Postmortem on Hindraf rally (2)

Posted on January 11, 2008



By Helen Ang

(Part 1 appeared earlier today )


Hindraf Watch is a pro-establishment website which posted that the Hindu movement leaders arrested under ISA are “good riddance to bad rubbish and we hope they will be put away for a very, very long time.” 

Aliran noted: “Many Malaysians are not surprised by the government’s latest move given the relentless campaign of vilification of the Hindraf leaders by several ministers with help from the compliant mainstream media [MSM].  

“Through this single-minded effort over the last couple of weeks, the BN machinery prepared the ground for the use of the ISA by heaping all kinds of allegations against Hindraf. Using one-sided media reporting and official statements, they conveyed the impression that Hindraf was a threat to national security – without adducing sufficient evidence to justify this allegation.” 

Haris Ibrahim last month spoke at a DAP forum and forthrightly declared that the ISA was a bad law. He said the Hindraf Five are unjustly detained and challenged the government to charge them in court.  

The authorities had been unable to make the charges stick in the infamous “attempted murder” case. Police said a piece of brick was the murder weapon, and this one lethal weapon used by 31 Indian/Hindraf suspects who had ‘murder’ on their minds. This made front-page straight news in MSM and not in the comic pages where it rightly belongs.  

MSM demonising Hindraf was the straw that broke the camel’s back for us at the People’s Parliament (PP).  

This poor camel was already carrying a too heavy burden of Bolehland baloney. Then along come articles the like of ‘Hindraf: Bane upon the Nation’ to crack the animal’s overloaded back. The discreditable op-ed by Chandra Muzaffar was published in, where else but, the NST. Interestingly enough, Chandra’s article was reproduced in the Malaysian Bar website and elicited not a single comment from the learned lawyers!  

It then falls upon writers of Letter to the Editor to rebut Chandra, and two lengthy and effective deconstructions were printed in Malaysiakini and the Aliran Monthly. If this shows anything, it’s that civil society is taking the initiative to counter the spin put out by MSM. It looks like the responsibility to curb BN lies has to be borne by all of us. 

The success of government propaganda, especially among Malaysians residing outside the Klang Valley who rely on MSM to tell them what’s going on, leaves me aghast. I had one Chinese little old lady in Penang complain to me that the Hindraf Indians were samseng and violent troublemakers who rioted in KL  

There already exists prejudice against poor Indians. MSM spin-doctoring only exacerbated this symptom of the Malaysian racialised mindset. Indeed the vernacular MSM pitted Malay against Indian, stirring resentment through its fallacious accusation that the latter were ‘kurang ajar’ for revolting against the mythical social contract.  

The government’s vicious course of action following Nov 25 validates Haris’ forebodings about the approach taken by Hindraf. He had early on voiced his reservations.  

Haris thought the rally would provide Umno the perfect opening to “demonise the struggle for greater democracy as that which is plunging this nation into racial tension, and trumpet again that BN is the only one that can maintain racial stability in this country”. MSM, as predicted, has been true to script and trumpeting like an amok elephant.  

I was in the Malay rural heartland when the ISA arrests occurred, and there I heard anti-Hindraf sentiments expressed, no doubt fanned by vernacular media incitement and spin.  

Yet back in November, Haris’ misgivings about the Hindraf methodology made him the object of a smear campaign. The hate speeches directed against him were both misguided and misplaced because he has long been sympathetic to the plight of the Indian community and supportive of their causes. As have I.  

It was the demonisation of Hindraf that prompted me to write ‘Boycott the newspapers!’ under the aegis of PP and which appeared as my Malaysiakini column four days after the rally.  

We are convinced that blogosphere can do better than just twiddle keyboards. At the same time as Hartal, we are undertaking to do counter-spin and promote alternative news sources that are truthful.  

The Hindraf rally was one day. The movement’s leaders are now in Kamunting. Life goes on. Post-Hindraf, we have to persist in the struggle against tyranny, a priority of which is to get Uthayakumar and friends out.  

Detractors of our Boycott campaign have not blogged constructively and are the same ones who had resorted to the unfounded personal attacks. What we in cyberspace instead have to do is to expose the complicity and address the culpability of MSM which whitewash the patent wrongdoings in this country.