FMT LETTER: From Kua Kia Soong, via e-mail
I have all along been supportive of the Hindraf movement because I believe that Malaysian Indians are a marginalised minority and are victims of state racism, often resulting in their forming the majority in statistics on deaths in police custody and police shootings. The marginalised Indians in this country are a specially oppressed section of the working class – it is an oppression that has taken on a racist character through the years.
Suaram has also been approached to endorse Hindraf’s blueprint. Now, while the blueprint has some good policy proposals, there are contradictions with its own professed “multi-ethnic paradigm” and human rights assertions. Consequently, Hindraf has neglected certain fundamental demands that we would have expected the movement to stress especially in the coming general election.
Racism or more specifically, “Bumiputeraism” has been the dominant ideology of the Umno ruling class ever since May 13, 1969. It has been practiced under the guise of the “New Economic Policy” and that racism has been covertly disseminated through state institutions such as the Biro TataNegara and other “bumiputeras only” institutions all these years.
Thus, it is in the common interest of all communities at this 13th General Election to call for an end to this institutional racism and Pakatan Rakyat must commit to this before they get our vote. In this day and age, affirmative action is not justifiable for any ethnic community which has undergone class differentiation.
Thus, neither the Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazanmurut nor Iban communities can justify any affirmative action for their own community. The best non-racist approach to progress is still affirmative action based on class or sector. Thus, if the affirmative action is for the plantation poor, clearly the beneficiaries will be Malaysian Indians, and so on.
Eradicate institutional racism
Despite their efforts in recent years highlighting the entrenchment of racial discrimination in the Constitution, I am surprised that the Hindraf blueprint does not call for the abolition of the “New Economic Policy”. Any corrective action in all economic and education policies must be based on need or sector or class and not on race with priority given to indigenous people, marginalised and poor communities.
Since their blueprint extols human rights, Hindraf should put forward their demands for all minorities and not just the Indian community. Thus we find a gaping “disconnect” between Hindraf’s noble challenge to racial discrimination entrenched in the Constitution and their “Indians Only” proposals in the blueprint.
And to be consistent in their human rights stand, Hindraf should also call for:
- the repeal of Amendment (8A) of Article 153 that was passed during the state of emergency in 1971 and was not in the original 1957 federal constitution;
- institutionalising means testing for any access to scholarships or other entitlements;
- implementing merit-based recruitment in civil & armed services;
- enacting an Equality Act to promote equality and non-discrimination irrespective of race, creed, religion, gender or disability with provision for an Equality & Human Rights Commission;
- institutionalising equality and human rights education at all decision-making levels, including state and non-state actors/ institutions;
- ratifying the Convention on the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
Ministry of Minorities’ Affairs
Such a ministry is a good idea in a government that is committed to equality, justice and human rights. This point is not clear in Hindraf’s blueprint. At the moment, the Hindraf leadership is even contemplating talking with BN leaders while voicing impatience with PR. Do they believe Umno will commit to such reforms before the 13GE?
If they can allow an “Orang Asli Department” and “Ministry of Women’s Affairs”, why should another cosmetic “Ministry of Minorities’ Affairs” be a problem for them? And when they do, would Hindraf be prepared to accept a BN government?
The crucial question is: Which is the priority for Hindraf? Do they prioritise the demands for reforms or the demand for a ministry post? If it is the latter, then it is out and out opportunism of the elites in the movement which should be condemned by all progressive Malaysians.
Does Hindraf believe in consultation?
A critical principle in human rights and democracy is respect for others. The rights of minorities in any society mean just that – all minorities have rights and no minority group has more rights than others. That being the case, why does the Hindraf blueprint insist that the post of Minister of Minorities’ Affairs HAS to be filled by Hindraf? Surely, all the minorities in the country have to get together and decide who should be nominated for such a post? This is called consultation.
Hindraf must also work alongside other campaigns for justice, democracy and human rights. Besides “eradicating institutional racism”, Malaysian civil society has at least nineteen other demands in the 13GE for the political parties to commit to. The point is, we can only mobilise all the people if we fight on all fronts, against all oppressions and against the divisions within the masses. As the Black Panthers said in the sixties: “We do not fight racism with racism…We fight racism with solidarity”.
The writer is Suaram adviser