticism from some quarters. Having brought the situation under control, they have provided updated information to the press at least twice a day. But their efforts have also been frustrated by the need to check out every rumour. The police have done their part and now the buck is with the state government. It is the basic human right of every Malaysian citizen, irrespective of their race, to decent housing. The state government must put into place a masterplan to relocate the squatters in Selangor. On the part of the people in Kampung Gandhi and Kampung Lindungan, they have to shed their violent image. Mahatma Gandhi was a famous Indian independence fighter, known for his non-violent approach to political disputes, while lindungan means haven in Malay. These two areas have become famous overnight for the wrong reasons but our authorities have the responsibility of putting things right again.
Rumours spread quickest in the vacuum between what we are told and what is. People for their safety instinctively assume the worst. Rumours flourish best when what happened is falsified, and those who should know drop their guard to suggest what happened is worse.
The government cannot stop that by fiat, as it now tries to. So, when the deputy prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, on Monday visited the scene of last week's communal clashes in Petaling Jaya, the cynicism spread faster than the rumours. He delivered the usual homilies on why diverse races must live in multiracial amity, what he would address, at the drop of a hat, to an international forum of multicultural living.
The warmth and concern was just not there. The newspapers, radio and television stations gave him the wide banal coverage he normally gets, with no news or information that could counter the rumours or make one assess what happened. Newspapers went on their high horse to infuse nationalism and unity, to address the noble ideals of nationhood that those in power and around them tote out when challenged or, as in this case, cornered. He would have been better received if he had addressed the issues head on.
The MIC president and works minister, S Samy Vellu, did not come earlier than he did because his security could not be guaranteed. So he said, when the government insisted it was always under control and safe for people to move about. His cabinet colleague and the MP for Lembah Pantai in Kuala Lumpur, makes house calls in her constituency for it appears the violence spread, however well-contained, to her constituency, which begins a kilometre away from the Kuala Lumpur railway station.
Squalid sprawl So, is Abdullah saying what is or what should be? How does he explain why some 600 uniformed and armed policemen surround the area? Why has he not taken action against the state assemblywoman who said it was Indians who attacked the Malays, when he insists what happened is not a communal clash? Why is the police issuing a racial breakdown of those arrested, wounded, killed? Why is the media encouraged to report them? As the secretary of the National Operations Council, formed after the May 13,1969 riots, Abdullah should have known the power of getting even amongst the communities under siege.
So, why does he, as home minister now, all it? Why is there this indescribable feeling that there is more to what happened than we are told? I can understand the government's nervousness. After all, the Keadilan youth chief and the son of an Umno branch leader, Ezam Mohamed Noor, now under arrest for sedition, hails from Kampung Medan. Is the government's response arising from this? Is this why the police is out there in full force? Does the government believe the rough welcome the residents gave the Selangor mentri besar, Mohd Khir Toyo, has a political focus, and not just that the government had neglected this squalid urban sprawl amidst plenty? Cancerous boil For years, as The Star says, the area bounded by Old Klang Road, Taman Dato' Harun and Kampung Lindungan, a total of 47 separate communities in which 160,000 live, have had to put up with garbage-strewn narrow roads, clogged drains, inclement electricity, official neglect, gangsters, drug addiction, violence as a way of life, hopelessness.
This cannot be resolved by Mohamed Khir hosting a dinner for 200 from the area at his official residence in Shah Alam. Why was this not at the scene of the conflict? It would have had a greater impact. But he could not. They have questions to ask of him that they could when he left in a hurry after he was heckled badly after the clashes occurred. The government left it too late to act, and then it was piece-meal and with a tired yawn. Life went on as usual. Cabinet ministers reacted as if interrupted from their more important indolent activities.
What happened was treated as a boil that must be lanced - not with a scalpel, but a machete. But the boil was a cancer that metastasised. The rumours spread like wildfire. A six-month-old baby fights for his life, the victim of this senseless carnage that took a life of its own. There is still no sense yet of government actions but Samy Vellu promises low-cost houses for those injured.
He means, of course, the Indians in the area, for they are the worst affected. This cannot but send word, especially amongst the Indians, that they have to take the law into their own hands to get what they should have in the normal course of events. The Indians in the area have long been denied low-cost homes because of MIC near-fratricidal infighting. Wrong message In disasters like these, preaching national unity without taking steps to ensure it, is meaningless. The government should have called in the opposition parties to use their good offices as well as to reduce tension.
It did not. It never has. Like in Lunas, the population moves away from the government. And it could even get the Malays in the area to unite around it. Why should it, when the assemblywoman elected with solid Indian support - the seat would have gone to the opposition otherwise - now blames the Indians for Malay ills in the area, and the Selangor government forgot the promises it made during past elections for their vote?
