WHAT lies ahead for the Indian community? That’s the question of the moment in the wake of the Nov 25 protest that saw thousands of Indians venting their anger and unhappiness in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
As for the sole party representing the community in the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, the more pertinent questions are: Whither the MIC? or, Will the MIC wither?
The party is loath to admit it, but a great deal needs to be done to bring the majority of Indians back to its politics of consensus and compromise instead of letting them veer off into the perilous politics of confrontation.
To be fair, the MIC cannot be faulted for lacking in plans. The party has formulated a wide range of policies and programmes aimed at improving the economic standing of the community and, as its president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu has pointed out, these have been included in the 9th Malaysia Plan.
The party prides itself on having made tremendous improvements in the quality of education in Tamil primary schools as well as in providing more opportunities for Indian students to pursue higher education.
The Maju Institute of Educational Development, Kolej Tafe in Seremban and the Asian Institute of Medicine, Science and Technology in Kedah, are often cited as sterling successes accomplished by the party.
As for economic improvement, the party’s biggest headache is its investment arm, Maika Holdings, set up with some RM110mil raised from the community. The shares have since gone into a tailspin, and the company is now debt-ridden, with millions erased from its value.
The party’s leaders, however, shun talking about this, focusing more on the MIC’s successes in getting a slew of special allocations and grants and programmes in skills training for youths, micro credit loans and entrepreneurship training.
But many Indians feel that tangible help has not filtered down to those who need it most.
The detractors dismiss the MIC’s efforts as “too little, too late and too ineffective” to bring about any major difference to the community.
On the positive side, the Nov 25 protest may have indirectly boosted the party’s voice in the coalition, and strengthened its hands to bring about a better deal for Indians.
The protest has definitely opened the eyes of its partners in the Barisan Nasional, who may now empathise a lot more with the MIC’s requests for effective, urgent measures.
On Monday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, who was responding to the Hindu Rights Action Force’s (Hindraf) demands to meet Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said any such meeting must be held in the presence of MIC leaders.
“To meet Hindraf without the MIC means we agree that the MIC has failed, when it has not,” he stressed. “It will also be an act of disloyalty to the MIC, which has been a partner in the Barisan Nasional for the last 50 years.”
Although several other ministers have voiced opposition to the Prime Minister meeting Hindraf leaders, it might be a more savvy strategy than just demonising them in the media.
After all, the publicity generated from all the bashing so far has only resulted in three local lawyers, largely unknown outside of their community, let alone the world, becoming household names.
The primary focus of our leaders should be a comprehensive identification of the problems facing the Indian community and strategies to redress them.
Part of the quandary is that there are now four players – the MIC and PPP in the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition and the wannabe components of IPF and the newly created Malaysian Indian United Party – vying for the attention of two million Indians.
Hindraf’s entry has only brought a new and more dangerous equation to the issue.
The hardline communal stance adopted by its leaders has not helped the Indian community’s cause.
Their words and actions have drawn implications of religious motivation to the fore, distracting attention from economic inequity, which remains the crux of the discontent.
Hindraf’s statements, which border on the seditious, and its preposterous claims that the Government is practising ethnic cleansing, as inked in their memorandum to the British government, have irked more than just the national leadership.
DAP chairman Karpal Singh is among Opposition leaders who are uncomfortable with Hindraf leaders' choice of words. Yesterday, he dispelled the “ethnic cleansing” claims as “baseless and untrue”.
The group's latest efforts to seek international support for its cause can only lead to more isolation from the national political process.
To go back to the angst of the Indian community, the deep-rooted dissatisfaction is unlikely to melt away easily or dissipate through stop-gap measures like special committees to look into their problems or hotlines to handle grouses.
As such, the onus is on our leaders to look at the problems facing the community conscientiously and devise progressive, long-term solutions.
Shallow politicians can of course claim that Indians do not have the numbers to make an impact in any of the electoral constituencies.
