FORCED labour, schooling woes, the Internal Security Act (ISA), and the continuing struggles of Hindraf were highlighted in the Tamil press between 12 and 19 Sept 2008.
On 14 Sept, Malaysia Nanban carried the shocking story of an entire family that was sold for RM4,500 into forced labour to a contractor. After escaping from the contractor with her daughter, Mageswari Paramasivam told her story to the press.
Mageswari said a former employer in Sg Senarut, Segamat sold her family, including her husband and their three children, to another contractor in 2006. She claimed that the contractor brought them to Bahau and forced them to work day and night while the children were separated from them. Sometimes, she said, the contractor would beat them if they asked about their children.
It was reported in Malaysia Nanban on 27 July that Mageswari’s mother had lodged a police report about the disappearance of her daughter’s family.
On 16 Sept, Malaysia Nanban reported another case of forced labour. K Ganesan said a contractor held his wife’s birth certificate and identity card so that she, like the other workers, would be forced to work and could not run away.
Ganesan said two out of his family of six, himself included, have no birth certificates. Hence, they cannot apply for an identity card.
On 16 Sept, Malaysia Nanban reported that parents of Standard Six students from Teluk Datuk Tamil school were shocked to learn that the Kuala Langat district education department has decided not to allow Tamil students to enroll in SMK Banting next year.
The daily reported that the district education department announced that the secondary school would stop enrolling non-Malay students starting from 2009.
On 13 Sept, Makkal Osai and Malaysia Nanban reported that two UPSR students were prevented from sitting for their exam by their headmaster in Setiawan Maha Ganapathy Tamil School.
V Manggamah, a single mother of the two, said she accepted the teachers’ complaints that her children were naughty and frequently absent from school, but they should not be prevented from sitting for their exam.
Malaysia Nanban on Monday reported that Manggamah lodged a police report against the headmaster.
On 12 Sept, Makkal Osai reported that Hindraf submitted a memorandum comprising four major demands to prime minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
According to the statement by Hindraf leader P Waytha Moorthy, the issues raised were about the allocation for poor Indian families and Tamil schools that was not included in Budget 2009, and the government’s failure to respond to Hindraf’s 18 original demands.
Makkal Osai on 17 Sept reported that Sime Darby would allocate RM30 million for the development of 141 Tamil and Chinese schools in Sime Darby’s estates. On 19 Sept, Makkal Osai’s editorial praised the plantation company for its social responsibility.
Makkal Osai’s editorial on 15 Sept covered the issue of the latest ISA arrests. The paper looked at the historical reasons for the law, which allows for indefinite detention without trial, and questioned the law’s current relevance.
It agreed with the MCA’s proposal that the ISA should be replaced with a new law that would ensure racial harmony in the country.
On 18 Sept, the daily said in its editorial that it supported the MCA’s proposal for a Race Relations Act as a way to educate the younger generation and ensure harmony.
On 13 Sept, Malaysia Nanban front-paged the news about M Jeyasri, who claimed that Penang immigration department officers humiliated her during a job interview.
The paper reported Jeyasri, from Nibong Tebal, as saying the officers told her to take it as a lesson and not try again for the job. Responding to this, the daily reported on 14 Sept that Penang deputy chief minister Dr P Ramasamy would seek an immediate explanation from the department.
Monday’s Makkal Osai reported on 15 Sept that Hindraf launched its flag during its coordinators meeting in Sungai Petani two days earlier. According to the article, Hindraf national coordinator R S Thanenthiran said Hindraf would continue to fight for the rights of the Indian Malaysian community.
On 16 Sept, Malaysia Nanban reported Thanenthiran as saying Hindraf’s lawsuit against the British government has been registered in court in London, and two lawyers have already agreed to take on the case for free.