Thursday, October 9, 2008
Of Hindraf and Raya Open Houses
Malaysia is probably one of the few countries where you can actually walk to the PM and asked for a photograph to be taken. This is the only place I can think of where there is a Raya open house and thousands would patiently line up for their turn to shake the PM's hand and then enjoy the food, which is of course paid for by taxpayers. The point is this - despite all the loud political noises, Malaysia is a safe and tolerant country. The security personnel do not freak out easily, unlike the agents with dark glasses that guard the US president. In India and Pakistan, they are even more nervous. Don't dream of shaking the president's hand. During the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in KL in 1990, I remembered being asked to leave the toilet I was in at the PWTC because a senior leader from an Asean country wanted to use one of the urinals. His bodyguards forgot he was in another country. So, when the Hindraf supporters wanted to remind the PM during the Raya open house that their leaders were still in detention, not many Umno leaders and members were amused. Pak Lah being Pak Lah, he allowed the Hindraf supporters to approach him although the security men were against the idea. There are now conflicting reports over how the event took place - Hindraf has insisted there was no commotion. But there is no denying they wanted to stage a protest. They had a signature memorandum with them too. They have their reasons and it is their democratic right. But they could have chosen a better time and place. Let's leave politics out, at least for a day, on a festive occassion. We must know when to stop politicking. DAP and PAS leaders like Lim Kit Siang and others have always called on the PM during the Hari Raya but always with great respect and they have never made strong political statements on the side line, preferring to talk about the festival. The Hindraf show of strength was thus a little out of place. To put it in a nutshell, it wasn't appropriate. Certainly, given the emotions of the Hindraf case, many would prefer to overlook, even defend and justify, what they did. Yes, we agree that the community has a strong case for the years of neglect and their leaders under ISA. These are real grievances. There have been calls to ban Hindraf. I am not sure if it would help. There is large support for Hindraf from the Indian community because the MIC has lost the legitimacy to represent the Indians. It is best for the government to keep the channel open. But Hindraf should also be open minded enough to be sensitive to the sentiments expressed by others. Let's not be too quick to punish Hindraf as this is the season for forgiveness. At the same time, Hindraf should also not be too overly defensive and controntational, let's try to see each other's views. Surely, Hindraf leaders would be pissed off if there are protesters at their Deepavali open house, if they stage one. More important, let's celebrate each other's festivals as Malaysians and at least, keep politics out during such times. Can we see some goodwill, respect and tolerance, for a change?