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Kulim shootout

THE week of 16 to 22 Feb 2009 started off with the Tamil papers highlighting the story of Elizabeth Wong, the Bukit Lanjan assemblyperson and Selangor executive councillor whose intimate pictures surfaced on the internet.

But soon this story was pushed off the front pages thanks to the development of two events followed closely by the Indian Malaysian community. One was the police shootout in Kulim that resulted in the death of six Indian Malaysian men. The other was the deteriorating health of jailed Hindraf leader P Uthayakumar.

Shootout in Kulim

From 19 Feb onwards, the Tamil papers were concerned about the incident in Kg Kemunting, Karangan, Kulim, where six Indian Malaysian men, aged between 20 and 50, were shot dead.

(Pic by Megyarsh; source: Flickr)

On 19 Feb, the headline of Malaysia Nanban read Police shootout: Six Indians killed, while Tamil Nesan‘s headline was Six Indian men shot dead. Police action in Kulim. Both papers showed Selvarasi, mother of 20-year-old Dilip Kumar Ramanathan, wailing over the death of her son. Tamil Nesan published pictures of the six dead men in the mortuary on its front page.

There were more stories and pictures in the back pages of both papers. Malaysia Nanban highlighted the scene at the Sultan Abdul Halim Hospital where the bodies were kept. More than 100 people gathered at the mortuary, the paper said, reporting the shock and outrage felt by many Indian Malaysians. Among them was Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy, who said, “The instances of Indian Malaysians being shot dead by police are most disheartening.”

Tamil Nesan‘s coverage on the back page had pictures of the body bags in a police lorry, and of police carrying one of the body bags into the vehicle. It also ran more quotes from Ramasamy: “If the policy is shoot to kill, why is there a need for courts in this country?” he asked. “It is very sad that people from a particular ethnic group are the ones who are victims of such police action.”

On 20 Feb, Makkal Osai carried reports on the funeral for the men. The dead Kulim Six: Tearful last rites, said its headline. It reported that the Indian Malaysian community in Kulim were in deep shock over the incident. “In a show of support for the bereaved families, more than 1,000 people attended the funeral,” it said.

The paper also gave a brief report on the funeral of each man. One of the most moving accounts was the funeral of Dilip Kumar. “We don’t have any gold. We are a low-income family barely making ends meet. Is my son a part of this group of robbers?” sobbed his mother Selvarasi.

The paper noted that people who came for his funeral were moved to tears by Selvarasi’s lamentations.

Uthayakumar’s left leg

The deteriorating health of Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee Uthayakumar dominated the headlines of all the three Tamil dailies. The focus was on his left leg.

The headline on 16 Feb of Makkal Osai read: Uthayakumar in danger of losing his left leg. Wife lodges report at Brickfields police station. Malaysia Nanban‘s headline: Diabetes worsens: Uthayakumar is in danger of losing his left leg.

Tamil Nesan sensationalised its headline further by saying Uthayakumar loses his left leg! But in the story, the paper quoted his wife, S Indradevi as saying, “There is a possibility that he might lose his left leg.”

Indradevi had lodged a police report in Brickfields, stating that her husband was not being given proper treatment for his diabetes despite repeated requests by him and his family to allow him to seek treatment in a private hospital. All papers reported that Indradevi was accompanied to the station by 50 supporters carrying placards in support of Uthayakumar.

On 18 Feb, there was a follow-up story: Uthayakumar’s small toe fractured in three places, said Malaysia Nanban on its front page. The report said Uthayakumar was sent to Taiping Hospital under heavy guard for a check-up after his condition became public. Uthayakumar revealed to his supporters there that the doctor was shocked that he was made to walk when he should have been brought in by a wheelchair instead.

His health was in the news again on 21 Feb. If Uthayakumar is not given proper treatment, we will demonstrate, warns Manikavasagam was the headline in Tamil Nesan. “If anything happens to Uthayakumar, Indian Malaysians will not keep quiet. We will fight for him to get proper medical care,” said Kapar Member of Parliament S Manikavasagam.

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Malaysia Nanban ran an interview with Indradevi on the same day with the headline My husband is not afraid of anything. “Even if he loses his life, he will not give up his principles,” she said.

She also charged that the government was purposely withholding proper medical treatment for him. “It seems like they are hoping that his diabetes becomes so bad that they will have to amputate his leg.

“At the detention centre in Kamunting they are adding a lot of sugar into his food. They are even adding sugar into his chicken soup!”

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