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Hindraf in slipstream of two-race system

 | June 3, 2012

Post GE, the establishment will be decidedly Malay and the opposition Chinese-dominated. So it is the third wheel – the Indians – now facing the crossroad.


Indraf is not only a poor copycat of Hindraf but caterwauling that insofar as counterfeits go, it ‘purr’fectly reflects the hypocrisy of its backyard breeder Pakatan Rakyat.

Detractors of Hindraf have labeled the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) as “racist”. But to this same bunch of people, its imitator Indian Rights Action Front (Indraf) is somehow not racist. Quite amazing what the circumcision of a single alphabet ‘h’ can do.

While on one hand the Indraf camouflage may convince ‘colour blind’ Malaysian Firsters, on the other hand Hindraf would be correct to anticipate the demise of its latest clone in short order. Just like the other breakaway factions such as Parti Makkal Sakti whose president RS Thanenthiran today carries a Datuk title.

P Uthayakumar must have felt vindicated last Sunday to see the Pakatan motley crew, who call themselves Indraf (‘little Hindraf’?), holding their little gathering in a little hall in Little India.

Uthaya has been machine-gunned at regular intervals by the Pakatan militia – the online mob characterized as “stormtroopers” by Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim in his Star interview (May 30). The most recent hail of bullets followed Uthaya’s decision to stand in Selangor the coming polls.

In the course of the DAP vice chairman’s spectacular exit, he fell victim to the “populism and fanaticism” of the party and its cadres, wrote Sin Chew Daily deputy chief news editor Tay Tian Yan.

Uthaya makes the same complaint with regard to the burst of gunfire that greeted the announcement of his candidacy. We live in a democracy, he says, yet the opposition supporters will not allow him to stand for election.

With Tunku Aziz’s departure, DAP has no Malay leaders left with any heft. Lim Guan Eng’s political secretary Zairil Khir Johari is seen by the Malays as being more of a Chinese while Ariff Sabri Aziz (Sakmongkol) and Aspan Alias are Umno murtads.

The inability of DAP to gain traction with the Malay electorate, coupled with the likely general election (GE) outcome where PKR is expected to suffer a reversal of fortune and PAS to backslide, will make a two-race political system inevitable in the aftermath of GE 13.

PKR does not have strong grassroots support. In GE 2008, the party only won 40 state seats nationwide compared to PAS’s 83 seats and DAP’s 73. PKR’s dismal showing in the Sarawak 2011 state election bolsters this reading.

In 2008, PAS more than doubled its 2004 GE haul of 36 state seats – the gains coming mostly at the expense of Umno. Hence if Umno makes a successful comeback, what it recoups will be the seats lost to PAS earlier.

Simply put: If Umno recovers, PAS weakens, and vice versa, because their sphere of influence is in direct competition. This formula is identical to the MCA-DAP inverse correlation.

Post GE, the establishment will be decidedly Malay and the opposition Chinese-dominated. So it is the third wheel – the Indians – now facing the crossroad.

Siding with Malay or Chinese?

The Chinese-Malay dichotomy is illustrated in Perak where the state government is made up of 31 assemblymen of which 29 are Malay (27 Umno and two independents). The sole Chinese representative is the MCA Chenderiang Adun and the sole Indian is the ‘BN-friendly’ Malim Nawar Adun, formerly of DAP.

Meanwhile, the opposition has 28 Adun, out of whom 17 are Chinese.

Looking into the future, the Indians will necessarily have to pick sides and their choice will boil down to siding either with the Malays or the Chinese, the latter dominated politically by Christian Anglophiles.

Uthaya notes that according to the 2008 electoral roll, Sabah had 802,683 voters spread over 25 Parliament and 60 state seats. Thus Sabahans possess a strong legislative voice.

There were 715,099 registered Indian voters throughout the country but zero Indian-majority Parliament and state seats. To Uthaya, this result of gerrymandering and mal-apportionment rendered the Indians voiceless.

Because Indian candidates in any constituency would have to depend on Malays and Chinese to obtain votes, they pander to Malays and Chinese at the expense of the Indian minority.

