Sunday, December 16, 2007

Malaysian Government Should Stop Demonizing Ethnic Indian (HINDRAF) movement and face up to the issues

Stop demonising Hindraf leaders with Terrorist Links and two million Indians for speaking up against marginalisation

I call on the the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, the Inspector-General of Police and the Attorney-General to stop treating Hindraf leaders and ordinary Malaysians who attended the Nov. 25 30,000-strong Hindraf demonstration as "terrorists" just because "somebody" had lodged a police report that Hindraf has contacts with LTTE.

Just because "somebody" had lodged a police report making an accusation against an organization cannot be the basis for any public policy as the government, Inspector-General of Police and the Attorney-General will surely not treat UMNO and Barisan Nasional leaders and members as "terrorist" just because "somebody" has lodged an unsubstantiated police report that they have connections or links with terrorist organizations.

The Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail was the first to raise the alleged Hindraf links with terrorists when he deployed it as the "star" argument at the Shah Alam Sessions Court on Wednesday to oppose the application for bail for the 31 persons charged for the "attempted murder" of a policeman. What was the justification for the Attorney-General leading the attack on Hindraf for its alleged terrorist links?

Yesterday, Gani said his linking Hindraf to the LTTE in his argument at the Shah Alam Sessions Court on Wednesday was based on a police report.

He said: "Somebody lodged a police report that there is ground that these people have been going out to (establish) contact with this LTTE.'

Surely, this is too flimsy a ground for the Attorney-General to found his whole court strategy to virtually regard the 31 ordinary Malaysians as terrorists out to wreck the country and too dangerous to be allowed out on bail pending their trial.

But this is exactly the line which the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, the Police and the Attorney-General have adopted with regard to the Hindraf leaders and the ordinary Malaysians who had gathered for Nov. 25 rally to peacefully, democratically and constitutionally send a clear and unmistakable "cry of desperation" of the long-standing political, economic, educational, social, cultural and religious marginalization of the Malaysian Indians into a new underclass to serve as a wake-up call to the Barisan Nasional Government.

The Prime Minister has led the attack on Hindraf for its allegations of "ethnic cleansing" and genocide of Indians in Malaysia, but can the government, police and Attorney-General, with the vast resources at their command, be unaware that the 30,000 Malaysian Indians who had congregated in Kuala Lumpur from all over the country were completely unconnected to these allegations and that their support of the Hindraf demonstration was for one and only one purpose – to call the attention of the government to the decades-long marginalization of the Malaysian Indians?

Have the top Barisan Nasional leadership decided on a harsh and even cruel response to the "cry of desperation" by 30,000 Malaysian Indians on behalf of two million Malaysian Indians for an end to their marginalization as Malaysian citizens, as illustrated by:

• the demonisation of Hindraf leaders and creating the conditions to prepare for their detention under the Internal Security Act, with growing chorus of demand for the invocation of the ISA by BN Ministers and even with the Prime Minister publicly discussing the ISA option; and

• treating those who attended the Hindraf demonstration as "terrorists" and grave threats to national security who cannot be allowed bail when they are ordinary Malaysians who have nothing to do with the allegations of "ethnic cleansing" and genocide and only wanted their legitimate grievances about the marginalization of Malaysian Indians to be heard and addressed by the government.

The Prime Minister and the Barisan Nasional government must be forewarned – that a harsh, insensitive, cruel and high-handed response to the 30,000-strong Hindraf demonstration on the marginalization of the Malaysian Indians, demonizing the Hindraf leaders as terrorists and the two million Malaysian Indians who want an end to their marginalization as grave national security threats will only aggravate the sense of alienation, deprivation and marginalization of the Malaysian Indian community.

It will have grave short-term, mid-term and long-term repercussions.

Short-term, there will be further alienation of the Malaysian Indian community aggravating racial polarization and national division, undermining our international competitiveness.

This will also have electoral consequences for the forthcoming general election, as there are 62 parliamentary seats and 138 state assembly seats in Peninsular Malaysia where the Indian voters account for more than 10% of the electorate – not enough to singly decide the outcome of any constituency but able to influence as to which party and candidate will get elected in the constituency.

There are 13 such parliamentary and 27 state assembly seats in Perak – with Indian voters comprising as high as 26% for a parliamentary constituency and 45% for a state assembly seat.

If the Malaysian Indians continue to be marginalized, and their "cry of desperation" on Nov. 25 by 30,000 people on behalf of two million Malaysian Indians result in further marginalization, then Barisan Nasional candidates cannot depend on the Malaysian Indian votes as a captive vote bank as in past general elections and by-elections.

In the higher interests of national unity and greater international competitiveness, sanity and good sense must prevail and I call on the Prime Minister to provide the leadership to respond positively, constructively and in a statesmanlike manner to the "cry of desperation" for justice of the Malaysian Indian community to end their long-standing marginalization with two measures:

• Establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Hindraf demonstration on Nov. 25, the police handling and conduct as well as allegations of terrorist links of Hindraf; and

• A National Conference of all political parties, NGOs and stakeholders to deal with the root causes of the Hindraf demonstration – the marginalization of the Malaysian Indians – but with a larger national ambit and term of reference: a New Deal to end the marginalization of the Malaysian Indians and all marginalized groups in the country.

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