Hindraf and the Polish Solidarity Movement

My latest write up in my column in MalaysianInsider is about Hindraf. I will post the article here:

Malaysian Insider

A lesson from the Solidarity movement

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.


30 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nick
    Oct 16, 2008 @ 18:34:34

    Dr. Hsu, again you are spot on with your comments and recommendation. I think our present leaders are poorly educated and ill-advised. 30 years ago when MNCs first appear in Malaysia, our Government banned Unions from striking. Today, HR in MNCs will tell you that the best way to deal with Unions is to engage them and co-opt them into the Company’s affairs. That way, they become “partners” rather than “adversaries”. We need to teach these principles to our kids. “Talking, Negotiating, Persuading, Convincing, etc”; these are the ways forward to creating harmony and peace in human societies. Banning Hindraf is similar to using the ISA on our people. I totally disagree with this Government. Another reason not to vote for BN.


  2. A true Malaysian
    Oct 16, 2008 @ 21:19:04

    I agree with Dr. Hsu that Indian consists among the poorest in our society. These poor lead to neglecting in education, bad living environment, gangsterism and many social ills amongst the Indian community.

    A good number of our Indian brothers managed to survive in such bad condition and become professionals like lawyers and doctors. In fact, Hindraf was formed by a group of lawyers who had gone through all avenues to solve this marginalisation, but to no avail. As in Chinese saying, ice frozen not by a day winter, and I emphatised with our Indian brothers why they opted for demonstration last year. In fact, many of these poor look up at their professional leaders for better future instead of MIC.

    Beside the above, I personally think that ‘caste system’ that lived with Hindus since long long ago did play a very significant part in the dilemma that Indian community is facing. We can see very extreme rich and extreme poor in their society, that includes in India.

    Maybe our Indian friends can comment on this subject of ‘caste’ in this forum so to benefit us all in our understanding of Hindu culture. I personally think that ‘caste’ does play significant influence here.


  3. Justin Choo
    Oct 16, 2008 @ 21:57:41

    A side-track abit. The caste system is entrenched in the psyche of the Indians. This is the big stumbling block to “freedom and equality” in the Indian Continent, and of course in the Indian community here.

    China can progress because Mao was most successful in ridding the Chinese clanish mentality. India is still shackled by it’s caste system.

    But then again, there will be people out there patronizing the caste system.

    In fact a sizable Harijans have changed their religion to Buddhism to escape the stranglehold of the caste system.


  4. A true Malaysian
    Oct 16, 2008 @ 22:59:26


    Without Emperor Shi Huang Ti, who unite Chinese by having one set of Chinese words for different dialets, Chinese would be like what their counterpart in India. India has so diverse languages and cultures that divide its people up to today.

    Gandhi fought for equality and discarding caste but he did not succeed but is respected by Indian up to now. This was why Hindraf carry portraits of Gandhi instead of national figures.


  5. Dalbinder Singh Gill
    Oct 17, 2008 @ 00:25:33

    Dear Dr. Hsu,

    I fully support you . Yes, i have never seen any other Gerakan Leader write like that. Your election into the Gerakan CC to light up the other lights, is a great change to Gerakan. I will light up those lights with you together. I am only 18 years old , a law student, and a nephew of Yb Karpal, if i wanted to , i could have join DAP n be running in the next elections where i would be around 23 years old but no, i want to fight truely and to me, the ideologies of Gerakan are truely multi-racial, thus i want some advice from you of what can i do as a new Gerakan member? If possible i want to meet up with you when i am in KL soon and if you are free to discuss a couple of matters and issues. Thank You.


  6. anonymous dud
    Oct 17, 2008 @ 02:07:01

    nazi started with noble cause – to uplift economy, to promote socialism, and advocate aryan supremacy. and they too began from organizing gatherings, speeches, rallies, and then strikes, riots, and beat up policeman and civil officers. and the party is not banned, the leader even managed to climb up to chancellor and control the diet. see the resemblance. and know why gov must take action to ban the group when the group is spotted beating up policeman and even charged with attempted murder, and some sent to ISA….


  7. sam
    Oct 17, 2008 @ 10:42:33

    This is an excellent and very useful piece of writing. Syabas Dr Hsu Dar Ren.

