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Malaysia: Indians in Malaysia Demand Equal Rights

Malaysian Indian activists made their way through traffic jams, blocked roads and closed train stations to rally in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday for equal rights in Malaysia.

Police in the city closed roads and two train stations near the British High Commission in anticipation of the rally organized by the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF). They used tear gas and water cannons laced with chemicals to disperse the crowds, effectively splitting the protest into different parts of the city. Protesters were dispersed along Jalang Ampang, near the Batu Caves (the site of a large Hindu temple) and near the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), an area around the famed Petronas Towers. Protestors began gathering at KLCC as early as 7:30am and reports say that police were trying to disperse a crowd at the gates of the Batu Caves as late as 11:00pm.

HINDRAF Protest
Photo from Flickr user lastham

Jelas.info blogger describes his first experience with tear gas on Jalan Ampang:

I was near the front, and inexperienced with tear gas, so it caught me a little unawares. Oh by God it hurt.
I thought I was going to suffocate.
It was all I could do to walk slowly away with the fleeing crowd. I wasnít sure if thereíd be FRU beating us from behind as we left.

Because the crowds were so dispersed, estimates of how many protesters attended the rally varies. The BBC, which reported from outside the British High Commission , said that more than 5,000 protesters rallied. The Associated Press (via The Telegraph in India) reported the crowd at over 10,000. Asia Times estimated that over 20,000 rallied, while the online news site Malaysiakini says 30,000 rallied.

The New Straits Times reports that 136 protesters now face charges. Three HINDRAF leaders were arrested on sedition charges on Friday before the protest, then released on Monday when the charges were dropped.

HINDRAF was denied a permit to march to the High Commission and submit a memo that calls on the British to pay US$4 trillion in reparations for bringing Indians to Malaysia as laborers before the country won its independence in 1967. Protesters said that Malaysia's laws are discriminatory to the country's large, mostly Tamil population. There are over 2 million Indians in Malaysia who are often denied business licenses, property and higher education due to quota systems which favor Malays, protesters said. Many in the crowd carried banners with images of Queen Elizabeth and Mahatma Gandhi.

Police Near British High Commission
Police near the British High Commission

But protesters also said that they were rallying to also get the attention of the Malaysian Indian Congress, whose president YB. Dato Seri S. Samy Vellu has led the party since 1979. Many protesters expressed disappointment in the party's longtime inaction to help raise the status of Indians in Malaysia.

Colour Blind blogger Ronnie Liu said protesters were calling for Samy Vellu to step down

MIC Leader S Samy Vellu must step down now. That seems to be the common sentiment of the 30,000 protesters today. Every single Indian brother and sister I met today wanted Samy to go. So Mr Samy Vellu, have you heard their voices?

Disquiet blogger and president of the National Human Rights Society Malik Imtiaz Sarwar compared the reaction by police to the HINDRAF protest to their reaction to a protest in June by UMNO Youth.

I do not necessarily agree with the manner in which HINDRAF has decided to espouse its cause. Though I recognize the point HINDRAF is making, I believe that we should be fighting for the cause of all underprivileged and marginalized Malaysians. Having said that, the apparently inconsistent stance of the Police and the Government where rallies are concerned can only lead one to a conclusion that there may be some truth to what HINDRAF is saying.

While many English-language bloggers and the international press, including AlJazeera and the BBC, focused on police methods of dispersing the crowd, Malaysian newspapers The Star and The New Straits Times highlighted injured police officers and protesters’ violent behavior.

