Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hindraf rally : don't divert from the real issue

No justification for crushing a helpless minority

Over 30,000 Indians took to the streets on November 25 to plead for their rights that have been systematically reduced over the last 50 years. It was a cry for help from a community that is being marginalized either intentionally or unintentionally. The majority of those who took part in the demonstration were ordinary peaceful citizens who are ignorant of the political power - play at the helms of the government.

Some of the protesters were arrested and charged for attempted murder and denied bail. This is probably the first time, civil protesters are being charged under such a law. There is no doubt it was intended to intimidate other potential demonstrators. The Attorney General (AG) made a rare and unprecedented appearance to personally prosecute these protesters. Many more are waiting to be similarly charged.

It is absurd that the leaders of Hindraf are being labeled as terrorists and the ground is being prepared for their arrest under the ISA which allows detention without trial. A terrorist is defined as one who threatens violent action for political purposes. I fail to see how pleading for one’s legitimate rights constitute terrorism? Any way the issue here is not whether they are terrorists but the plight of the Indians. It would be unfair for the government to divert the attention from the real issue.

Instead of trying to understand their plight, it is unfortunate that the government has chosen to confront them head on, mobilizing all the resources at its disposal, to crush the protesters and the powerless Indian community. Imagine at one end we have the mighty UMNO-led BN government and the other is a helpless and poverty-stricken tiny Indian community. A rally that was to be a peaceful one, was brutally crushed by the police. It is disturbing to see the devious methods the government resorted to crush a small minority Indian community, which comprises about just 8% of the population.

What chance does the poor Indian community have against the wrath of the UMNO-led BN government? When the Opposition in 1987, the judiciary in 1988 and even the popular Anwar Ibrahim in 1998 stood no chance against UMNO and the BN, where does the Indian community stand against this bullying tactics of the government? Why should the government treat the Indians like this when they pose no threat to them? They were asking for the rights due to them and not questioning the position or privileges of the Malays. At no time did the Indians let down the Alliance or the BN. In fact they have been working hand in hand with them all these years to bring the nation to where it is today.

The protest is a signal that all is not well with the Indian community. It should act as a wake up call for the government and particularly the MIC.Instead of engaging the Hindraf leaders in dialogue, Datuk Seri Samy Velu, the leader of MIC, had found it more appropriate to suppress and punish them for highlighting the plight of the Indians. It may be understandable that UMNO leaders are calling the Prime Minister to invoke the Internal Security Act(ISA) against the Hindraf leaders but difficult to digest how Samy Velu, who is the sole representative of the Indian community in the cabinet and the BN government, can also call for their arrest under the same draconian law. Isn’t this an act of treason and traitorous to his own people? Instead he has a moral obligation towards his community to make the government realize that there is no justification to crush a helpless minority who has been a steadfast ally all these years.

Malaysian Indians in general agree that they are being marginalized and they are in a very deplorable state. Samy Velu alone says the Indians are being well taken care and are doing extremely well and there is nothing to protest about. He should for once, for the sake of his own people, put aside politics and search his conscience and come up with sincere answers to a few questions. Haven’t the Indians lost most of out they had over the last 50 years? Are they really better off now than before? If the prevailing conditions continue, do they really have a bright future in their own country? If he is in doubt, the best way is for him to conduct a referendum among the Indian community.

The government should realize that the era of confrontational and combatant attitude is over. If we want to join the ranks of other developed nations, we must adopt a policy of tolerance and dialogue with all, friends and even with our adversaries.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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