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The ban on Hindraf

THE banning of Hindraf, the rights of tea plantation workers, and school and temple issues received much attention in the Tamil papers from 11 to 17 Oct 2008.

The government’s banning of Hindraf dominated the front pages of Makkal Osai, Malaysia Nanban and Tamil Nesan on 16 Oct.

Earlier, in 11 Oct reports in Makkal Osai and Malaysia Nanban, Hindraf chairperson P Waythamoorthy challenged Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar and TV3 to prove that Hindraf supporters were troublemakers. This was after a visit by a group of Hindraf supporters to the 1 Oct Muslim minister’s Hari Raya Aidilfitri open house, to ask the prime minister to release all Internal Security Act detainees, including five Hindraf leaders.

Following the incident, police questioned four Hindraf supporters, as reported in Makkal Osai on 15 Oct.

After the government’s ban, MIC president Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu was quoted as saying in Malaysia Nanban and Tamil Nesan on 17 Oct that the party would continue to push for the release of the Hindraf five.

Other reactions

On 16 Oct, Tamil Nesan and Makkal Osai reported that Ipoh Timur Member of Parliament (MP), Lim Kit Siang, had described the ban as the Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s revenge on Hindraf.

Malaysia Nanban also reported that Pakatan Rakyat condemned the ban, with opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim calling it an “injustice”.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) wanted the ban lifted, said reports in Tamil Nesan and Malaysia Nanban on 17 Oct. A joint statement by Suhakam commissioners Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, Datuk Dr Michael Yeoh and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria said the ministry should have approved Hindraf’s application to be registered as a society.

Malaysia Nanban quoted Waythamoorthy as saying that Hindraf’s activities were only “suspended temporarily”. Waythamoorthy said Hindraf supporters would wear orange t-shirts on 18 and 19 Oct as a form of protest against the ban.

On 17 Oct, Makkal Osai reported Waythamoorthy’s request for the prime minister to lift the ban against Hindraf.        

Tea plantation workers

“Is there a future for tea plantation workers?” asked J Simmathiri, deputy chairperson of Cameron Highlands DAP, in Tamil Nesan on 11 Oct. According to him, the workers in Blue Valley plantation were only being paid RM13 per day. For most of them, their monthly income was around RM300 or less.

He claimed that the plantation did not give the workers any annual leave and treated them like “modern-day slaves”. Additionally, he alleged that workers were forced to buy their own shears to harvest the tea leaves. He urged Cameron Highlands MP, SK Devamany, to look into the workers’ plight.

Responding to the news, Devamany said in a 15 Oct Tamil Nesan report, that he has been assisting the community since 2004 when he was first elected as an MP. He criticised Simmathiri for making “empty political statements” and also invited Simmathiri to have a discussion on how to address the issue.

Teachers for Tamil schools

The front page headline in Tamil Nesan on 13 Oct was 1,400 will be Trained as Temporary Teachers. According to the report, MIC secretary-general Datuk S Subramaniam said this was meant to overcome the teacher shortage in 523 Tamil schools nationwide.

Malaysia Nanban, in its editorial, welcomed the move to train temporary teachers. However, the newspaper noted that teacher shortage was a long-term problem in Tamil schools and there were still no clear plans to overcome the problem.

Temple issue

The threat to the Bukit Gasing Sivan Temple grabbed the front page headlines in Malaysian Nanban and Makkal Osai on 14 Oct. The reports said the temple, built in 1961, was being expanded without the Petaling Jaya City Council’s approval.

According to councillor R Thiruvenggadam, the expansion of the temple on the hilltop could lead to a landslide, and immediate action had to be taken to avoid a tragedy similar to the collapse of the Highland Towers in Ampang.

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