This cannot be resolved by not spreading rumours: there must be someone on the ground at all times putting right the wrongs of the past. There is none. And it is probably too late to begin. Unfortunately, Abdullah's proconsular visit sent a wrong message. Rumours had nothing to do with it.
Pergaduhan yang membabitkan dua kaum di Jalan Kelang Lama, sekitar Taman Desaria, Kampung Lindungan, Kampung Ghandi, Kampung Datuk Harun dan Taman Medan, sejak 4 Mac lalu sangat membimbangkan walaupun polis telah berkali-kali memberikan jaminan bahawa keadaan sudah terkawal dan semakin pulih.
Mengikut Timbalan Ketua Polis Negara Datuk Jamil Johari, setakat kini, enam nyawa telah dikorbankan, lebih 40 orang tercedera (termasuk empat yang parah), dan 190 orang ditahan dan akan didakwa atas kesalahan-kesalahan memiliki senjata, merusuh, menyerang dan menyebabkan kecederaan serius.
Di samping senjata-senjata berbahaya yang telah dirampas, termasuk bom buatan sendiri, parang, pisau, pedang samurai, kayu lastik, rantai, paip besi, cota dan kapak, polis juga mencatatkan dua buah motosikal dan sebuah lori dibakar manakala 13 buah kenderaan - sembilan buah kereta, dua buah van, sebuah bas dan sebuah motosikal - dirosakkan.
Sehingga kini, 692 anggota Polis Simpanan Persekutuan (FRU), Rela dan pasukan bantuan kecemasan Persatuan St John telah ditempatkan di kawasan terbabit bagi mengawal keadaan, dan pasukan khas juga disediakan bagi mengiringi mereka yang berulang-alik untuk bekerja atau menghantar anak ke sekolah. Selain itu, dua buah helikopter Polis Diraja Malaysia dihantar untuk memberi khidmatnya bagi membantu mengawal dan memantau keadaan sekitar kampung-kampung terbabit. Lebih merumitkan, orang ramai masih belum diberitahu gerangan apakah yang telah berlaku di sekitar Jalan Kelang Lama itu?
Mengapakah punca-punca kecil seperti pergaduhan antara jiran yang menjalankan upacara pengebumian dan acara perkahwinan serta pergaduhan yang ditimbulkan oleh kanak-kanak nakal yang melastik serta memecahkan cermin van boleh merebak menjadi persengketaan besar-besaran yang berbau perkauman dan mengancam keselamatan manusia serta hartabenda secara serius? Profesional, telus dan tegas Polis berulang-ulang kali menasihatkan orang ramai supaya bertenang dan jangan mempercayai khabar-khabar angin mengenai pergaduhan kaum itu.
Namun, ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri kawasan itu, Norkhaila Jamaludin telah dilaporkan sebagai berkata "kononnya orang Melayu sudah lama bersabar". Beliau seolah-olah telah mengesahkan pergaduhan di Taman Medan memang bersifat perkauman, dan pendirian beliau juga sangat mengecewakan! Timbalan Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi telah memberikan arahan kepada Timbalan Ketua Polis Negara, Datuk Jamil Johari, supaya menjelaskan sepenuhnya kejadian itu dan tidak menyembunyikannya. Arahan ini wajar memandangkan begitu ramai orang India telah terbunuh dan dicederakan (5 kematian dan beberapa puluh lagi cedera).
Di samping itu, aduan-aduan telah diterima bahawa pada peringkat awal, polis diminta menjalankan tugas secara profesional, telus dan tegas. Dan lebih serius lagi ialah terdapat lima anggota tentera daripada Kem Sungai Besi dilaporkan ditahan berhubung kekecohan itu. Menteri Besar Selangor, Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo pula berpendapat beliau percaya ada anasir luar yang cuba mengganggu-gugat keharmonian dan perpaduan rakyat dengan hasrat melihat negara ini porak-peranda.
Tuduhan Menteri Besar Selangor ini memang berat, sekiranya tindakan yang pantas dan berkesan tidak diambil untuk menumpaskan anasir luar berkenaan, keharmonian kaum dan keselamatan negara kita akan senantiasa terancam! Dalam keadaan yang agak tegang dan sensitif sekarang, polis tidak menolak kemungkinan pergaduhan di sekitar Jalan Kelang Lama yang berlarutan itu akan terus merebak ke tempat lain jika penduduk terlibat terus menyebar dan mempercayai khabar angin.
