FOR the week of 16 to 22 March 2009, the Tamil press gave wide coverage to Inspector General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Musa Hassan’s interview in the Tamil dailies.
The Tamil press also highlighted the displeasure of some Indian Malaysians over the nomination of S Manikumar as the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) candidate for the Bukit Selambau by-election; and followed with bated breath the inquiry into the death of actress K Sujatha.
IGP comes clean
The police have come under a lot of flak from the Indian Malaysian community and the Tamil papers for what is perceived as police high-handedness in dealing with the community.
In an effort to explain the police’s side of the story, Musa gave an extensive interview to all three Tamil dailies. The interview was published on 22 March.
In the interview, the IGP touched on many topics, ranging from the worrying increase in crime rate among Indian Malaysians, to the A Kugan issue and the role of Tamil movies and violence in the community. He also talked about increasing the number of Indian Malaysians in the police force, and the use of tear gas and chemical water sprays.
FRU officers in front of the USJ 8 police station, equipped with riot gear and batons. Kugan’s
funeral procession made a symbolic pit-stop there on 28 Jan 2009, as it was the location where he died
Tamil Nesan carried the interview under the title Are the police specifically targeting Indian [Malaysians]?. “We are race-blind when we carry out our duties,” said Musa. “Therefore, I totally reject the accusations that we only target Indian [Malaysians].”
Musa pointed out that the number of Indian Malaysians who are involved in crime is increasing at an alarming rate. “People complain that when the police go on crime-busting activities, it’s the Indian [Malaysians] who are affected. But they must realise that the people involved in such criminal activities are them (Indian Malaysians).”
Musa asked the Indian Malaysian community to do some soul searching. “If one ethnic group has a large number of criminals emerging from it, then there must be something seriously wrong in that community.”
Deaths in custody
On the number of deaths in police custody, Musa said that from 1999 to the present, there were 153 deaths. He attributed these deaths to heart failure, AIDS and suicide. “These are the real causes of the deaths of these people, and not, as some irresponsible people have stated, due to mysterious circumstances that have been hushed up by the police. However, to ensure such things do not occur in future, the police will be more vigilant,” he said.
Touching on Kugan’s case, Musa reiterated that if the police officers are found guilty for causing Kugan’s death, they would feel the heavy hand of the law. “People who talk about a cover-up over Kugan’s death should bear in mind that he was a criminal … to make a hero out of a criminal is not good for the country’s well-being,” Musa warned.
Malaysia Nanban headlined the interview as a New look for the police department.
The paper highlighted, among other things, Musa’s complaint about Tamil movies. He cited it as one of the reasons for the high crime rate among Indian Malaysians.
“In these movies, the police officers are depicted as villains and those who break the laws are celebrated as the good guys. The young people who watch this might take the actors as role models … Indian [Malaysian] youths should be warned of the consequences of breaking the law.”
The daily also highlighted the efforts to recruit more non-Malay Malaysians, especially Indian Malaysians, to the police force.
Makkal Osai highlighted the interview with the headline Are Indian [Malaysians] being victimised during interrogation?. Commenting on the deaths during police custody, Musa stressed that the majority of those who died were Malay [Malaysians] and not Indian [Malaysians] as it is widely believed.
“However, there have been some ‘incidences’ in the police lock-up; I do not deny it … all this talk of Indian [Malaysians] being targets of police brutality is all lies. There are no statistics to prove that since most of those who died while in custody were Malay [Malaysians].”
Musa also defended the use of tear gas and chemical water jets. “The use of tear gas and chemical water jets is the last resort and it is the minimum force used as well. We do not baton charge to beat people as done in other countries … Under international law, the police have been given the right to use tear gas and water jets.”
Tear gas being used by police on protesters during the 7 March 2009 gathering
against the teaching of maths and science in English
A group of Indians Malaysians led by the Makkal Sakthi group are not happy with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s choice of Manikumar as the PKR candidate for Bukit Selambau.
Makkal Osai first broke the story on 21 March with a front page headline Battle flag raised over Anwar’s decision. The report also had pictures that showed the displeasure of one section of the crowd that came to hear the announcement.
On 22 March, the story was front-page news in all the papers. Manikumar who parachuted in not needed, read Makkal Osai‘s headline; Makkal Sakthi raises war flag, screamed Tamil Nesan; while Malaysia Nanban‘s headline was We oppose: Replace Manikumar.
Many people are unhappy over the selection of Manikumar, whom they feel is unknown in the constituency and lacks political experience.
Tamil Nesan quoted Kedah Makkal Satkhi head R Ramu as giving Anwar until 28 March to change the candidate or face the consequences. “Did Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim nominate Manikumar because he is related to the former assemblyperson V Arumugam?” he asked.
The other two papers also pointed out the close relationship between Arumugam and Manikumar but said it was a business relationship.
An actress’s death
The inquiry into Sujatha’s death was front-page headline news for three days in all three papers from 17 March. The report was the same as in the English papers; what was different was the treatment: it was sensationalised by Makkal Osai and Malaysia Nanban. Only Tamil Nesan was subdued in its coverage.
The headline on 17 March for Makkal Osai read: I drank the medicine accidentally!. Malaysia Nanban‘s headline was, I drank the poison accidentally!. But Tamil Nesan’s headline read: There was no foul play in Sujatha’s death: Sujatha’s father Krishnan testifies.
Sujatha (Source: mpkapar.com)On 18 March, Tamil Nesan‘s headline was There was no foul play in Sujatha’s death, says magistrate. Makkal Osai’s headline was more eye-catching: I bought a car and house for the actress Sujatha. I also took her with me to Australia, says Vel Paari.
Both Makkal Osai and Malaysia Nanban ran their stories with large pictures of Sujatha, while Tamil Nesan’s coverage was conspicuous in the absence of any pictures of the actress. One of the chief witnesses in the investigation into Sujatha’s death is Maika Holdings chief executive officer S Vel Paari, who is the son of Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu. Tamil Nesan is closely identified with Samy Vellu, who is MIC president.