On Being Malaysian Tamil 9

UPDATE 28 JAN 2020: Court denies Gadek assemblyperson G Saminathan bail.

In a post titled Indian Vote: Entha Kabali? made before the Malaysian federal election in 2018, I wrote, . … “Whatever happens in the voting, it looks like it is indeed going to be close and, perhaps, the Indian vote is going to be important.” Further, I asked, ” … does the opposition look like they will treat us any different [from Barisan]? Just look at how they made unholy exaggerations and unfulfillable promises on the Stateless Indians issue … should they not be shown that the Indian vote, just like the vote of the other communities, has to be earned?”  While I was skeptical about the outcome for Indians, I did, as indicated in my post titled Kabali Da!, cast my lot with the new Malaysia promised by the Pakatan Harapan opposition led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Well, it came to pass that Mahathir and Harapan did win and, in the 2 years since, many have become disillusioned and dissatisfied with New Malaysia for their many unfulfilled promises. One such promise pertains to the Indian statelessness problem. Indeed, in this matter Harapan has been deeply disappointing. They promised a complete solution within 100 days, but their re-branded ‘Indian affairs’ body, the Malaysian Indian Transformation Unit (MITRA) has not solved the this problem as yet. As far as I can ascertain, the last statement issued by the minister responsible states that MITRA was still working “to outline a comprehensive solution to the stateless issue, in line with the PH government’s manifesto promise”.

Since then another issue has arisen to affect the Indian community at an equally deep symbolic level – the spate of LTTE related arrests and charges. I have discussed the apparent pervisity of these arrests and detentions under SOSMA of 12 Indians including 2 government MPs previously in this series (beginning with On Being a Malaysian Tamil 1) and the question I explore here is how one might understand the implications for the Harappan government visa vis the Indian vote. The perceived involvement of government, even if it is misplaced, will surely be detrimental to their ability to garner Indian votes in the next general elections

In principle the police act independently of the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Judiciary and the government is distant from the decisions of all these bodies. While the judiciary is independent by virtue of the separation of powers expected in Malaysia’s Westminster based legal system, the police and the AG’s chambers are extensions of the executive. They too, however, are expected to act independently of executive interference and without improper collusion with one another. If all is running as it should be in our nation’s governance, no blame can be laid at the feet of the Harappan government for these LTTE arrests, detentions, changes and for the eventual judicial outcomes, whatever they might turn out to be. However, the history of the relationships concerned in Malaysia is such that it will be very difficult for the people to believe in the integrity of the system, even if it were true.

There is no question that the majority of Malaysian Tamils, like most of their fellows throughout the world support the Elam struggle, regardless of their misgivings about the terror tactics of the LTTE. Certainly, most of us feel there was an equal amount of state terror being deployed by the Sri Lankan government in this conflict and that the Terrorist organization designation applied to the LTTE, however justified it might be, is ultimately a political assignation. Indeed, the evidence for this suggestion is the fact that the Tigers were not so designated in Malaysia till 2014, years after the war ended and all acts or terror had ceased. Given this fact and the fact that our Malaysian institutions of state are known for being questionably interdependent, it is going to be difficult for Harapan to win the hearts of the Indian community and, of course, this may have a bearing on their votes in the next elections.





Dari Pusat Tasek 6

The Dari Pusat Tasek performance (View my draft for the 13th Koboi series DARI TUBUH NEGARA) was held at the Lumut Waterfront, under the auspices of Percha Art Space at 5pm on the 25th December 2019. The exhibition will run till 5 Jan 2020 (EXTENDED TILL 19 JAN 2020) . The Naan Anaiyttal flag presents an image that was shot in Kampung Indian Settlement, Batu Caves, in the wake of Malaysia’s 14th General Elections. The Koboi stands before a 12.2 m hoarding of the once jailed politician who is now Malaysia’s prime minister in waiting, Anwar Ibrahim. This flag was raised on a portable flag stand, accompanied by a performance based on a Perak Malay cleansing ritual performed with cut lime.