The wiser ones will realise the implications of any community’s frustrations and resentment in today’s globalised world.
M. Veera Pandiyan, Deputy Editor, New Media, likes British author A. A. Milne, creator of Winnie-the-Pooh, who once said: “The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.”
Hindraf’s allegations untrue, says Karpal
KUALA LUMPUR: Allegations by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) that the Government was carrying out ethnic cleansing and had committed atrocities against Indians in Malaysia are baseless and untrue, said lawyer Karpal Singh.
He said he felt surprised that Hindraf leaders would make such charges and hoped that they would be more responsible when uttering such statements.
He said the manner in which Hindraf's rally on Nov 25 was carried out was not right.
Karpal Singh said the problems of the Indians had not properly been addressed but that the protest gathering had not been properly organised and that “there should not have been any violence involved.”
The DAP national chairman and Bukit Glugor MP, however, said that the DAP was supportive of peaceful demonstrations and questioned the need for permits.
Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang (DAP – Ipoh Timur) said at a press conference at the Parliament lobby yesterday that the Cabinet should set up a special task force headed by the Prime Minister to resolve the problems faced by the Indians.
“The Cabinet should come out with a new policy for a new deal to end this,” he said.
“The number of Indians in the civil service has also plunged in the past 34 years, from 17.4% in 1971 to 5.12% in 2005,” he added.
Hindraf supporters face multiple charges
By WANI MUTHIAH
SHAH ALAM: Thirty-one alleged supporters of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) facing multiple charges will know today if they will be given bail or remain in custody pending trial.
At the Sessions Court here yesterday, five more persons were charged for attempted murder and causing damage to public property. Twenty-six people had been charged on Tuesday.
In police custody: Some of the 31 men who were also charged with illegal assembly leaving the Sessions Court in Shah Alam yesterday.
The charges involve non-bailable offences but the presiding judge has discretionary powers to grant bail.
The 31, who allegedly committed the offences at the Batu Caves Sri Subramaniyar Temple vicinity between 1am and 8am on Nov 25, were also charged with illegal assembly.
The defence team comprises over 15 lawyers led by G.K. Ganesan and M. Manoharan, while Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail and A-G’s Chambers’ prosecution head Datuk Yusof Zainal Abiden are appearing for the prosecution.
After hearing arguments from both sides yesterday, judge Azimah Omar said she needed more time to decide on bail.
She said the defence had raised other issues but did not highlight sufficiently the alleged defects in the charges.
Among those in the dock were two university students, a polytechnic student and trainee teacher.
There was also a kidney transplant patient, a youth with a hole in the heart and a partially deaf person.
The courtroom was packed with people who came to follow the proceedings, with many left standing.
Counsel Ganesan said a serious breach of his clients’ constitutional rights had been committed with their arrests, pointing out that they were at Batu Caves “professing their faith under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution.”
He said that it was also the first time in the country's history that participants of an unlawful assembly had ended up being charged with murder.
Ganesan urged the judge to set bail at RM900 as most of those charged were from the lower income group.
Judge Azimah did not record the submission by Hindraf legal adviser P. Uthayakumar that the A-G’s presence in court was questionable, and that the prosecution was acting in bad faith.
Objecting to bail, Gani said street demonstrations had to be stopped as people could get hurt.
Meanwhile, Judicial Commissioner Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim heard an application by the A-G’s Chambers to review the decision of the Klang Sessions Court to discharge three Hindraf leaders on Nov 26.
Hindraf chief P. Waythamoorthy, legal advisers P. Uthayakumar and V.S. Ganapathi Rao were initially charged under the Sedition Act for allegedly uttering words to incite hatred in their speeches at a gathering in Batang Berjuntai on Nov 16.
They were granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal by the court on the grounds that the charge appeared to be ambiguous as the prosecution failed to provide original transcripts of the Tamil speeches.
Gani contended that it was unnecessary for the Tamil transcripts to be attached to the translations