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Keling: Some words are not a joke

Contributed by Anonymous on Sunday, October 30 @ 00:46:36 CDT

CommunityBY JANE RITIKOS Sunday Star October 30, 2005

IN polite terms, it was deja vu. In reality, it was pure racist slur.

It was a case of “oops, he did it again” when Jerai MP Datuk Badruddin Amiruddin referred to the Malaysian Indians as keling last Tuesday.

Records showed that he uttered the derogatory word in the same august house on April 21, 1998.

Badruddin: Used the word ‘keling’ to describe Malaysian Indians in Parliament again
In fact, M. Kulasegaran (DAP – Ipoh Barat) recalled that he used the term three times. At that time, Badruddin asked Kulasegaran, who was then Teluk Intan MP, why he was smiling, and said, for no reason: “Ama, apa, keling, keling, keling.”

Kulasegaran protested but Badruddin and some other backbenchers retorted by saying the opposition MP was merely being too sensitive.

They argued that there were places such as Tanjong Keling and that there was nothing wrong with it.

Last Tuesday, Badruddin gave the impression that he had short memory.

He was commenting that it was peculiar to see a male newsreader wear an earring when Chong Eng (DAP – Bukit Mertajam) noted that it was a tradition for the firstborn son in an Indian family to do so.

Badruddin replied, “I am talking about Muslims, not keling”.

Tempers flared immediately between the foes from both sides but Badruddin was unrepentant – he brushed it aside and said Malaysians in northern peninsula used the word keling to describe Indians.

Kulasegaran: ‘I will raise the matter with the A-G seeking for Badruddin to be prosecuted’
Nobody in the Dewan challenged him on this alleged “fact”. When pressure mounted from the Opposition, Badruddin said: “Aiyah, must we quarrel over a small matter like this?”

Badruddin withdrew his words, with the support of some backbenchers who wanted the matter to be done with.

The next day, Kulasegaran tried to get Badruddin referred to the Committee of Rights and Privileges but Speaker Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib dismissed it, ruling that the matter had been resolved with Badruddin’s retraction.

“The MP treated the matter as a joke,” said Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang when met outside the Dewan.

“He said that he did not mean to insult anyone but his excuse did not hold water because he was reluctant to retract it and did so only after a standoff with other MPs. He is unrepentant because we know this is not the first time.”

To his credit, Badruddin apologised on Thursday to any community if they felt he had offended them, as he believed that it was in the spirit of Hari Raya that he should seek forgiveness.

But the DAP is not taking this lightly. It has lodged not one but two police reports against Badruddin, and Kulasegaran plans to pursue the matter with the Attorney-General.

“MPs have full indemnity and immunity in the House but according to the Parliament rules, anything seditious, amounting to treason or bringing hatred or ill-feelings among the community must not be brought up.

“I will raise the matter with the Attorney-General seeking for Badruddin to be prosecuted,” he said.

Other MPs, however, felt that the matter had been settled especially now that Badruddin had retracted his words.

Idris Haron (BN – Tangga Batu), when asked about the issue, gave a cryptic explanation of the situation, saying it was about “a same sentence with two different meanings.”

Using the example of a Malay phrase, he said: “The statement mari kita mencari siput babi (let us look for snails) and mari kita mencari siput, babi (let us look for snails, you pig) gives us different meanings.”

Idris was certain that Badruddin, as a seasoned MP, did not mean to offend anyone. But this time, Badruddin’s action had affected at least one MP who was hurt by his action.

Kulasegaran, when contacted, said he encountered Badruddin in the men’s toilet after the storm and “I was very uncomfortable. I avoided him and said nothing to him. I just felt so insulted.”

During the whole fracas, it was observed that apart from Kulasegaran and the DAP, not many MPs including those of the MIC showed their concern over such a smack of racism in the august house. Even PAS was silent during the entire episode.

It was as though such a slur could well be repeated, and each side would argue that the other was being over sensitive, and no one would take it seriously.

Even Badruddin derived no pleasure from it. When asked to comment on the police report against him, the usually talkative Badruddin appeared stunned.

Perhaps in one of those rare moments of his life, he was at a loss for words. All he could say was: “I’d better not comment on it.”



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