Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 15:50
Hate speech and incitement that spark reckless and confrontational actions are worrisome. Yet, people with utter disregard for harmony just won’t go away.
The conveyor belt of attention-grabbing stunts has enlarged, and incumbent political weakness is disturbing. So grave is our distress that being glued together as one is hurtling down the tracks as an accident waiting to happen.
It is not in national interest that the appetite for aggravation is allowed to fester. The way forward is quite plain: it’s not the right of paranoid individuals to determine; it’s all about how we balance rights against each other; and the right of society to protect itself against trouble rousers.
That distressing opinion in the Malay daily, Sinar Harian, by Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, a religious academic, has rained scorn on how that balance should be struck, and in the process caused damage to the Indian community.
It is a toxic article that preys on the Indians. Ridhuan is no big deal, except that his stance presumes that Indians can be easily slammed with inflammatory generalities.
So, at first when the MIC’s strategic director S. Vell Paari weighed down on the racial and religious taunts of Ridhuan and Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali — who had called for the burning of Malay language Bibles that contained the word “Allah” — it came across as just another statement from a politician.
The shock emerged when, in an open letter last Saturday Vell Paari told his party boss that he will ask Indians to vote against the Barisan Nasional (BN) if he did not push for action against both men.
He stated in his letter, a copy of which was made available to The Malay Mail, that he was prepared for the sack for his actions. The hard stance of the son of the party’s longest-serving president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu: “As MIC members we represent Indians of all faiths and a member of a race called Malaysian. I cannot remain quiet on this sort of issues any longer, which tend to crop up with increasing frequency.
“If no action is taken against Ridhuan and Ibrahim, I would push forward my proposal in advising the Indians who to vote for. I would use the MIC platform to go forward with my proposal.
“The only way for you (Palanivel) to stop me is to sack me. The ball is in your court.”
He stated that the MIC headquarters might as well be converted into a banana leaf restaurant when it’s always a one-way street in matters involving Indian sensitivity.
“If we continue to remain silent on issues (that affect the Indians) because we are afraid of antagonising certain powers-that-be, then we might as well close shop and convert the MIC headquarters into a banana leaf restaurant.
“We cannot hold our heads high when our tails are between our legs.
“Is the MIC in the BN just to hold BN flags, to wear free BN TShirts, fill up seats, be event managers for functions or postmen to deliver cheques from the Prime Minister’s Office? This party was born to safeguard the interest of all Indians regardless of religion in Malaysia.”
“For the first time we have a prime minister who is ready to engage with the community. So, we have to educate this PM on the needs of the community and not the other way around for him to say what he thinks the community needs.
“We need to take charge in educating him on our hunger. If we fail to educate him to fulfil our needs, then it’s our mistake for not taking the bull by its horns.”
Has Vell Paari done wrong as a BN politician? To me, he is doing the right thing as a Malaysian who is frustrated with uncaring individuals who lack ethics and are bent on intolerance.
To be sure, there has never been a stronger statement from a top MIC leader during MIC president, Datuk Seri G. Palanivel’s reign.
Palanivel will raise the matter at the Cabinet meeting this week on the premise that Ridhuan’s article was in defiance of the prime minister’s 1Malaysia concept. Surely, Ridhuan who’s employed by the government and hits out at a member of the ruling coalition is guilty of insubordination.
His take on the touchy Tamil movie Vishwaroopam was wrongly linked to Hindu-Muslim coldness. He also arched to a dreadful level of portraying the annual Thaipusam festival in Batu Caves as annoying to non-Hindus. He further spewed provocatively that the patience of Muslims has limits.
The remarks were comparable to the Perkasa president’s call to burn Christian Bibles that contained the word Allah.
Sinar Harian has since apologised for carrying the article. Ridhuan is yet to say sorry for his subverted attack on Indians.
Most of us believe in a free society, but freedom of speech and the right to one’s opinion is one thing. Outright disrespect and being insulting is another.
The growing incidence of hate and agitating speeches in this pre-election season when passions on both sides of the political divide are inevitably high summons restrain.
One can argue that Vell Paari is taking advantage of GE13 to look good in the eyes of the Indians. But critics have to realise that this is a matter of the heart that syncs with electoral repercussions, especially with claims that the ruling coalition has recaptured the hearts and minds of Indian voters, who dumped it in the 2008 polls.
The MIC has been a political class in paralysis and it’s nice to have someone speak up distinctively about an issue that is derogatory and insensitive to the community. Still, I don’t think that would translate into huge votes because the failures of the party are ever-present.
My point is simple: The soulless behaviour of certain violators of national unity is detrimental to the nation. We must ensure the psycho-drama is not stacked against us.
Don’t Malaysians feel proud of our nation? I think there’s an enormous amount to be proud of in what Malaysia is and what the people stand for.
The people with no shame must get this message — and go!
MULTI-AWARD-WINNING journalist and editor-at-large of The Malay Mail FRANKIE D’CRUZ is the National Press Club-Scomi Journalist of the Year 2012. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org