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Disasters, political defections, Tamil schools

FOR the week of 6 to 12 Dec 2008, Tamil newspapers focussed on disasters, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir’s controversial statement on vernacular schools, party defection and the storm over the land allocation for a Tamil school.

Deadly hillslopes

The tragic landslide at Bukit Antarabangsa dominated the newspapers with several papers carrying editorials on the matter.

Makkal Osai’s editorial on 8 Dec declared gravely that Hillsides have become landslides. “People who pay a premium price to live in the hills have been punished by nature,” it declared. The editorial also regretted that the authorities had not learnt the lessons from the Highland Tower tragedy.

Tamil Nesan on 9 Dec lambasted the authorities for not taking action against the errant developers in its editorial titled, No more leniency. “The officials at municipal councils are quick to take action against traders who do not have licences, often confiscating their goods. However, we are puzzled as to why these efficient officials do not take the same stern action against rogue developers who develop hillsides without following proper procedures,” it said.

On the same day, Malaysia Nanban carried an editorial, Landslide a never ending story? Is there no solution to this problem? It said it is not only the state or the federal government that is to blame but every official from the relevant government departments and the developer’s office who failed to follow the existing procedures to prevent such tragedies.

Mukhriz and the vernacular schools

The Tamil community is still smarting from Mukhriz’s controversial proposal on vernacular schools. Makkal Osai, in a hard-hitting full-page editorial written by its editor M Rajen on 6 Dec, accused Mukhriz of “stirring a hornet’s nest”.

He further claimed Mukhriz’s statement that vernacular schools do not contribute to nation building “is not only wrong but has no basis at all”. He said the reason for racial polarisation in the country is due to “politicians elected by the people, the racist attitude of some teachers in secondary schools and religious fundamentalists”.

There was also a peaceful protest against Mukhriz’s statement, which was reported by Tamil Nesan on 8 Dec. Under the headline A peaceful protest against Mukhriz’s statement, the protest was led P Kalaivanar from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in Kedah. The small group of protesters carried placards denouncing Mukhriz’s statements. “Mukhriz has hurt the feelings of the people by his remarks for his own political gains,” said Kalaivanar.

From PKR to MIC

The MIC had something to cheer about when one of the Kedah PKR stalwarts, Sarjit Singh, left the party with 1,000 of his followers to join the MIC. Tamil Nesan carried the report on its front page on 9 Dec, under the headline Sarjit Singh leaves PKR for MIC with 1,000 supporters.

The paper reported that Sarjit worked very hard to ensure a huge victory for PKR in Kedah, especially for the Lunas constituency. Sarjit voiced disappointment over the empty promises of PKR Member of Parliament N Gopalakrishnan, whom he accused of neglecting the constituents. “Even though the MIC candidate lost the Lunas seat, he still offers his services for the people using his own money. This has really impressed us all,” he said.

Malaysia Nanban carried the story in the inside pages two days later, and quoted Sarjit as saying, “I have learnt that PKR can’t do anything for Indians. That’s why I left with about 1,000 of my supporters to join the MIC.” The story was titled Only via the Barisan Nasional can the people prosper, says Sarjit Singh.

Tamil school’s land matters

DAP state assemblyperson for Skudai Dr Boo Cheng Hau’s revelation that the 5.8 acres of land allotted to the Tamil school in Kangkar Pulai, Johor Baru, have been earmarked for a petrol station elicited a flurry of write-ups in the Tamil papers. Makkal Osai broke the story on 10 Dec under the headline Is the land for the Tamil school in Kangkar Pulai, Johor Baru to be a petrol station?

The paper also contacted M Asokan from the MIC for his comments. He said the issue with the school was a mistake by the state and he would rectify it and get the piece of land returned to the school.

Makkal Osai followed up with a report on 11 Dec with an interview with the school’s Parents Teachers Association president, K Ganapathi. “We fought for this land for so long and we will not allow anyone else to claim it,” he said.

On the same day, a Tamil Nesan report quoted Johor MIC chairperson Datuk K S Balakrishnan, who assured all parties that the land has been gazetted for the school. In a report titled Kangkar Pulai Tamil school land is there, he said: “It is an MIC sponsored school and the MIC will ensure that everything will be done to build the school.”

Malaysia Nanban in its editorial on 11 Dec cited this incident to highlight the impression among Indian Malaysians that the MIC’s efforts at uplifting their lot have often been hijacked for other causes. “It’s instances like these that have eroded the credibility of the MIC amongst Indian Malaysians,” mused the editorial titled A petrol station in land meant for Tamil school?

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