  • observer

    All the protesters were saying & asking was “Give us a Chance to Hand in the Petition to British High Commission” – just an hour maybe. And what they got were tear gas and sprayed chemical water. It is most regrettable they were not given the chance to hand over the petition (confirmed by the British High Com)). And the gall of the IGP in the interview to say they were no leaders there to submit the petition.
    Read the shameful words of IGP: “we allowed it” but almost “arrested” the leaders and had a court restraining order for them.
    excerpt Interview transcript:
    ALJazeera: Your officers were fairly effective in driving the protesters away from the British High Commission, do you think that had they been allowed to hand over the petition at the High C, this would have ended peacefully without any disturbance?
    IGP: Well first of all we allowed it; but of course they got no leaders with them’ So we don’t know who wants to hand over the memorandum. And by the end of it the, leaders came, but later on they didn’t even hand over the memorandum to the British High Commission.
    More details, two Video Clips (Protest & interview) at
    Go H E R E

  • Abdullah Badawi

    ‘Lan Chow’ Malaysia IGP !

    The ruling political party UMNO is too corrupted & inefficient.
    While the sub-parties of MIC, MCA, etc are all ‘nice dogs’ to UMNO. Listening to them and ‘YES SIR’.
    Aren’t you there to protect your people?

    Samy Vellu & Ong Ka Ting should step down together with Badawi.

    Anyway the opposition will win the election as in Australia.

  • Frankie Vaiyapurry

    Malaysia is a country that discriminates against its own citizens. Malaysia’s economic, political and social policies are race based. The media is stifled and there is no freedom of speech.The peole who run the country have no vision. They are not prepared to allow for change; because change will expose scandals and corruption. The global force has dismantled apartheid in South Africa and hopefully it will visit Malaysia in near future.

  • kataboomba

    Hindraf Tamilian Hindus starts fire, fire burns Tamilian hindus, Tamilian Hindus cry foul. Typical pattern of pariah mentality ..as in kg.medan when they get drunk ,start smashing the malay wedding…what more u can expect? Cry to your queen but for god’s sake -Dont regret. They’re asking for it.

  • benny p

    Extremely awful situation for Malaysian Indians. It is ridiculous for a country to deny equal rights to its own citizens.Often malays display the fake image of indian community and “drunkards” or idol worshipers.Malays are in a fool’s paradise and they are not realising that Indians represent a community with a big number of intellects and competent professionals. Because of their majority malays had included everything they wanted in the constitution. Constitution is meant to meet the right of the citizen,not to snatch it.For the religious matter concerned malaysia as a popular and open country with a good image in international community should not blindly follow the middle east style for religion and start considering others religion as religon also. Hinduism has its roots from 10000 b.c itself and it made india the most peaceful region all the time .Malaysia should show their maturity with time and try to consider and respect hinduism also as a religion.In this present context we all should thrive for peace and harmony.There is no other way to prosperity other than harmony.
    Benny p

  • Jonathan K

    Oh MalaysiaKu .. Inikah NegaraKu

    It saddens me and sordidly pains to see this had to eventually happen.

    That said, we’d it coming actually and yet we’ll witness a deja vu where there’ll be denials, and more denials and subsequently the usual blame the world parody for our self-inflicted woes and failings.

    Current PM is a nice guy. But not too sure if he would have political will, guts, humility and maturity to admit that affirmative policies have gone awry.

    We tell proudly the world over that we are a melting pot of multi-cultural ethnic diversity, respectfully co-exist and pliantly tolerant of other race and creed in beautiful M’sia. Which it true … well, true until till the ugly truth had frothed out now.

    When one witnesses one race dictates themselves as the de facto cooks and the rest of races are in the pot, the simmering and boiling becomes a perfect recipe for spicy spillover.

    Where does one draw a line of intent between being told to go ahead enjoy the simmering tepid water in the pot that we are preparing you other races, to soothe your anxieties while we figure something out, and left the other races in the pot in eternity to boil because protracted in-fightings amongst the “righteous” cooks themselves to claim credits for the recipe.

    Affirmative policies is the recipe. It was a “constituted” policy for a “beleaguered” race to march 2 steps forward and others “mandated” to accede and retreat 1 step back. Essentially, it was sold hook and line to bring up an indigenous race (by definition, actually they are ones who are still in the jungle) to be more equal than others, and yet with equal opportunities for all. How does that work out is anyone guess. Other races’ representatives then must have been charmed or had derelict and lapsed in their responsibilities.