After my body was ritually rubbed with lime, I faced the East and spit seven times. I then threw the remains of the limes in the Westerly direction  saying, Pergi-lah semua sial jambalang dari badan aku, dan dari pada tubuh negara; pergi lah ke Pusat Pasek Paujangi, (‘Misfortune and spirits of evil begone from my body, and from the corpus of the nation, begone to the whirlpool of the of the Pusat Pasek Paujangi!) Water was then poured over me to complete the cleansing. All the waters of the world are ultimately received at the Pusat Tasek, bringing to its swirl all of the flotsam, jetsam and refuse of the world. The Pusat Tasek of myth seems to coincide with the contemporary swirl of the North Pacific Gyre – a place at which the worst of our contemporary sial jambalang reside.


Kabali Da!

I have always liked Mahathir Mohammed … the way I liked Muhammed Ali I guess … whether it is against great fighters like Frazier or Foreman or underdogs like Bugner … I was always with Ali …  same with Mahathir … I like his style, his guts,and his perfect poise … like a surfer or Jazz improviser .. he reacts with the most natural grace …  To paraphrase or restate an idea from Miles Davis ( I think it was Herbie Hancock who explained this lesson from the Master) … its not the right note or the wrong note … its just the next note … and its up to you to make it work … Good Luck Dr M.

Kabali Da!

Indian Vote: Entha Kabali?

Kabali Teaser Stills-Photos-RajinikanthKuninju nendra Kabali endru ninechengala? While I see myself as a Malaysian  first and an Indian second in the cultural aspect of my Identity, in the political sense I insist that I am an Indian first. There is not as yet a possibility of a post communal political identity for Malaysians! Even the opposition has to be organized on the basis that to beat the race card of Barisan you have to play the race card yourself. Yes communalism seems to be a necessary pragmatism, an underlying reality even! … anyway  this reality leaves me no choice but to look at the present situation as an Indian. While, it is technically not correct for me as a Jaffna Tamil to say, within the categorization of our national apartheid, that I am an Indian. I have claimed this identity in spirit and untill my Indian brothers and sisters insist I stop, I will continue to do so …

So with polling day around the corner and a Malay, nay Malaysian Tsunami is an imminent possibility. The vote looks like being really close. Many good Malaysians are crying out for change at any cost and by any compromise … I too feel that, at the very least, it will establish, in practice, the democratic principle of ‘the limited term of office’, something that Malaysians have enjoyed only in theory since Merdeka. Whatever happens in the voting, it looks like it is indeed going to be close and, perhaps, the Indian vote is going to be important.  The highly respected activist and former leader of Bersih, Dato Sreenevasan, recently wrote in Malaysiakini, “In my view, not one Malaysian Indian or Orang Asli* vote should go to the BN”.

Although the sentiment rings true and the logic is sound this idea has a familiar aroma to it … Indians being herded again… being told how to think and what to do one way or the other! … it smells like cow dung (this is not an insult to Indians, certainly not to Hindus anyway) …  While the Indian vote owes Barisan sweet Fuck All … does the opposition look like they will treat us any different? Just look at how they made unholy exaggerations and unfulfillable promises on the Stateless Indians issue. Please lah! Annai, Thambi, Acca, Thangachi, realize that your vote is your most important right. It is a right to exercise as you will  … and even not to exercise it at all … what if neither side is looking worthy … should they not be shown that the Indian vote, just like the vote of the other communities, has to be earned?

Decades of Barisan promises … yet nothing achieved, Hindraf ‘s absurd promise of fighting for compensation from the British and now the opposition claims and promises on the all-important stateless Indians issue – If we are to be pragmatic in our voting as Malaysians to achieve the best result for the nation … then Malaysian Indians might likewise consider being pragmatic in their voting as a community … At least Barisan has an electoral inducement blueprint of some kind … and a budget is promised (yes, promises have been broken before!) …. while it stinks (unlike cow dung … which does not smell bad!), for what its worth, it seems to be real. In this light … I prefer what commentator Gokula Kumar Appalanaido said (6/May/2018 at 3:41:12am) in response to the Malaysiakini article …. “We will vote according to our conscience”! Kabali Da!

* I am not forgetting the Orang Asli … but that is another sad Malaysian story of injustice that needs to be addressed on its own terms.