    You mentioned the Polish Solidarity Movement. If I may add a bit of clarification – While Lech Walesa was the public face and voice of the Polish Solidarity movement, which eventually saw the demise of the dictatorial and communist regimes of eastern europe, it is important to note that Solidarity actually developed after trade union activist Anna Walentynowicz was fired from work. That’s what hindraft represents…there may be some public faces and voices of hindraf but is its basis and birth as a movement, as your rightly suggest, is the everyday experience, over 50+ years, of frustration, discontent and anger among the individual Malaysian Indians over their marginalisation, social exclusion and racial discrimination…(and I`m not referring to that small percentage of Malaysian Indians who made it rich by hook or by crook…)

    Social movements like hindraf happen in liberal and authoritarian societies but in different forms. But the context remains the same – polarizing differences between groups of people such as the poverty and wealth gaps or the differences in customs, ethics and values. The birth of hindraf as a social movement happened, in what sociologists call an initiating event: a particular, individual event that will begin a chain reaction of events in the given society leading to the creation of a social movement. For example, American Civil Rights movement grew on the reaction to black woman, Rosa Parks, riding in the whites-only section of the bus (although it is important to note that Rosa Parks was not acting alone or spontaneously — typically activist leaders lay the groundwork behind the scenes of interventions designed to spark a movement). The South African shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali base Mjondolo grew out of a road blockade in response to the sudden selling off of a small piece of land promised for housing to a developer. Such an event is also described as a volcanic model – a social movement is often created after a large number of people realize that there are others sharing the same value and desire for a particular social change.

    I fully agree with you that “…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.”

    My one concern is that many other groups that have sprung up recently, especially the re-energized anti-Isa movement is enjoying a free rider benefit as a result of hindraf’s actions…they reaped the benefits of the hindraf movement, they don’t acknowledge it but now they want to rein in the hindraf supporters, persuade them to re-brand their cause, to their so-called bigger cause of theirs… that’s not right…the problem with gomen is but just one of the many challenges hindraf is facing…but I believe this action of disbanding them will only strengthen further as a social movement…the gomen shld be thanked for enabling this…

    p.s. Justin, you got it completely wrong…

    “The caste system is entrenched in the psyche of the Indians. This is the big stumbling block to “freedom and equality” in the Indian Continent, and of course in the Indian community here.”

    What makes you an authority on this subject (both the indian and chinese analysis that you proffer)…no offence, but your comment borders on racism…


  8. .
    Oct 17, 2008 @ 11:56:03


    Isn’t Lim Kheng Yeik from Gerakan?

    Isn’t he the starting that “behind the bush” conspiracy?

    Enough la, Dr. Hsu. Stop showing us your crocodile tears la !!


  9. CYC
    Oct 17, 2008 @ 12:24:24

    Doc, i somehow pity u. While u try to defend Hindraf, your counterpart Tan Lian Hoe was targeted by UMNO and even PM wants her to explain outburst on Bumi supremacy and bullying tactics of UMNO. She has been left alone to shoulder the burden. None of Gerakan leaders including KTK lend any help to her. If Gerakan can’t even stand up united for her little cause, i doubt it can do anything else meaningful.

    “Making car within closed doors” will never reap any results. Working without reaping positive results is just as good as doing nothing. I hate to say it but i wish reiterate my stand : Gerakan is no more relevant for Malaysia’s politics except for those who continue to live in the realm of denial.

    Lim Keng Yaik has cremated Gerakan when he said that Gerakan has been a political beggar to UMNO for the past 30 years. Stand up please for those with little dignity and pride, make your opinion and whack those self confessed smarter, brainy, highly qualified professional aside and reclaim your soul.


  10. .
    Oct 17, 2008 @ 12:39:59

    To CYC,

    Thank you for stating the obvious.

    And the other obvious point is, our fine doctor here, either can’t muster enough dignity, or don’t have any pride, or have no backbone at all, to walk out of that totally sick and rubbish beggar party.


  11. Damocles
    Oct 17, 2008 @ 13:33:46

    “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.”

    Doc, you definitely have a far better brain than all those UMNO/BN politicians who are hankering to be a somebody in the government.
    It is because of them that our country is what it is today – after fifty-one years of independence!!
    Our so called PMs, especially the lastest two, have failed the country completely.
    What have we got to show for half a century of independence? A mess, a goddam mess!
    And until now they are still using the race card to garner support from the Malays and in the process, cause racial strife between them and the non-Malays.
    I understand that some of these leaders are not true-blue Malays themselves. Perhaps because of this they are not adverse to causing racial polarisation in this country.


  12. Dr Hsu
    Oct 17, 2008 @ 14:12:48

    Those who are new to the blog, let me state my stand once again.

    If a husband is very bad to his wife and ill treats his children , the best advice is for the wife to leave the husband and be independent. Some children may ask the mother to leave, some may ask the mother to tolerate and stay, so it is a matter of debating between these 2 groups.

