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silver lining in Hindraf rally January 7, 2008

Posted by beritaman in Uncategorized.
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On Nov 25 last year, some 30,000 people reportedly flooded the streets in Kuala Lumpur to participate in a rally.The massive turnout caught everybody by surprise, including the organiser – Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).

In a knee-jerk response, government leaders called it an act of extremism, arguing that all is well with the Indian community and hence there was no other motive, except for a sinister one, for such a rally.

Scores were arrested, while five Hindraf leaders, four of whom lawyers, are being held under the Internal Security Act (ISA). The five were accused of having links with terrorist groups, a charge they have vehemently denied.

However, as the days passed, there seemed to be an official recognition of the problems faced by the Indian community. Suddenly, all was not well after all.

Even MIC and its leaders acquiesced, carefully pointing out the leaks that needed to be plugged.

Positive side

“This is the positive side of the Hindraf rally,” argued Malaysian Indian Business Association (Miba) president P Sivakumar.

“This must be acknowledged. It is because of the five individuals locked up under ISA that so many things are moving now,” he told Malaysiakini today.

“These professionals, who could have led comfortable lives, were forced to shoulder this issue because the groups tasked with helping the Indians failed miserably. They have sacrificed their freedom for this,” he added.

On the momentum of change stoked by Hindraf, Sivakumar said since the Nov 25 rally, there have been some positive developments.

The most notable, he pointed out, is that it has united the Indian community. Apart from this, he said numerous meetings and assurances followed.

“For example, the special meeting between Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Indian non-governmental organisations on Dec 14,” added Sivakumar, who was present at the meeting.

He said MIC and its president S Samy Vellu, who have come under intense pressure, are now forced to act for the betterment of the Indian community.

“Not to forget Selangor Menteri Besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo meeting with Hindu groups over the issue of temple demolitions and the prime minister also giving an assurance concerning this.

“The premier, in his winding up speech during the special meeting, also acknowledged that help was not trickling down and promised to look into improving the delivery system.

“After three generations of Indian Malaysian parents selling off their assets to educate their children, there is now hope of more educational grants and loans coming forth.

“There is also hope that all races in Malaysia will one day be treated equally. Why did all of these happen? Because of the Hindraf rally,” he noted.

‘New champions’

Sivakumar also pointed out that the rally gave rise to ‘new champions’ of the Indian community and some of them are branding the rally as a form of extremism.

“But where would these new champions be if not for the rally?” he asked.

In view of this, Sivakumar urged all parties, including the media, to stop using the word extremism to describe the rally.

“This is an unkind term which should not be used,” he said, calling the rally a “just cause” born out of “bottled-up frustration”.

“The rally, which was meant to be peaceful, was an eye opener, it got everybody talking. It even captured the world’s attention,” he added.

Critics have lambasted Hindraf and its leaders for making claims, which they said, bordered on extremism and could lead to racial tensions.

Chief among these are the claims that the government has marginalised the Indian community and subjected them to ethnic cleansing.

‘No evidence’

In a related development, Samy Vellu told Indian television station NDTV that the Hindraf five are held under ISA on ‘suspicion’ of having terrorist links, namely with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The veteran politician said this when asked if the government has evidence to back the accusation.

Below is an excerpt from the Jan 2 interview.

NDTV: Do you have any evidence to back your government’s charge that Hindraf has links with terrorists?

Samy Vellu: Hindraf said they would fight like the Tigers (LTTE), the way the Tigers are fighting in Sri Lanka. It was by (Hindraf chairperson) P Waythamoorthy. After he talked like that, we did an investigation and it was felt that he may have gone there for training.

NDTV: Do you have evidence of this?

Samy Vellu: No. It is our suspicion

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