Image: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxfXTQnmZaA



skyharapanSometimes the quirks of life provide better expressions of truth then the constructs of the best artist. The job of the artist in such instances is to read and re-present these signs. The above image is a crop/edit from a larger image in the mass media that has been seen, by those who believe that the ruling party pulls the levers of the supposedly independent Elections Commision, as a counter productive attempt by Barisan to supress the images of the two main opposition leaders in the coming elections. Regardless of the independanceof the commision, I would take this analysis further in a most objective fashion – the excision of one of the leaders of the opposition from a hoarding turns the resulting lacuna into an image of both of them. Further, in this instance (and from this angle) it gives the public an image of the sky which carries all the possible connotations of ‘Hope’ or Harapan! I really do not think there will be many more instances of official iconoclasm of this kind ,if the government does indeed have a grip on the Elections Commision (and assuming, of course, that the party knows what it is doing)!

Image: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/05/02/liew-dismisses-viral-video-accusing-him-of-sabotaging-pakatan/


Ini Saja India Mau! 2


While the failure of Barisan Nasional to uplift the Indian community is acknowledged by Barisan itself, by way of MIC’s accusation of Dr Mahathir’s neglect of the Indians during his 22 year tenure, this failure is ironically underscored by Mahathir himself who blames, in turn, his the former ally and MIC leader Samy Vellu for this situation. In terms of my ongoing concern the plight of stateless Indians, it is indeed, clear that in the post-independence years, there has been no proactive attempt to embrace and incorporate these most underprivileged constituents of the Malayan legacy into the Malaysian polity. This is undeniably an abysmal failure, in humanitarian terms, of Barisan governance.

Still it must be acknowledged, while the stake of Indians within Barisan is severely weakened since the heady days of Samy Vellu, it is still defined and perceivable. I do not, however, see the equivalent Indian leverage within Harapan. This lack has been viscerally, if casually, revealed in the dismissive remarks of the coalition’s chairman and Prime Ministerial candidate in what I shall call the ‘Keling Gate’ debacle. But, returning once again to the issue at hand, how does Harapan stand on the all-important question of Indian statelessness? On the face of it, they seem to be doing well. They have diligently called the government out their ineffective and/or disingenuous efforts to solve the problem with programmes like MyDaftar. Members of the Harapan opposition have claimed that there are around 300,000 stateless Indians in Malaysia. A shockingly large number indeed.

It must however, be noted that the Development of Human Resources for Rural Areas (DHRRA), Malaysia, a voluntary non-profit and non-political organization, has stated categorically that their research has revealed only 12,392 stateless Indians as of June 2017. Their president Saravanan M Sinapan has further noted that 2,225 of these have already been granted citizenship, leaving just over 10,000 stateless Indians in Malaysia today. If DHRRA is correct Pakatan Harapan’s promises to the Indian community in the GE-14 Manifesto ring hollow and untrue. These promises to Malaysian Indians include, as first on the list, the following, “1. Menyelesaikan masalah komuniti India yang tidak mempunyai status kewarganegaraan (stateless Indians) dalam tempoh 100 hari pentadbiran kami“. Indeed, given their apparent ethno-electoral hyperbole of 300,000 stateless Indians, even if Harapan scoops every stateless Indian up in the 100 days, they will, by the logic of numbers, surely fall short of their own alleged target of 300,000.

So if DHRRA is correct, Pakatan Harapan has failed on a key election promise to the Indian community even before polling day! Even if we forgive them their numbers, and even if they institute some ameliorative policy quickly, this is not a 100 day problem. People who have been living for generations in the shadow of the nation are not going to be easily found and rehabilitated. Given this, and the recent evidence of Harapan’s attitude in ‘Keling Gate’, the coalition had better pull its finger out in terms of winning over the Indian community – if they want the best from the upcoming elections. Or … am I just not getting it …. could the masterful ‘old man’ of Malaysian politics be knowingly spinning his perfectly pitched racial attitude in the direction of the much needed Malay heartland, fully cognizant of the fact that Indians just do not figure in the Harapan calculation for GE-14!

Image: https://twitter.com/encikail/status/709235617498996736 (edited)