Tetapi, mengapakah orang ramai tidak mempercayai maklumat yang dibekalkan oleh polis dan pihak berkuasa yang berkenaan? Mereka sebaliknya lebih rela mempercayai khabar-khabar angin yang disebarkan, kenapa? Adakah ini akibat ketidaktelusan pihak berkuasa sehingga orang ramai telah hilang kepercayaan mereka? Atau sesetengah 'akhar angin' itu memang ada kebenarannya? Memang mudah segala-gala yang telah berlaku disalahkan kepada khabar-khabar angin yang disebarkan oleh anasir-anasir jahat yang tidak dapat dikenal pasti identitinya.
Kenyataan Mahathir Saya sangsi, menyalahkan khabar angin semata-mata mungkin juga merupakan satu taktik untuk melepaskan tanggungjawab pihak-pihak terbabit. Ada pula pihak yang menyifatkan kejadian tumpah darah itu sebagai pergaduhan kumpulan-kumpulan samseng semata-mata. Pandangan ini sangat tidak adil kepada mereka yang terkorban dan masyarakat India amnya, sungguhpun gejala samseng (gangsterism) wujud di kawasan itu.
Dua fakta harus ditekankan. Pertama, samseng merupakan masalah sosial yang berkait rapat dengan sistem sosio-ekonomi negara kita, ia bukan kesalahan mana-mana komuniti atau kaum. Kedua, pergaduhan kumpulan samseng boleh dikatakan berlaku setiap hari di beberapa tempat lain di negara kita, ia tidak menimbulkan permusuhan dan ketegangan kaum seperti yang berlaku di sekitar Jalan Kelang Lama baru-baru ini. Selain menyalahkan khabar angin dan kumpulan samseng, saya fikir satu masalah yang lebih penting ialah: Bagaimanakah latar belakang atau suasana kaum yang agak buruk sekarang telah memainkan peranannya?
Dan bagaimana pula hubungan kaum yang baik itu telah dipengaruhi oleh kenyataan-kenyataan perkauman yang sering dikeluarkan oleh pemimpin-pemimpin Umno kebelakangan ini, terutamanya oleh Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad sendiri? Umpamanya, bagaimanakah reaksi orang Melayu terhadap empat agenda yang dikemukakan oleh Dr Mahathir sendiri untuk dibincangkan dalam pertemuan Umno-PAS nanti jika pertemuan tersebut berjaya dilangsungkan? Empat agenda itu ialah mengenai hak istimewa orang Melayu, bahasa Melayu, agama Islam sebagai agama rasmi dan status Raja-raja
Melayu yang kononnya telah dicabar oleh pihak-pihak tertentu daripada kaum bukan Melayu. Lebih menghampakan ialah sudah begitu lama pergaduhan dan kekecohan di sekitar Jalan Kelang Lama berlarutan, mengapakah hingga sekarang Dr
Mahathir sendiri masih belum turun ke padang untuk melawat kawasan itu dan meredakan ketegangan kaum sekarang? Api perkauman yang masih kecil lagi baik dipadam segera sebelum ia merebak menjadi kebakaran besar yang sudah barang tentu akan menjahanamkan rakyat dan negara kita pada masa akan datang! Bertindaklah sebelum terlambat!
As one group of police were dealing with an outbreak of racial violence in a poor neighbourhood of Kuala Lumpur involving rival Indian and Malay gangs, another was arresting 121
Chinese allegedly taking part in a triad initiation ceremony near Malacca. The two developments highlight the growth of ethnic-based gangs in Malaysia, which are aggravating tensions in mixed-race squatter areas, where people eke out a living in squalid surroundings. Poverty, frustration over living conditions and the prejudices of people of different races and religions contributed to the initial skirmishes in the cluster of deprived colonies south of the Federal Highway carrying commuters between the city centre and the fancy condominiums of Petaling Jaya.
The skirmishes led to pitched battles between members of Indian and Malay gangs, residents said. Gang-instigated violence is common in the area and local store-keepers have complained of having to pay protection money to both Malay and Indian groups.
The most active gangs are made up of Indians, many of whom have migrated to Kuala Lumpur from rural estates where they were raised. Several major groups of criminals, such as the Stehr Gang, named after the automatic weapon that is part of their armament, are Indian. According to a recent police study on violent crime, 38 Indian gangs, with 1,500 members, are responsible for most crime in the country.
A senior officer said that although Indians were the third largest race after the Malays and Chinese, they committed the most crimes. Malays and other indigenous people represent about 60 per cent of the population, while Chinese account for 26 per cent and Indians about eight per cent. The Malay, Chinese and Indian gangs reflect the polarisation of the three main communities. Surveys have shown that members of each race prefer the company of their own kind outside the classroom or office.
