Thursday, April 15, 2010

My challenge to Hindraf: let’s fight for a New Deal

The problems that the Indians are facing is NOT the disease. It is merely the symptoms of the disease. If we can eradicate the disease then the symptoms will disappear. We can't cure the symptoms. We need to cure the disease.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

You can read Dr Kua Kia Soong’s article called Stop labelling Hindraf as 'racist', which I ‘stole’ from Malaysiakini without their permission.

First of all, let me reiterate what I had written earlier, which I must stress was never rebutted by Hindraf or anyone who claims to represent the movement. And that is YB Ronnie Liu, Bala of Bangsar, my wife, and I, went to Manoharan’s house in the run-up to the 8 March 2008 general election to speak to his wife about the Hindraf 5 contesting the election on a parliament ticket.

The Hindraf 5 -- P. Uthayakumar, M. Manoharan, V. Ganabatirau, R. Kenghadharan and T. Vasantha Kumar -- were at that time under Internal Security Act detention in Kamunting. Only Manoharan agreed to contest and he is now the Selangor State Assemblyman for Kota Alam Shah. The other four refused to contest.

I did say in my earlier article that we were devastated. We took all the trouble to talk to the three Pakatan Rakyat coalition partners to get them to offer the Hindraf 5 seats to contest (maybe two each from DAP and PKR and one from PAS -- or all five from PAS if DAP and PKR have no spare seats) but only one wanted to contest the election. And even then Manoharan wanted a state and not parliament seat (when parliament would have been a better platform seeing that the Indian cause is a national issue).

Instead of replying to this, Hindraf challenged me to state my stand on Article 8 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. I accepted Hindraf’s challenge and not only stated my stand on Article 8 but on the many other Articles in the Constitution as well.

So, I have accepted Hindraf’s challenge. I spoke out against the violation of Article 8. I also spoke out against the violation of the many other Articles as well. If you have been following what I have been saying the last many years you will know that I labelled the New Economic Policy as unconstitutional and Ketuanan Melayu as Apartheid. How much stronger than that can I speak? Many Malays already label me as a traitor to my race. Some even suggest that my citizenship should be withdrawn for my act of treason.

Do I need to fall on my sword to prove my stand?

Now, why did the other four of the Hindraf 5 refuse to contest the general election? I still insist that they would have won because they would have been given ‘safe’ seats. Looking at some of the Pakatan Rakyat candidates who won, many who are half-baked, there is no reason the Hindraf 5 would not have won. Then, today, we would have five Hindraf leaders in Parliament who could further their movement’s cause at national level.

They refused to contest the election because they were worried they would antagonise the government and would give the impression that they are still defiant. And this would mean they would have an extended stay in Kamunting and would not be able to see an early release. In other words, they were scared. They did not want the government to detain them longer. So they ‘behaved themselves’ by not contesting the elections.

What could I say to that? When I was under detention I continued writing and continued whacking the government even though I too wanted to get out. I was not happy with being detained. In fact, some of the Hindraf 5 had to console me while I was in Kamunting because I kept breaking down and cried like a baby.
I was a mental wreck and it was some of the Hindraf 5 who offered me ‘counselling’. If not I would have become totally mental.

Hindraf regards me as racist because I do not specifically fight for the Indians. I also do not fight for the Malays, Chinese, Orang Asli, Ibans, Dayaks, Penans, Bajaus, Kadazans, Bugis, Thais, Minangkabaus, Acehnese, Javanese, Portuguese, Mamaks, and whatnot. I suppose that makes me a super-racist. Why am I a racist only when I do not fight for the Indians? Am I not also a racist because I do not fight for the Malays, Chinese, Orang Asli, Ibans, Dayaks, Penans, Bajaus, Kadazans, Bugis, Thais, Minangkabaus, Acehnese, Javanese, Portuguese, Mamaks, etc?

