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Criticism of Hindraf allegation of “ethnic cleansing” and genocide is no excuse for ignoring the cry of desperation of two million Malaysian Indians for end to their political, economic, educational, social, cultural and religious polarisation

Speech on the National Unity Select Committee motion         
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Thursday): I had met the Prime Minister at the beginning of the new Parliament after the 2004 general election to urge him to support the adoption of the parliamentary committee system, and although three select committees had been formed so far, it is most regrettable that a full committee system where every Ministry will be shadowed by a parliamentary select committee as well as the existence of select committees on specialist subjects have not yet come into being.

For the Parliamentary Select Committee on National Unity for which a six-month extension of time is being sought – it is essential that MPs are capable of subordinating their political, party and self-interest to the larger national interest if the national unity select committee is to make any meaningful contribution to nation building.

What happened in Parliament yesterday in the debate on my motion to cut the salary of Information Minister, Zainuddin Maidin is a case in point. MPs can agree or disagree as to whether Zainuddin had succeeded or failed in his task as Information Minister but when the Minister made irrelevant and baseless charges, accusing me of challenging the dignity of the Rulers and humiliating the Muslims for supporting Hindraf, it was the height of parliamentary and ministerial irresponsibility.

I know this is playing politics, but this is playing dirty and irresponsible politics subverting the higher national interest of promoting national unity in the country.

I had made it clear that I never agreed with the Hindraf accusation about “ethnic cleansing of Indians” or genocide and what I had consistently stood for is that the 30,000-strong Hindraf demonstration on November 25 was “a cry of desperation” by the Indians in Malaysia about their long-standing marginalization which must be addressed by the Cabinet and Parliament.

We can disagree and criticize the Hindraf leaders for making the allegations about ethnic cleansing and genocide, but the government must never lose sight of the central issue of the marginalization of the Malaysian Indians which brought Indians from all over the country to support the Hindraf demonstration, as they did not congregate in Kuala Lumpur on Nov. 25 to support Hindraf on its allegations of ethnic cleansing or genocide but to make their cry for justice to end the marginalization for themselves, their children and children’s children heard loud and clear.

This is best expressed by a Malaysian Rhodes scholar currently studying in Oxford University, who did not fully agree with all the things said and done by Hindraf.

She said however that “it would be duplicitous” for her not to support Hindraf rally, adding:

“Because I, like many of you, know that that is not what this rally was about.

“It was about being neglected, about not having a seat at the table to bargain, about having a national and communal leadership that we do not trust and is utterly discreditable. It is about saying no to being the forgotten Indians, and not enough of us in our comfortable houses, those of us who managed to work the system to our benefit - stood with the other Indians, who are not so different from us.”

Have the cry of desperation of the Malaysian Indians about their marginalization been heard?


The Cabinet met yesterday but nothing has come out of it, as if the “cry of desperation” of the 30,000-strong Hindraf demonstration never existed. Parliament has failed to provide the forum where the cry of the Malaysians Indians for an end to their marginalization could be heard and acted upon.

MIC Cameron Highlands MP S.K. Devamany had tried to say something but he was slapped down and had to apologise and express his regret. MIC President and Cabinet Minister for over 28 years, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu has denied that the Indians have been marginalized.

Penang Gerakan State Exco Dr. Toh Kin Woon had been the first to speak out outside Parliament, expressing his disagreement with the Barisan Nasional leadership and urging the government to listen to the cry of the Malaysian Indians in the Hindraf demonstration.

Why there are no Barisan Nasional MPs who dare to speak up for the Malaysian Indians in Parliament. What then is the use of the Barisan Nasional with over 91 per cent of parliamentary seats?

Is the Parliamentary Select Committee on National Unity prepared to address this problem of the marginalization of the Indians?

Its Chairman, Datuk Dr. Maximus Ongkili, has made most regrettable statements about the Hindraf demonstration.

Five days ago, Maximus said aggrieved communities should not resort to “illegal rallies” as there are other avenues they can use.

He said: “If you want to be heard, use legal means. If you use illegal means, your motives will appear suspicious.”

Is the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department stating a government policy stand that the cry of desperation of 30,000 Indians on behalf of two million Indians in Malaysia at the Hindraf demonstration will be completely ignored, purportedly for adopting “illegal means”.

Maximus went on: “You don’t resort to illegal means unless you have other intentions. In Hindraf’s case, they appeared bent on creating violence.”

He also accused the Hindraf with “the intention to disrupt the peace”.

I want to know whether Maximus is speaking on behalf of the members of the Parliamentary Select Committee and the Select Committee, and how the MIC member Dr. Nijhar (Subang) can be so spineless as not to express a squeak at such bias and prejudice on the Hindraf demonstration by his Chairman.

Do Maximus, MPs and the Cabinet realize that their criticism of the Hindraf leaders for their allegations of “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” can be no excuse to ignore cry of desperation of the 30,000 Indians who came from all over the country to join the Hindfraf demonstration on Nov. 25 not over “ethnic cleansing” or “genocide” but for an end to their political, economic, educational, social, cultural and religious marginalization?

A detached survey of the problem will show that it is the government and Barisan Nasional leadership who are responsible for creating the conditions for the biggest show-of-force of the Malaysian Indians in Kuala Lumpur on Nov. 25 as a result of their increasing insensitivity to the plight of the Malaysian Indians as the new underclass.

There were three events which made Indians in Malaysia felt that they were being pushed against the wall in the long-standing marginalization of their citizenship status and that for the sake of their children and children’s children, they had to make their “cry of desperation” heard loud and clear in the Hindraf demonstration on Nov. 25.

These three incidents were:

(i) the arbitrary, high-handed and insensitive demolition of the of the Sri Mariamman Temple at Padang Jawa temple in Shah Alam a few days before Deepavali;

(ii) holding of UMNO General Assembly on Deepavali, the holy Hindu festival of the triumph of good over evil; and

(iii) the insensitive public attack by the UMNO Youth Deputy leader at the UMNO General Assembly berating the Indian news vendors for going off on a national holiday resulting in no newspapers to carry the UMNO President speech of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi the previous day and his call on the government to restructure the newspaper supply chain to avoid it being monopolized by one race.

Now we have the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz publicly berating the marginalized Indians as “penyangak” (crooks) when he said:

“Some 20,000 penyangak (crooks) who participated in the rally would not jeopardize viewpoint of the entire community.”

Nazri is rubbing salt into the wounds of a marginalized community, the new underclass in the country. He should apologise for his general defamation of the Malaysian Indians, for the 30,000 Indians who rallied to the Hindraf demonstration have better claim to represent the two million Indians in Malaysia than MIC or the Barisan Nasional government.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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