Politicians such Subang’s R Sivarasa – who admits to not speaking proper Tamil and never holding himself out as an ‘Indian leader’ but rather a Malaysian leader “for all” – does not equate Indian representation. The word ‘Indian representative’ describes ethnicity; ‘Indian representation’ describes safeguarding Indian community interests.

One example of mal-apportionment is the Putrajaya parliamentary seat which had 6,608 voters (94.6% Malay) according to the 2008 electoral roll. It’s got fewer voters than a state seat.

In fact, the largest parliamentary constituency Kapar has 112,224 voters, i.e. 17 times more than Putrajaya. In other words, Kapar can be carved up to have 17 MPs, or at least to make an Indian-majority seat. (The sitting MP is S. Manikavasagam of PKR.)

Uthaya’s further analysis found that about 70% of the Malaysian-Indian population resides in the five states (inclusive of Perak) won by Pakatan in GE12.

Abacus on Indian calculus

According to the Population and Housing Census of Malaysia 2010, Indians make up 7.3% of the national population. However, Indians make up a higher percentage of inhabitants along the west coast. They comprise 10.4% of Penang’s 1.47 million Malaysian citizens, 12.3% of Perak’s 2.28 million and 13.5% of Selangor’s 5.04 million.

These numbers indicate that the Indian vote will have twice the impact in Selangor that it does overall in the country. This is the reason Uthaya selected the Kota Raja parliament (28.3%) and Seri Andalas state (32.3%) constituencies to contest, both of which have the highest percentage of Indians.

The Hindraf demography is clear-cut. Examining the list of 111 individuals charged in the Jalan Duta and Shah Alam courts for taking part in the 25 Nov 2007 rally, you find a number of them bearing the names Guna, Loga, Raja and Ravi. Interestingly, nine of them are called Ramesh.

None of the 111 Indian participants in the ‘illegal’ assembly (they pleaded guilty to the police charges) had names that resembled Charles Santiago or John Fernandez, to cite two Indian DAP Parliamentarians as examples.

The state seat of Seri Andalas lies within the parliamentary constituency of Kota Raja. So who are the 20,344 Indian voters in Kota Raja and the 12,814 in Seri Andalas?

Given the number of Hindu temples in these areas, it is logical to infer that the Indian voters belong to the Hindraf demography of Raju a/l Kuppusamy rather than the ‘Saints Xavier’ who form the bulk of the Pakatan Indian cheerleaders.

The Raju, Ravi and Ramesh cohorts in semi-rural Kota Raja are more liable to be persuaded by the Tamil-speaking Hindraf or MIC election canvassers than they are by the “English is my mother tongue” armchair critics … quite useless, by the way, for you to be ranting and name-calling in cyberspace as you change nothing on the ground.

Earth has moved

What are the chances for BN and Pakatan in the two seats Uthaya is eyeing?

The BN power-sharing convention dictates that Kota Raja will be given to MIC.

The party’s S Vigneswaran collected 24,376 votes to Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud’s 8,239 votes and winning in 2004 with a comfortable majority of 16,137. However PAS’s Dr Siti Mariah turned the tables in 2008 to breast the tape by a sizeable margin too.

Hindraf credits these unprecedented wins by PAS and PKR – in areas that the two Malay-majority parties had never prevailed before – to the Indian vote swing. It estimates that BN’s share of the Indian vote shrunk massively in 2008, down from 72.4% in 2004 to 8.3%.

Uthaya highlights Ipoh Barat won by DAP’s M. Kulasegaran to illustrate how Pakatan benefitted from the phenomenon. In 2004, Kula defeated a MCA candidate by 598 votes. The 2008 turnaround saw Kula winning on a majority of 15,534.

It is thanks to Hindraf that Indian votes dropped into Pakatan laps.

Umno is confident that they will be able to regain the two seats. Some days ago, FMT reported the former assemblyman for Sri Muda (a state constituency under Kota Raja) as saying that Dr Siti Mariah is keener on the environment and human rights. These are not issues that resonate with her constituents who are more concerned with the condition of the drains and roads, said the Umno man.

Aside from mismatched priorities, the ground has shifted not only metaphorically but in a literal sense as Kota Raja has reportedly experienced a surge of new voters.

New bottling, that’s all

DAP’s tagline is ‘Jom Ubah’ while that of PKR is ‘Reformasi’. Uthaya is recommending that “not voting is an option”.

