DAP proposes a special Cabinet committee tomorrow headed by Samy Vellu tasked to repair Malaysia-India relations which had plunged to an all-time low after the Palm Court police mistreatment of Indian IT professionals on March 9

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Tuesday): The last-minute pull-out of the Indian national hockey team from the prestigious Azlan Shah Cup Hockey Tournament to be held in Ipoh from March 22 is a grim reminder of the parlous state of Malaysia-India relations after the Palm Court police mistreatment of Indian IT professionals, which had been aggravated by the unsatisfactory and insensitive responses from the Malaysian authorities.

The statements by three Cabinet Ministers, namely Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik and the Primary Industries Minister, Datuk Seri Lim Keng Yaik, on the issue on Sunday had not helped to repair the bilateral Malaysia-India relations which had plunged to an all-time low, as they sounded very self-serving and therefore quite offensive, especially as they were made more than a week after the Palm Court Incident.

If the statements of the three Cabinet Ministers had been of any use, the last-minute pull-out of the Indian team from the Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament would not have taken place, as the decision was clearly very last minute after the Cabinet trio had spoken, on the directive of the Indian Government when the Indian hockety team was getting ready to leave for Malaysia within the next few hours.

The Hindu today quoted sources in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs as saying "that the decision was part of the approach the Indian Government had adopted since the ill-treatment meted out to about 270 Indian IT professionals by the Malaysian police". (

The report said:

"The last-minute pull-out from the tournament was a way of expressing the country's displeasure against such treatment, sources said.

"This kind of posture, sources explained, was likely to continue till the Malaysian authorities get back to the Indian Government with an official report on the incident, notwithstanding the expression of regrets by the acting Prime Minister of Malaysia.

"Such a report had not come till Monday evening, but when asked whether the presentation of such a report could lead to a change in the decision regarding the hockey pull-out, even at this late stage, the Government spokesman said:

"'At the moment, the team is not going.' India was scheduled to play New Zealand in the opener on March 22."

The only redeeming feature of the Palm Court Incident and its aftermath was the intervention by the Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Friday, expressing regret for the incident and directing the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai, to personally investigate and submit a report to him the following week - which I had described as the "first correct, proper and responsible reaction made by the Malaysian Government in the six-day diplomatic crisis between the two countries".

What is saddening is that although another three days have passed, Abdullah's intervention last Friday had remained the only "correct, proper and responsible reaction" of the Malaysian government so far, resulting in the last-minute pull-out of the Indian team from the Azlan Shah hockey tournament.

I had reminded the government and police in my media statement on Saturday that they must be serious about a full and thorough investigation into the Palm Court incident and that there would be no attempt in any "cover-ups".

I had in fact expressed surprise at media reports that the IGP would be submitting his report to Abdullah yesterday, asking whether this was possible when up till last Friday night, the Indian IT professionals who were victims of the Palm Court police mistreatment were completely unaware of any police investigations into the incident.

Up to now, nobody knows who are the police officers conductng the IGP investigation as directed by Abdullah. From a New Straits Times report today, "Policemen quizzed over raid on Indian nationals", it would appear that the police investigations are being conducted by the earlier-announced Kuala Lumpur City police disciplinary division - which would make its findings immediately suspect as its superior, the City Deputy Police Officer Datuk Ahmad Bahrin Idrus had already exonerated the 67-strong police squad responsible for the Palm Court Incident from any criminal offences or wrongdoings after an "initial investigation".

These flip-flops are not calculated to encourage national and international confidence that the government and police are taking a most serious attitude towards the Palm Court Incident or to repair Malaysia-India bilateral relations.

The Cabinet failed at its meeting last Wednesday to realize the gravity of the Palm Court Incident and its far-reaching repercussions to Malaysia-India relations, the country's international image after the 13th NAM Summit, our ambition to be an IT power, the future of Multimedia Super Corridor and national economic recovery plans so as to take immediate remedial measures to avert a major diplomatic crisis with India.

The Cabinet tomorrow should be more perceptive and pro-active by establishing a special Cabinet committee headed by Samy Vellu tasked to repair Malaysia-India relations which had plunged to an all-time low after the Palm Court Incident.

Before the Cabinet meeting tomorrow, all Ministers should be provided with a copy of the Asia Times report "Malaysia takes an Indian tiger by the tail" on the economic fallout to Malaysia in the diplomatic row with India. (

The report said:

"The affected IT professionals belong to the world's fifth largest software house, Infosys of India, and whose owner, T N Narayanmurthi, is an adviser to Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) and helped Malaysia in creating it.

"Apart from the embarrassment over the incident of which the police version now appears questionable, the economic fallout for Malaysia is likely to be considerable. For one, Malaysian Airlines (MAS), expecting to be in the black this year, has applied to increase the number of its flights to India - from three times a week to daily flights to Delhi and Mumbai, in addition to retaining its daily flights to Chennai. MAS has also applied for four flights each to Bangalore and Hyderabad, and finally to Cochin, and two flights to Kolkata, where it does not presently fly. India has already prepared her lash list that includes a travel advisory to Indian tourists to avoid Malaysia and a freeze on the application by MAS for extra flights. New Delhi will also reconsider the issue of Indian IT professionals working in Malaysia, and stop further progress on a road construction contract in India, worth $150 million, the first phase of which was awarded to Malaysia.

"Last year, Samy Vellu, Minister of Works in Mahathir's cabinet, visited India three times to clinch road construction contracts to build two major toll highways in India, one connecting Delhi to Jaipur in the tourist belt of Rajasthan and the other for a north-south super highway. The total contract value would be over $15 billion.

"The other soft area of Malaysia's economy is palm oil. During the past three years of economic downturn, India's gesture to purchase palm oil from Malaysia boosted its economy as palm oil still accounts for 20 percent of Malaysia's economy; another 20 percent comes from tourism. Following a slump in tourist arrivals from Western countries in the post September 11 period, tourists from India have been filling Malaysia's hotels. The Legend Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, for example, says that almost 80 percent of its occupancy is due to tourists from India.

"That is not all. Malaysia has emerged as an ideal country for the shooting of a large percentage of India's 1,500 films made annually in Hindi by Bollywood, or in the Tamil language, at reasonable cost. K Swamy, an event manager who helps to organize "shoots" in Malaysia, says, "This is mega business as a four-day shooting will mean about 100,000 Malaysian ringgit [US$26,000] per day." Last year, Genting Highland, Malaysia's Las Vegas, earned 10 million ringgit from the Bombay Film Award ceremony held there."


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman