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Face Hindraf and the Oppressed Community’s demands squarely, look forward to helpful policies for all ethnic groups to be carried out by Johor Sultan

             Author: Nyam Kee Han (Committee Member of Sahabat Rakyat)

                                       Translated by: Yong Siew Lee
[Text below is translated from original version in the Chinese language published on 23 June 2015. In the case of any discrepancy between the English rendition and the original Chinese version, the Chinese version shall prevail.]
sultan johor.jpg

Johor Sultan, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar (second from right) listening to the explanation of the root of 2 gold elephants presented to His Majesty by Johor State Human Resources and Unity Committee chairman R. Vidyanathan (second from left).

                    ——Source of picture and caption (Chinese): Sin Chew Daily

Johor Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar and 4 members of the Malay feudal aristocracy attended a royal banquet with the Indian community in conjunction with the recent installation of the Sultan of Johor in Johor Bahru on 12 June. The sultan singled out Hindraf as the group out to create trouble in the country by raising sensitive racial and religious issues during the event. Hindraf chairman P. Waythamoorty criticized the sultan’s statement above afterwards. Waythamoorthy believed that Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar had a wrong perception on Hindraf as the sultan may had been misled and misinformed by his advisors.

I personally think that the courage shown by Hindraf chairman P. Waythamoorthy in criticizing the Malay feudal ruling class represented by the sultan is far more meaningful compared to the war of words initiated by Minister of Tourism and Culture Nazri against the Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim in his move to fawn over Najib’s regime. The former represents an active role played by the most oppressed ethnic in Malaysia against the authority of the Malay feudal ruling class or the imperial power (represented by the Johor Sultan); the latter only reflects the conflict between a section of the Malay bureaucratic bourgeoisie represented by UMNO and the members of royal families in Johor, whereby it will not bring any practical meaning to the oppressed people of various ethnicity no matter how fierce it is debated.

In my view, from the perspective of the oppressed people, the rise of Hindraf movement in Malaysia and the existence of Hindraf organization is in fact a reflection of the resistance put up by the Indian community, being the most oppressed community, against the institutionalized racism policies implemented by the UMNO ruling clique. The Hindraf rally in 2007 did not happen by coincidence, in fact it has been accumulated for 150 years, from British colonialization till the independence of Malaya (Malaysia) until today. It was the first outbreak by the Indian community when majority of them have been leading a vicissitudes life that has then become misery. It was a “grievous blow” for the UMNO racist hegemonic rule by the marginalized Indian community. The anxiety and discontent of the Tamils (mostly Hindus) on the Islamization move in the country are just like the other non-Malays and non-Muslims. They have no choice but to put up struggle and demands.

In February this year, I published an article entitled Hindraf Movement is a Product of Current Democratic Reform Movement of the Malaysia Indian Community (in Chinese) on the issues of the Indian community and Hindraf. In the article, I further elaborated the history of the Indian community in coming to Malaya (Malaysia) and explained the struggle launched by Hindraf from filing a lawsuit against the British colonial government on the historical crime committed on the Indian community to fighting against the neo-colonial ruling by UMNO-BN, which is basically a continuation of the unfinished historical mission of the national democratic reform movement carried out by the left-wing parties and organizations in Malaya (Malaysia). I made a conclusion in the article: the struggle of Hindraf can be said as an important part of the national democratic movement in Malaysia, it is also an inevitable outcome of the current democratic movement of the Indian community in Malaysia.

It is an indisputable historical and realistic problem that the oppression and exploitation faced by the Indian community which have led them to the current misery of being marginalized in the aspect of politic, economic, cultural, education and social status, etc is not a local but a national issue. Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar should view and assess Hindraf organization or the emergence of Hindraf movement from a wider perspective. The sultan should not negate the significance of Hindraf’s struggle for democratic rights and dignity of the Indian community in our country merely from the angle of a state, Johor. It is necessary for the sultan to assess Hindraf in a national context and face the tragic treatment encountered by the Indian community under UMNO’s racist hegemonic rule squarely, instead of jumping to a conclusion that Hindraf is a “trouble maker”.

Local media reported that Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar said his late great grandfather, Almarhum Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Abu Bakar gave land to build places of worships such as mosques, Hindu, Sikh, Chinese temples and churches to forge unity among the people here, and the Johor state government even recognizes the contribution of the Indian community in Johor's development. Therefore, the sultan will not allow any party that wants to create trouble that threatens unity of the Johor people. During the event, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar also announced a personal donation of RM1mil and RM300thousands from Permaisuri Johor to help the elderly and orphans in the Indian community.

To me, Hindraf movement is a mass movement of the Indian (Tamil) community (mostly Hindus) struggling to uphold their dignity and fight for basic human rights in order to extricate themselves from predicament of poverty and being marginalized. It also symbolizes the demands of other oppressed ethnic communities to “oppose Malay racism” and “oppose Islamization of the state”. It is not at all “raising sensitive issues and threatening unity of the people”.

Johor may be doing better than other states like what mentioned by Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar. However, it does not mean that the oppression and marginalization of the Indian community does not exist. Hindraf who has always been the “voice of the voiceless” has now become “trouble makers” in the eyes of some people is in fact due to the long-term racist policies implemented by UMNO ruling clique. Therefore, the problem faced by them must be resolved at its root – put an end to the UMNO racist hegemonic rule!

In my point of view, if Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar would make Johor a better state, the sultan may decree the Johor state government or the state administrative team to implement the following policy guidelines:

1) Allow all ethnic groups to build places of worships according to the local needs;

2) Institutionalize funding to all primary schools, religious schools, Chinese Independent schools and Chinese tertiary education institutions to ensure sustainable development of these schools;

3) Urge the federal government to allow building additional primary schools of different streams, religious schools, Chinese Independent schools and Chinese tertiary education institutions when it is found necessary by people from all ethnic groups;

4) Allocate and absorb people from different ethnics into Johor state government agencies, state government-linked companies or business organizations controlled by state government according to the population ratio by ethnicity (Malay 54.1%, Chinese 30.9% and Indian 6.5%).

If the abovementioned policy guidelines can be implemented in Johor, it would outperform other states governed by UMNO-BN or even the opposition parties (including PAS, PKR and DAP). Thus, the people of Johor will build up the mentality of “coexistence in prosperity” whereby we will respect each other and unite with mutual respect and love, instead on the basis of “racial assimilation” or “discrimination by the oppressive ethnics towards the oppressed ethnics”. It will be the role model of the nation. Otherwise, the doings of Johor Sultan reported above will be some sort of enlistment towards the opportunists in the Indian community and further splitting the unity of the Indian community.

Sahabat Rakyat at 6/26/2015 12:44:00 a.m.