Okay, let’s say, today, I declare I will fight for the Indians. Am I now no longer a racist even though I do not also fight for the Malays, Chinese, Orang Asli, Ibans, Dayaks, Penans, Bajaus, Kadazans, Bugis, Thais, Minangkabaus, Acehnese, Javanese, Portuguese, Mamaks, etc? Does racism come in only when it involves the Indians but not when it involves non-Indians?

According to Hindraf, I am racist by exclusion. I am not racist because I fight AGAINST the Indians. I am racist because my fight is not SPECIFICALLY for the Indians. Going by this argument this would mean even if I do fight specifically for the Indians I would still be considered racist because my fight has excluded the others such as the Malays, Chinese, Orang Asli, Ibans, Dayaks, Penans, Bajaus, Kadazans, Bugis, Thais, Minangkabaus, Acehnese, Javanese, Portuguese, Mamaks, etc. Therefore, fighting for the Indians would not remove my racist label, if we go by the definition of ‘racist by exclusion’.

Okay, I have written a lot about this matter the last week or so. I am prepared to lay the matter to rest and meet Moorthy to see what I can specifically do about the Indian cause. And if because I am Malay then I have no place in Hindraf then I rest my case.

I doubt there is any confusion that my fight is to end corruption, end extrajudicial killings, end police brutality, end detention without trial, end abuse of power, end oppression, end discrimination, end wastage of public funds and taxpayers’ money, end racial quotas in government and education, end manipulation of the judicial system, end cronyism and nepotism, and much, much more.

My fight is also about respecting the Constitution, abolishing draconian laws and laws that violate our fundamental human rights, seeing the emergence of two equally strong parties so that Malaysia can have a true two-party system, reforming the electoral system so that we can see a level playing field, seeing more transparency and accountability in government and seeing good governance emerge, etc.

Now, many (maybe the majority) of the victims of the above abuses are Indians. This I do not deny. I never said that most times Indians are not the victims. But we do not need to fight specifically for the Indians. If we can end all those abuses that I mentioned above then the Indians would AUTOMATICALLY get a better deal, a New Deal. And so would the Malays, Chinese, Orang Asli, Ibans, Dayaks, Penans, Bajaus, Kadazans, Bugis, Thais, Minangkabaus, Acehnese, Javanese, Portuguese, Mamaks, etc. Everyone benefits.

The problems that the Indians are facing is NOT the disease. It is merely the symptoms of the disease. If we can eradicate the disease then the symptoms will disappear. We can't cure the symptoms. We need to cure the disease.

Is this message too difficult to comprehend? Which part of ‘equality’ and ‘fairness’ do you not understand? It is about being fair to all and about everyone being treated equal regardless of race, religion, age, status and gender. Is this not a good platform to fight on? Does this make me a racist?


Stop labelling Hindraf as 'racist'

Listen all you people who have been flinging the 'racist' label at Hindraf – if the November 25, 2007 uprising organised by Hindraf had not happened, we would not have had a political tsunami on March 8, 2008!

We can flail our arms and criticise the Hindraf leadership all we want but let us be 'politically correct' about racism and who the racists are in Malaysia.

Yes! It's important to be politically correct on this issue because otherwise our political analysis becomes erroneous, leading to incorrect practice and, more importantly, we let off the real villains!

Hindraf happened because the marginalised Indians in this country are a specially oppressed section of the working class. It is an oppression that has taken on a racist character through the years, so much so that even middle class Indians, especially the youth, have often become the victims of police brutality.

The Indian working class is among the poorest in the country and they do not have the benefit of affirmative action because they have been classified as non-bumiputera.

Indians are a minority in this country but they form the majority when it comes to statistics on deaths in police custody or police killings.

We should be glad the Hindraf uprising happened and the political ripples it created after the 2008 general elections. Credit should be given to their leaders for achieving this feat and for breaking the decades of MIC patronage and pacifism.

