By Helen Ang, 17/01/01 limkitsiang.com
The authorities are now intimidating Hindraf donors. And Samy Vellu
was in India, saying everything’s hunky-dory, defending his Umno
bosses. While civil society here is grappling still with the
ramifications of the Nov 25 rally.
You may recall that Haris Ibrahim and Nat Tan were the two opinion
shapers in cyberspace advancing antipodal schools of thought on the
On Nov 24, Haris posted “Why I will not walk this Sunday and why the
walk must not proceed”, while Nat vice versa. Readership for both
websites – the People’s Parliament and Nat’s blog – experienced a sharp
spike during this period; ours eliciting 105 comments.
Increased site traffic is an indicator of the influence that
political blogs wield as opinion movers when information is blacked out
or distorted in the mainstream media. In this regard, the lacuna was a
dereliction of duty, that is, if MSM did not altogether abdicate duty
at the behest of their political masters.
The Indian grassroots agitation must have been building up
discernibly, yet the Hindraf groundswell washed upon us as suddenly as
the tsunami. Reporters, not Haris and Nat, are paid to do the job of
informing the public. When you fork over your money for your day’s
paper, you’re part-financing their operations to keep you informed.
They did not give readers value for money. They sinned by omission.
Now with the benefit of hindsight, it might be instructive to
revisit the events of November that opened the curtain to the Hindraf
When we spoke on the eve of the rally, Haris voiced his concern that
violence may be deliberately engineered. He was wary of what the
powers-that-be were capable of resorting to. I remember feeling a stab
of fear on hearing him. Usually Umno and its goons evoking May 13 would
piss me off no end but this time I had genuine apprehensions.
The security forces are all of one race. It worried me how our
police and FRU would quell the crowds all of another race, or close one
eye to provocateurs and agitators. I was indeed afraid there would be
Indian blood spilled on the streets.
It’s for this reason that Haris declared the walk must not proceed.
It is certainly not because he’s a Malay chauvinist, a presumption that
could have arisen because most of the Malay commentators had condemned
Hindraf. The movement’s non-inclusive approach was polarising and its
language had alienated the racial majority.
Nonetheless, there developed a smear campaign against Haris for not
supporting the march. I was saddened when he responded to the attacks
with: “Those who know me, know me. Those who don’t, don’t”.
This is what I know. Long before Hindraf burst onto the scene, Haris
was already standing alongside our Indian brethren. He has been
involved in the conversion-apostasy cases – from Lina Joy (whose
significant other is Indian) to Moorthy to Shamala, either as counsel
or holding a watching brief.
In fact, I interviewed Haris on the Rayappan body-snatching affair
for my Malaysiakini column. He supported the decision of the deceased’s
wife not to comply with the subpoena issued by the Syariah Court,
saying “This matter was properly to have been before the civil courts”.
Let me ask you how many Malay Muslims are willing to be associated
with such religiously-tinged controversies, let alone take up the
cases? Or be seen lending his support to a house of worship (Haris was
at the Tambak Paya temple) to protest its demolishment by the Malacca
Haris has been at the forefront of the Article 11 movement to
safeguard our constitutional guarantees to faith freedom – one of the
Hindraf struggles. He has strongly questioned the enactment of Article
121 (1A) which has led to Indian-Hindu spouses landing in court
jurisdiction limbo. He has warned about the Ketuanan Melayu-propelled
Islamisation, which among other repercussions is impacting marginalised
Indians drawn to convert.
Like Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, Haris is on the Muslim fundamentalists’
hit list. Between being accused as traitor to Islam by one camp and a
pro-Malay racist by the other, I daresay my friend – and honoured that
he considers me such – has got the balance right.
(Part 2 to follow)