    Those who wanted the mother to leave would not be on the side of the husband. That is clear.Because they see the husband as cannot change. Those who ask to stay want some time to change the ebhaviour of the husband. But if the husband carries on beating the children and bashing the wife, it is inevitable for the wife to leave; it is just a matter of timing. The wife’s ideology is good because she wants to be fair to all the children. It is the husband that practices unequal treatment. So the children do not abandon the wife.

    Same thing as the nation. If the nation is no good, you dont just take the easy way and migrate. You stay and fight for your cause.

    I stay and fight for Gerakan’s ideology, a fair and equal society. Whether I succeed or not, I can tell myself that I have given my best try.


  13. Balan
    Oct 17, 2008 @ 16:00:33

    Not sure if this ban make sense as HINDRAF is not a legal organisation in the first place.

    As a moderate Indian Malaysian, I don’t agree or support HINDRAF (maybe one of the few Indian who do not support HINDRAF in Malaysia).

    No, I’m not a BN Supporter. How many have actually read their memorandum, speeches or attended their gatherings?

    The approach, writing and rhetorics incites hatred towards others. They are another organisation hiding behind race, religion, temples and schools. Most of their arguements are flimsy and does not make much sense.

    For alternative views on HINDRAF, from a Indian Malaysian point of view, , please visit (AUg/Sept/Oct Archive)



  14. A true Malaysian
    Oct 17, 2008 @ 16:12:09

    I read the latest statement of the Rulers Conference.


    Not sure whether to rejoice or concern. This kind of spinning will be there for a long long time to come.

    On one hand, call ‘this’ to be united but on the other hand, assured ‘that’ not to worry.

    Why not just call all to be united? Simple?


  15. Vincent Ho
    Oct 18, 2008 @ 02:38:35

    Have faith Dr. Hsu…the fight is far from over. Many will try to hide behind strong words but are afraid the reality of time.

    Fighting for one’s right has long drawn many lines…yet when the battle line is drawn, many will chicken out.

    Who are we to judge the brave and the coward but God Himself…yet many (or just one) has judged the good doctor here. We are all here as Bangsa Malaysia to stand for our rights as citizen of Malaysia whether we are blue, green, yellow, brown, black or white.

    If you find the doctor’s words and writings not to your liking, perhaps you could create your own blog and pen your frustration there…to run him down is uncalled off and leaves a bad aftertaste.

    When someone stands up to defend others as like the movement HINDRAF, they will be subjected to much investigation from the authorities. Yet many of time, the cause is noble but the people who join them can and will cause many heartaches and trouble.

    I sympathise the poor and the good ones whether they are Indians, Chinese and or Malays, as we all are part and parcel of Bangsa Malaysia.

    Continue your good work and writings, doctor as the world around us gets muddled with many injustices and hatred among man.

    SATU Hati.


  16. Looking for Hockey players for TVC
    Oct 18, 2008 @ 11:22:33

    Dr + friends

    “Remember the Solidarity movement in Poland? Solidarity,…. – Dr Hsu”

    *The big difference here is, one is a class base struggle and ours’ is “make out” to be a racial + religious thing. Dr. we all know that the second issue is total nonsense + fictional.


    “The caste system is entrenched in the psyche of the Indians. – Justin Choo ”

    *I must agree to a certain extend, but at least they have the ball to call a carpati a carpati


    “I stay and fight for Gerakan’s ideology, a fair and equal society. – Dr Hsu”

    *There is a fine line between stay to fight + staying to be apologetic. It is ironical that you wrote about President Lech Walesa in the same breath.


    “nazi started with noble cause – to uplift economy, to promote socialism, – Anonymous Dud”

    *So can be said about the NEP. Something good that went so wrong.


    “Polish Solidarity Movement / American Civil Rights / The South African shack dwellers’ …… – Sam”

    *Just like our country’s current situation, a jigsaw puzzle wrongly assembled, need a good shake up to put it back.

    *Dr i support your cause, but not the vehicle you choose to ride on. Thank you for caring anyways.


  17. eugene
    Oct 18, 2008 @ 17:42:56

    Dr Hsu,

    In the MCA presidential debate last nite on TV7, Datuk Chuah Jui Meng also mentioned the husband and wife theory quite similar to yours. But I guess whatever your plan are you have to give yourself a timeline;time to fight and time to say enough is enough, else you will end up being apologetic.


