My latest write up in my column in MalaysianInsider is about Hindraf. I will post the article here:
OCT 16 — Although I have always subscribed to the belief that a broader movement representing the poorer sections of the people regardless of race is better than just fighting for the cause of a single race, I have always sympathised with Hindraf and its objective of calling attention to the marginalisation of Indians in the country.
We must understand why Hindraf appeals to so many of our Indian brothers. The Indians, without doubt, are one of the most neglected groups and with no effective representation in the government — the MIC and multiracial parties such as PPP and non-racial parties like Gerakan have failed in their roles to effectively represent the interest of the poorer sections of Malaysians.
Frustration, discontent and anger among the Indians led to the sudden rise of this movement which snowballed into a force that has, in no small part, contributed to the dismaying performance of the BN parties in the last general election.
There is a real need for the government to analyse and address the reasons why Hindraf was able to become such a potent force within such a short time, and take corrective steps to tackle the problems facing the poorer sections of this country.
I was therefore shocked to learn that the government has, instead of engaging Hindraf to learn about the woes of the people, taken a step backwards to ban Hindraf.
Remember the Solidarity movement in Poland? Solidarity was formed in 1980 by Lech Walesa as a trade union movement in Poland, which was under communist rule at the time. It tapped into the disaffection of the people against the communist regime, and it quickly grew into a mass movement spreading to the whole of Poland.
The Polish Communists, as communists elsewhere would do, imposed martial law in 1981 and banned the movement. However, instead of stifling the movement, the legacy of the movement lived on and became an even bigger force, until in 1986, the Polish government had no choice but to lift the ban, and negotiated with the leaders of Solidarity in a series of roundtable talks. The rest is history.
Elections were promised and finally held, and Walesa was elected President of Poland in 1990.
The government can ban Hindraf, but there is no way to ban the ideas and legacy of the movement. A better way is to actually release all Hindraf leaders and engage them in talks to find out ways to overcome the feeling of marginalisation of Malaysian Indians.
I would advocate that it goes even a step further. Engage those NGOs that represent the poorer section of all Malaysians, and find a solution to help the poor of all races.
Fifty-one years after independence, this is the right time to stop race-based affirmative policies, and instead tailor all help based on social strata and need.
Give the tongkat to those who really cannot walk; do not give the tongkat indiscriminately to those who not only can walk, but can run and jump. That is what the NEP is doing, so far skewed from its original purpose of eradicating poverty irrespective of ethnic groups.
Engagement and not suppression will be the key to a civil society.