The uprising certainly did not happen through the MIC nor did it happen through the other political parties in this country no matter what they say now. It is pointless being wise after the event or to advertise your pristine party – the fact is, Hindraf succeeded where the other political parties failed to do, namely, to mobilise the Indian masses to come out and make their stand on Nov 25 2007.

Right to a specfic identity

Being a specially oppressed and marginalised section of the masses, it is the right of the Indian masses to organise themselves just as the Black Power movement developed in the west during the Sixties. Similarly, women have the right to organise themselves through their special circumstances as an oppressed section of the population.

But to then say that Indians or Blacks are “racist” or that feminists are “sexist” is to expose your own shortcomings and more importantly, to let off the culprits who cause racial oppression and gender oppression in our society.

Racism or more specifically, 'bumiputeraism' has been the dominant ideology of the Malay capitalist class ever since May 13, 1969. It has been practiced under the guise of the New Economic Policy and that racism has been covertly disseminated through state institutions such as the Biro Tata Negara all these years.

It is a marvel that it has taken so long for this racist garbage perpetrated through the BTN to be exposed!
Before long, we will hear of racist propaganda in other state institutions especially schools and hostels since the Seventies.

In 1986, this racism was flagrantly espoused by Abdullah Ahmad in his infamous 'Malay Dominance' speech in Singapore but the cat was let out of the bag when Mahathir (left) had a spat with Nazri recently and they were calling each other 'racist'.

Umno's alter-ego

More recently, we have seen the formation of Perkasa, which is none other than Umno's alter-ego. It has been delegated the role of the racist lobbyist traditionally played by Umno Youth while Umno tries desperately to change its spots to win over the non-Malays after the 2008 debacle.

The stereotypes created by this racism to justify the New Economic Policy remain in circulation: We recently heard Perkasa shouting the old refrain that the Chinese still dominates the Malaysian economy.

It was a cue for Umno to continue the NEP in another guise, the New Economic Model. While this has populist appeal to win over the Malay voters, the main beneficiaries are the well-connected capitalists of diverse ethnicities under Umno hegemony.

The marginalised Indians who make up some of the poorest and most oppressed sections among West Malaysians have been portrayed in a racist light. Yet Indians have been the main victims of racial killings such as at Kampong Medan in 2001, deaths in police custody as well as trigger-happy police shootings. (See 'Policing the Malaysian Police', Suaram 2005)

Our indigenous peoples and migrant workers have also been portrayed in a racist light and the recent historic demonstration (right) at Putrajaya recently by our Orang Asli community was truly uplifting.

Whither Hindraf?

Having a separate organisation does not of course guarantee that its leadership will be necessarily progressive. Since 2008, we have seen the Hindraf leadership split into various factions.

It is in the common interest of all communities to fight racism on a class basis. In this day and age, affirmative action is not justifiable for any ethnic community which has undergone class differentiation. Thus, I would think that neither the Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazanmurut nor Iban communities can justify any affirmative action.

However, communities that are not yet class differentiated such as the Orang Asli and Penan communities may justify affirmative action as a particular community.

The best non-racist approach to progress is still affirmative action based on class or sector.

All progressive Malaysians must unite around their struggles and stop flinging the 'racist' label about. The racists are the Umnoputras who control the Malaysian state.

We hope that the true Hindraf leaders will stay faithful to their just cause and correctly identify the primary role of capitalism and the state in causing racial oppression suffered by the Indian masses. The struggle against the Malaysian state can only succeed if it is anti-racist.

At the same time, Hindraf must also work alongside other campaigns for justice, democracy and human rights. We can only mobilise the whole masses if we fight on all fronts, against all oppressions and against the divisions within the masses. As the Black Panthers said in the sixties:

“We do not fight racism with racism…

We fight racism with solidarity”.

DR KUA KIA SOONG, a former MP, was principal of the New Era College, Kajang. He is also a director of human rights group Suaram.

courtesy of

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