  18. A true Malaysian
    Oct 18, 2008 @ 18:22:52

    Dear all,

    My prediction of MCA election results are :-

    a) President – Ong Tee Keat, won by smaller margin though since he chickened out from participating in debate.

    b) Deputy President – Dr. Chua Soi Lek. I am impressed by his performance against Lim Siang Chai. Ong Kah Chuan would be no fight in the debate as he is not a good orator. Ong Kah Chuan would be ‘humiliated’ if he participated in the debate. If he had participated in the debate, then today election will be a forgone conclusion to him. By not participating, Ong Kah Chuan still has some chance to be elected.

    Although I am not ‘proud’ of Chua Soi Lek in his sex scandal, he is a hard working minister, no nonsense allowed. These good qualities are more in line with that of Ong Tee Keat.

    Anyway, MCA need to stand up and be counted as a new force in BN in order to redeem their pride. If not, next GE will see another tsunami on MCA.


  19. A true Malaysian
    Oct 18, 2008 @ 20:47:56

    There should not be any ‘Cai Dan’ culture in any election. This culture was made famous by Ling Liong Sik.

    Anyone elected should be able to work together, after all, all are supposedly mature adults.

    Ong Tee Keat should not let anyone rides on him. This is not his original self.


  20. A true Malaysian
    Oct 18, 2008 @ 21:06:00

    My prediction was right, unofficial result, Chua Soi Lek won.


  21. A true Malaysian
    Oct 18, 2008 @ 22:11:15

    My prediction comes true, Ong Tee Keat is elected President of MCA.

    Congratulations. Show to Umno you guys are more matured politically.


  22. romerz
    Oct 19, 2008 @ 03:32:09

    A true Malaysian,

    Nothing has changed. We are still being bullied!



  23. A true Malaysian
    Oct 19, 2008 @ 08:22:10

    All in all, debate is a good culture for polticians to adopt and should be carried on.

    Tee Keat and Soi Lek are ‘righteous[ in their own rights. I hope they can stand up and tell Umno what their (Umno) wrongs, not being ‘bullied’.

    If both cannot do that, MCA will not have the support of all Malaysian. MCA might as well pull out of BN.

    Umno is a ‘bully’, everyone knows that, except themselves. Saving face should not go the that kind extent of denying facts.


  24. Justin Choo
    Oct 19, 2008 @ 16:23:03

    Umno guys are actually not bullies. The more appropriate term will be that of Gerakan’s LKY “sudden realization” of MASTER-SLAVE RELATIONSHIP.


  25. romerz
    Oct 19, 2008 @ 17:00:49

    Oops sorry A true Malaysian,

    Meant to post this link instead.



  26. eugene
    Oct 19, 2008 @ 21:42:47

    ” First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I am not a socialist. Then they came for the unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they for me, and there was no one there to speak for me”

    Dr Hsu,
    With regards to the article “Politik Baru YB J” published by Utusan Malaysia, correct me if I am wrong, I don’t remember seeing any response from Gerakan and other BN components parties, to me this is not a DAP problem or Teresa problem. you guys should make a political stand . . . . . this is about righteousness and justice.


  27. romerz
    Oct 20, 2008 @ 02:25:29

    Dr Hsu,

    Have your read Najib’s manifesto for his party elections?

    Am looking forward to our debate with KTK on 25th.

    Call me when you get into Penang. We could have dinner 1st before proceeding to the debate. Whatever you wish and the treat is on me.

    By the way, this is my thoughts on Najib’s manifesto.



  28. CYC
    Oct 20, 2008 @ 10:14:57

    Dr Hsu,

    Get Gerakan to stand up to oppose Najib’s manifesto if you still think Gerakan is relevant in current political scenario. Otherwise, ask Gerakan to shut up and get lost.

    There will no change in UMNO and BN which MCA. Gerakan and MIC claimed to be testimony of 50 years achievement. Its all rubbish uttered by debris parties. Disgusting and humiliating.


  29. Dr Hsu
    Oct 20, 2008 @ 10:29:52

    rommerz, thanks. I have asked that the debate be held at night so that I can travel up Penag in the afternoon, either by Air asia or by road (both will take about the same time).

    I look forward to the debate to let Dr Koh see how the common people are feeling and looking at the whole situation.

    I was busy the last 2 days and that is why i didnt have time to post anything.

    I will certainly go and read about najib’s manisfesto. Thank you once again for your kind offer. I will see what time I can reach Penang to let you know.


  30. A true Malaysian
    Oct 20, 2008 @ 10:50:50

    After reading Najib’s manifesto, those in BN, except Umno, still unperturbed?

    Come on guys.


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