Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on
Deepavali 2008: Indians should
resolve to be united in the face of continued marginalization
This festival is associated with many legendary tales. For some people
it is to mark the homecoming of King Rama of Ayodhya after a 14-year
exile in the forest. Jains celebrate to remember the enlightenment
received by their revered saint Lord Mahavira while the Sikhs
commemorate it as a day when Guru Hargobind Ji, a political prisoner,
was freed together with 52 Hindu kings.
Tamils celebrate it to signify the victory of good over evil.
In short our Hindu friends light rows of lamps, draw elaborate rangolis
outside their homes, share sweets and food to welcome goodwill and
faith. In this spirit of Deepavali, I call upon UMNO and its ruling
component parties to initiate judicial reforms, make concerted efforts
to wipe out corruption and cronyism, ensure freedom of the media and
abstain from using preventive laws to curb dissent in the country.
Today we have arrived at a point where Malaysia has become synonymous
with high-profile murders involving top leaders, the use of Internal
Security Act or ISA to jail dissidents without due process, corruption
by ruling politicians amounting to billions of dollars, increasing
domestication of the media which is linked or owned by ruling parties
and further erosion of judicial independence.
The recent arrest of a SUARAM activist for lodging a report against
police abuse of power and ban on Hindraf as a threat to national
security are worrying signs of a possible crackdown on civil and
We also see the government resorting to old-hand tactics of creating a
climate of fear through a play on racial sentiments. Racist remarks by
government leaders are ignored, Utusan Malaysia is yet to be reprimanded
for its seditious publications alluding to a well-respected lawmaker and
personal friend Teresa Kok while journalists and bloggers are nabbed
under the ISA.
As Deepavali dawns, I would like to urge Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi to implement durable reforms and not just tinker at the margins
of ineffective mechanisms which would create further political and
economic instability in the country.
For a start, I call upon Abdullah to free prominent blogger Raja Petra
Kamaruddin, the Hindraf five and other ISA prisoners.
As we partake in this celebration of lights, let us come together to
demand that the government executes fundamental changes to bring about a
transparent and accountable system of administration.
Let this Deepavali mark a stop to cosmetic efforts by UMNO and its
ruling component parties.
On this auspicious occasion, I call upon the Indian community to stay
united and work together to promote and protect the rights of Indians
and all Malaysians in the wake of the economic crisis and continued
harassment and marginalization of the community by the state.
* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang