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Hair-raising issues

BETWEEN 29 Dec 2008 and 4 Jan 2009, Tamil newspapers focused on RTM’s new guidelines on hair length for women newscasters; Indian Malaysians’ improved performance in education; and the success of entrepreneurs from the community. It also kept the guessing game going over what rogue Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) member and Member of Parliament (MP) S Manikavasagam would do next after he threatened to quit the party.

The papers were not amused when the new guidelines regarding the hair length for women newscasters were issued by RTM. The new regulation, effective from 1 Jan, requires women to keep their hair short, just touching the top of the shoulders.

Malaysia Nanban broke the story on 30 Dec under the headline Women newscaster’s hair under threat?. “Indian women have traditionally had long hair as it is considered a way to enhance a woman’s beauty,” said the paper. “The ban on long hair, which does not in any way affect the newsreader’s ability to do her job, has puzzled many people,” it declared.

When contacted by the paper, MIC Youth chief T Mohan said, “Instead of paying so much attention to women’s hair, RTM should pay more attention to improving its news presentation.”

Makkal Osai in its headline on 31 Dec, RTM newscasters to cut their hair?, quoted MIC central committee member Vimala Nair as saying: “To force women like this [to cut their hair] is against basic human rights… This is an insult to Indian culture and honour.”

PMR results

All the Tamil papers celebrated the results of the PMR exams. Makkal Osai highlighted the achievement of students from the Sri Murugan Education Centre, where a record number of students received excellent results. Its report on 31 Dec, A new record achieved by Sri Murugan education centre, noted that 62 students had 8As, 229 had 7As, and 267 got 6As.

“This is the first time in the centre’s 26-year history that this many students have done so well,” said its director, Dr M Thambirajah. The paper noted that the majority of top scorers had their primary school education in Tamil schools.

Malaysia Nanban carried the headline PMR: Excellent results on the same day. “The results show an increase in the number of top scorers among Indian [Malaysians],” said the paper.

Successful entrepreneurs

Indian entrepreneurs who have made it were feted by the papers. Among them was Tan Sri G Gnanalingam, executive chairperson of Westport, Klang, who was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Malaysian Indian Business Association (Miba).

Makkal Osai highlighted him winning the award on its front page on 29 Dec under the headline I studied in Tamil school. “People think I am an Anglophile. But I studied in a Tamil school. I know how to talk in Tamil, scold in Tamil, write in Tamil, but I don’t know how to babble nonsense in Tamil,” he said.

Malaysia Nanban had a similar report on the same day under the headline Malaysian Indian Business Association gives awards; Tan Sri Gnanalingam gets Lifetime Achievement Award. The paper highlighted the fact that Gnanalingam was not born with a silver spoon. It stressed that he worked his way up to become one of the top businesspeople in the world.

The Manikavasagam saga

Malaysia Nanban‘s front page on 29 Dec, Manikavasagam in MIC? Secret plan!, reported that there were “secret plans” afoot to rope Kapar MP S Manikavasagam into the MIC.

The story quoted extensively from a news report first carried by Malaysiakini. MIC’s Datuk M Saravanan denied the party was interested in Manikavasagam, who in turn denied that he was joining the MIC.

“I am resigning as Selangor PKR deputy head on 31 December. After that, I am going to India…. When I return to Malaysia, I will decide whether to remain in Keadilan or leave,” Manikavasagam was quoted as saying.

The next day, all the papers carried Manikavasagam’s strong denial of his intention to switch parties. In an interview with Makkal Osai on 30 Dec, the MP stressed that he would not leave PKR for the MIC.

Tamil Nesan’s front page on 1 Jan declared Manikavasagam resigns as Keadilan Selangor deputy head, although he would still remain a PKR member. The report quoted him as accusing Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, and others in the Pakatan Rakyat of not fulfilling the promises they had made to Indian Malaysians during the elections.

In a Makkal Osai story headlined My fate will be decided by Datuk Seri Anwar; I will not leave, Manikavasagam was quoted as saying: “Only Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim can decide my fate. I have never caused any problems to PKR. I have only fought for the people.”

Police brutality

The horrific treatment experienced by 27-year-old B Prabakar, allegedly at the hands of the police, dominated the Tamil newspapers at the start of the New Year. Was Indian youth scalded with hot water? Bukit Aman investigates, said the headline of Tamil Nesan on 1 Jan.

The report explained how Prabakar, together with a relative, were picked up by police for questioning on 23 Dec 2008. “They took us to the Brickfields police station, where they hung us upside down and hit us with rubber hoses and forced us to confess to our crime,” Prabakar alleged. When he refused, an angry police officer threw hot water on his body.

One of the police officers eventually took him to a clinic in Cheras for treatment. When he was brought back to his cell, a police officer tried to bribe him with RM500 and ordered Prabakar to keep quiet about his treatment. Prabakar was eventually released. He expressed concern for his relative, who has not been released, and of whom he has had no news at all.

Prabakar was accompanied by Kapar MP Manikavasagam when he went to the Brickfields police station to hand over a letter of protest on his ill treatment. Makkal Osai, in its report on 1 Jan titled Taken in for questioning: Prabakar Balakrishnan was beaten and tortured, quoted Manikavasagam as saying the police officers involved should be removed from their positions.

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