His recurrent criticism of the MIC had been that the interests of the Indian working class, including those dislocated by the fragmentation of the estates, were compromised by the MIC “mandores”.

But he sees the opposition parties to be no different. “The current two coalitions really do not represent the poor and the marginalized. That is why they have similar policies and methods in spite of their avowed differences,” says Uthaya.

He observes that while the Indians had placed a lot of hope in Pakatan, “much to their disappointment what they got was merely more of the same – old wine, just new bottle”.

He gives examples of the demolishment of the Sri Muneswarar temple in Kubang Pasu, Kedah and the Sri Maha Kaliaman temple in Jalan Ulu Langat, Ampang as well as the eviction of the Sri Batrakali Amman temple in Penang as examples of the Pakatan state governments behaving no differently from BN.

Since the Nov 25 Hindraf rally, Umno seems to have stopped demolishing Hindu temples but it is now Pakatan doing so, exclaims Uthaya.

Whether or not Umno has genuinely learned to be more considerate, it is for sure that Pakatan has very quickly become arrogant.

Assessing Umno’s strength

Umno was never weak in 2008, the BN setback notwithstanding. In Penang, the party had held 14 seats in 2004 and lost only three of them in 2008. Thus Umno, in retaining its 11 seats out of 14, scored marks of 78.6% and meriting a B+ grade.

In Perak 2008, Umno similarly turned out a B+ performance in successfully defending 27 out of its 34 seats – a success rate of 79.4%.

It was only in Selangor that Umno faltered and that was largely due to the taint of Mohd Khir Toyo and internal dissent by the state civil service due to the menteri besar’s high-handedness. By GE13, Khir as an irritant will have been removed.

Umno has closed ranks under its popular president Najib Tun Razak who has been diligently working the Malay ground, as has his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, in addition to their wooing the Indians by attending Thaipusam, Ponggal and other Indian celebrations.

Comparatively, Hindraf has been treated most shoddily by Pakatan. The callousness shown by the federal opposition is hardly surprising given Uthaya’s no-holds-barred critiques of their mendacity.

Even when the supplicant asks ‘nicely’ – such as Parti Sosialis Malaysia in appealing Jelapang for its deputy chairman M Saraswathy to contest – still, PSM was flatly told off by Perak DAP whose Hee Yit Foong won the seat.

There was no gratitude from Pakatan in return for PSM’s pivotal role in making a success of Bersih 2.0, or any spirit of give and take.

If Pakatan refused to make way in even one state seat (one that DAP technically no longer holds after Hee’s defection) to accommodate a supportive ally, it is thus no surprise that Hindraf has been given the cold shoulder.

Face it, we’re communal

Uthaya sees Hindraf’s achievement as taking pressing Indian issues to the national level through the Nov 25, 2007 mammoth mobilization. He attributes the lack of a similar mass appeal among earlier Indian activists to their predilection of “playing to the majoritarian gallery”.

He says “they do not want to risk being labeled as an Indian or Hindu communalist, racist, extremist, what more terrorist as the Hindraf lawyers have been.”

For all the multiracial preening by Pakatan, the reality of Malaysian life is indeed race-laced.

In his exclusive interview with FMT on May 28, MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek revealed that both his party and Umno had carried out separate surveys which indicated that “At the end of the day, [Malaysian youngsters still] turned back into their own ethnic cocoons”.

Needless to say, the FMT article on Dr Chua was greeted with an avalanche of ‘Angry’ thumbs down by syok sendiri readers who are in denial.

Unlike Pakatan’s deceitful dream pedlars, Hindraf are realists.

Let the GE13 chips fall where they may, the real battle for Hindraf begins at GE14 after the Chinese have politically isolated themselves in their last redoubt of the Penang island.

Uthaya maps out a political empowerment plan as the way forward for the Indian poor but it is a long-term strategy. It is not the instant gratification of pounding ‘A-B-U, A-B-U!’ on the keyboard only to lepas geram.

Hindraf sees its path ahead clearly without delusions and Uthaya’s warm-up run is a stepping stone. The real question for the Indians is who they will chose to walk with – the Malaysian Firsters or the Malay?

The writer blogs at http://helenang.wordpress.com


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