Chinese secret societies capitalise on concerns about their minority status and Malay political dominance, according to social workers, providing Chinese with a protective big brother. The alleged triad members arrested on Sunday were caught after police were alerted to a large number of cars heading into Jasmin, 25km east of Malacca. Seventy officers surrounded the area where the cars had parked and detained the suspects.
Eleven of the 121 Chinese taken into custody were students aged from 13 to 18. Police said they were being initiated into the Red Face Society, which they said has links to Hong Kong. They seized a sword, joss sticks and red ribbons and cloth, which were believed to have been used in the ceremony. 0000000000000 Troubled Malaysian district has "all the chemistry" for mayhem KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 (AFP) - The run-down Malaysian district where bloody ethnic clashes broke out has "all the chemistry" for trouble including poverty, poor housing and gangsterism, analysts said Wednesday. "The anger in
Kampung Medan is a classic case of the urban poor working for crumbs," the Star newspaper said in an analysis. Mohammad Agus Yusoff, political science lecturer at the National University, told AFP that poor infrastructure and a host of socio-economic ills bred frustration. "The area has all the chemistry for trouble.
It lacks infrastructure and consists of poor uneducated people who have been isolated and kept out of the political and economic mainstream all this while," he said. "People like them tend to rebel when they are pushed to the wall. They are taking the opportunity to show their dissatisfaction, to highlight their plight." Mohammad Agus said the clashes between ethnic Indians and Malays did not reflect overall ethnic relations.
"It did not start as an ethnic clash but erupted into one because residents there were marginalised and there is a latent dissatisfaction. But there is no tension between ethnic communities outside the area." The Star said Malays and Indians shared problems of cramped living conditions, clogged drains and garbage-strewn narrow streets. It urged the government to recognise that socio-economic problems can create ethnic tension.
"These villagers have been neglected for far too long. They should not be courted only during elections," the paper's analysis said. Six people have died, 23 are still in hospital and 220 were arrested after clashes broke out in the poor district adjoining leafy, middle-class Petaling Jaya west of Kuala Lumpur.
The immediate cause was a trivial neighbourhood quarrel -- a Malay wedding party which blocked a road and a later incident on March 8 when children playing with catapults broke a van windscreen. Vijay Shanmugam, an adviser to Pintas, said tension had built up between different communities over the years in the absence of real racial integration. "The fight showed there is both a physical and psychological separation between the two communities despite their having lived side by side for years," he said.
"There has been no rehabilitative integration program and people are insecure about their own ethnic background." Community relation committees should be established, he added. Pintas is a consultative body to the National Unity Department on social ills and racial integration. Selangor chief minister Mohamed Khir Toyo said Tuesday the state government would build 5,000 homes to resettle some 6,000 squatter families in the area. Some 100,000 people live in Taman Medan, most of them Malays.
Twenty percent are Indians and there are also Indonesian and Bangladesh immigrants. The Star said the area has the "highest number of criminal cases ranging from gangsterism, drug addition, violence, juvenile delinquency and even incest." The presence of "more aggressive" Indonesians complicated the situation, it said in its analysis, urging police to flush out illegal immigrants.
The newspaper said the government should create a more even national development program. In a separate editorial, the Star said the country must "courageously move beyond the ethnic approach" to strengthen national unity and discard an "appearance of fragility in inter-ethnic harmony" after 43 years of independence.
KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 (AFP) - The run-down Malaysian
district where bloody ethnic clashes broke out has "all the
Mohammad Agus Yusoff, political science lecturer at the
National University, told AFP that poor infrastructure and a
"People like them tend to rebel when they are pushed to the wall. They are taking the opportunity to show their dissatisfaction, to highlight their plight."Mohammad Agus said the clashes between ethnic Indians and Malays did not reflect overall ethnic relations.
"It did not start as an ethnic clash but erupted
into one because residents there were marginalised and there is a
"These villagers have been neglected for far too
long. They should not be courted only during elections," the paper's
Vijay Shanmugam, an adviser to Pintas, said tension had built up between different communities over the years in the absence of real racial integration."The fight showed there is both a physical and psychological separation between the two communities despite their having lived side by side for years," he said."There has been no rehabilitative integration program and people are insecure about their own ethnic background."
Community relation committees should be established, he
added. Pintas is a consultative body to the National Unity
Some 100,000 people live in Taman Medan, most of them
Malays. Twenty percent are Indians and there are also
The presence of "more aggressive" Indonesians
complicated the situation, it said in its analysis, urging police to
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