Monday, February 18, 2008

The absurdity thats HINDRAF

IN less than three weeks, Malaysians will go to the polls as the defining embodiment of their democracy.


Casting their votes in the 12th general election, they will express in no uncertain terms their opinions of the Barisan Nasional government. It is an act of renewal that takes place every few years, a chance for the country to take stock, to consider its future and the direction in which it wishes to go. On Saturday, a small group of people staged an illegal rally and attempted to take the election hostage. The little support that remains for the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) gathered in the capital determined that the world should know that they are extremely unhappy.

What they are unhappy about exactly is not clear. This movement began with the wily use of an absurd suit, to sue the British government for STG4 trillion (RM25.26 trillion) for exploiting Indians as indentured labour in colonial Malaya. It did succeed in highlighting the plight of poor Tamils today. Next, its slick organisers hoped to repeat the trick, attempting to petition the Queen of England at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur. This time, it was to march to parliament to give the prime minister flowers. They haven't asked for more Tamil schools, for more jobs in the civil service for Indians. They haven't asked for more welfare support for underprivileged Indians. The Malaysian Indian Congress did all that, capitalising on an opportunity that Hindraf's organisers threw away.

So, what is Hindraf actually fighting for, precisely? They have the same number of votes as every other Malaysian -- one man, one vote -- so they aren't the heroes of a burgeoning Malaysian civil rights movement. They are citizens of a country where more than two million foreigners work, both legally and not, so they can't possibly believe there are not enough jobs. What they have done is to claim Hindus have been marginalised, accuse the government of ethnic cleansing, and beg for their five leaders to be released from detention under the Internal Security Act. They are also doing the BN a favour. They have made themselves widely resented in Kuala Lumpur for disrupting the lives of thousands of peace-loving city folk. They have obscured the fact that there are opposition parties making legitimate attempts to participate in the democratic process and respect elections as a venue for demanding change. It just doesn't look like they are fighting to raise any constructive points. Maybe, it really is for the money.