    How these injustice was tolerated for so so long was because essentially the country was blessed with an economy which was fortuitously doing rather well. And having other races chosen leaders as muppets and mouth pieces in government also help to smoother the ruffles along the way.

    But more importantly or rather fortunately, the economy growth had jobs aplenty all round albeit not so equal opportunities in highly tertiary learnings, paid jobs and/or business. Other races had scraps and just had to make do. That has made other races just got more resoundingly creative and hard-working to send their next generation for further education overseas and/or private universities. It would allow the next generation a glimmer of hope to eke out a better living in M’sia or elsewhere. It had forestall the crisis.

    And as previous PM had observed a notable affirmative failings, cooks became very arrogant yet soft and complacent.

    All told, protracted affirmative actions have lost untold billions of dollars in monetary terms of wealth and talents because:
    a. other races had just to emigrate to become a better 2nd class citizen elsewhere
    b. continued satirical infighting amongst the cooks
    c. expended wealth in tertiary education because of sub-standard local universities and/or unequal entry opportunities (former leads to point out incidentally, why some of the brightest cooks are schooled instead in the best renown overseas tertiary , courtesy of the local taxpayers)
    d. expended wealth in business opportunities overseas because local affirmative practices curtail equal opportunities

    And now, more valuable and intangible to be lost – trust.

    50 years of independence from the British colonial ruling and taught us to right way to drive is on the left-side, letter of civil law, communicate in English language.

    For all the Empire misgivings, many wouldn’t have remembered today. But if the present government does not become wiser and heed these warnings and take bold correctives action .. other races may get so frustrated and not be forgiving. And M’sia may not be a beautiful country anymore ..

    Darah tumpahnya darahku

    Let us all pray it meant blood shed for loyalty to our country and not a blood bath because of race divide like what’s happening in Sri Lanka or Iraq today.

    I want to come home to a paradise in beautiful M’sia .. but this had been said of Sri Lanka .. praying hard it would not be another deja vu come true..

  • Jonathan K

    Errata:

    Pls note text error:

    It’s Tanah tumpahnya darahku

  • voyager

    “Malysia truly Asia” should read “Malaysia truly Afghnistan”.
    The country is being run by taliban style mullahs who have shaved off their beards and are disguised in western outfits.
    What more proof would you want when terrorizing of its own non-muslim citizens has been taken up as a state policy.

  • peace

    It’s is a very simple rule. When the majority are given exclusive benefits then minority will suffer. This is what happening in Malaysia; it began to show side effects.

    Bumiputra status is given to local majority merely a walking stick 30 years ago. The status to help them improve in life but this handicap support had been turned into they rights. This doesn’t mean they are unsuccessful. They are very successful with over 30 years exclusive support.

    Hindraf has achieved its objective. They have tried to relay their message to Malaysian government but turn down. They turn it to the global attention and they got it. It sad to see Malaysian government taking measurement against Hindraf movement instead off listening to their cry for help. Anyway, how does minority able to highlight their problem in this country? In a country media were filtered by the ruling party.

  • hammarskjold

    it saddens me to see this the racial hatred that exist even in this thread alone. one wonders what stems the fight in the first place? is it greed? wanting more? is it the fight for equality? but what is equality even in a racial sense? what is equality when we see western domination the world over?

    racial division occurs commonly in many countries the world over. we do not need to look far, in countries like Fiji where the indians are not even allowed to have land ownership. i am not saying that racial division is right, but why the focus on race and equality when we are faced with bigger pressing issues like poverty in Malaysia.

    what i reckon is all these wasted energies of demanding for equality could have been better directed if people extract their heads from out off the sand, lower their rice bowls for once, and share whatever they have in it with the people who are having a difficult time trying to fight they way against the evil impacts of globalisation.

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