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Land, identity and schooling rights

THE issue of the teacher from SMK Telok Panglima Garang who humiliated Tamil students with racist remarks in July 2008 remained in the news in the Tamil papers.

On 16 Aug 2008, Makkal Osai reported that a coalition of Indian non-governmental organisations questioned why Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein has remained silent on the issue. Expressing their anger, they also questioned his credibility, and demanded that the teacher be punished with more than a transfer to another school.

The daily also reported that the Kampung Perepat community near Shah Alam wants Selangor Chief Minister Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim to resolve their land issue. According to Kapar Member of Parliament, S Manikavasagam, who handed over a memorandum to Khalid, the land there was given to 97 poor Indian families by the Selangor government in 1979 under the Green Book scheme. However, most of the land titles have since been changed without the people’s knowledge.

On 17 Aug, Makkal Osai and Malaysia Nanban reported on their front page the nomination for the Permatang Pauh by-election. Both newspapers highlighted the three-corner fight involving Parti Keadilan Rakyat advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Barisan Nasional (BN)’s Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah, and Angkatan Keadilan Insan Malaysia president Hanafi Hamat.

Most Tamil dailies on the following day also front-paged the election campaign.

Additionally, Makkal Osai reported on a proposal by a delegate at the 54th PAS muktamar, held from 15 to 17 Aug in Ipoh, for the Islamist party to allow non-Muslims, who belong to the Kelab Penyokong PAS, to stand under the party’s banner should they want to contest in an election.

On 20 Aug, Makkal Osai reported Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak as calling on Malaysian Indian voters in Permatang Pauh to vote for the BN. Najib was also quoted as saying that Malaysian Indians and Chinese must come back to the BN and use the Permatang Pauh by-election to show their rejection of a Pakatan Rakyat government.

Both Makkal Osai and Malaysia Nanban on 17 Aug reported on Malaysian Hindu Sangam president Datuk A Vaithilingam as being upset with the draft of the Kuala Lumpur Structure Plan by City Hall. He said the structure plan does not include the development of and allocations for Hindu temples and cemeteries.

The same issue was also highlighted in Malaysia Nanban’s editorial on 22 Aug. The editorial stated that if the Malaysian Hindu Sangam’s calculations are accurate — that there are more than 120 Hindu temples and two cemeteries that have not been included in the draft structure plan — then many famous temples would be left out, which will definitely hurt the feelings of Malaysian Hindus.

The editorial also advised Federal Territories Deputy Minister Datuk M Saravanan to investigate the issue immediately to prevent the temples and cemeteries from being wiped out, in the same way that Tamil schools have diminished in numbers.

Fifty-year-old issues and 80-year-old schools

On 17 Aug, Malaysia Nanban highlighted an event by the Batu Cave Indian development centre to help Malaysian Indians who do not have official documentation of their citizenship.

The centre’s president, S Krishnamoorthy, said it is the second time the centre is trying to resolve the 50-year-old issue. He said the problems include pending applications for citizenship, not having birth certificates and identity cards, having red identity cards, and uncertain citizenship statuses even though the applicants have lived in Malaysia since Independence. Krishnamoorthy said these problems make it difficult for the affected persons to find a permanent job.

On 19 Aug, Makkal Osai reported that the Telugu-speaking community wants the government to enable them to hold 1% of the country’s economic wealth. This was one of the resolutions passed in the Malaysian Telugu Sangam’s 37th Congress. Prior to this, the newspaper had also reported that the community wanted to include Telugu language as a subject in Tamil schools.

The newspaper also reported Penang Deputy Chief Minister Dr P Ramasamy, who attended the congress cultural night, as calling on all who speak Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Thuluvam and Kannadam to be united as Malaysian Indians as they are all Dravidians.

Makkal Osai also reported Ramasamy’s promise that the state government would give land for the Asshad Tamil School in Penang. The 80-year-old school was in bad shape and didn’t have its own land and building. The school is currently functioning from a building that belongs to and is shared with the Penang Indian Sangam.

On 22 Aug, Malaysia Nanban reported on the plight of students in Tamil schools that have no canteen facilities, such as the 80-year-old Kuala Selangor Estate Tamil School where students eat on the floor outside their classroom. PIBG president Kalaikumar Arumugam said the school also doesn’t have proper water supply. He said the number of students has increased, but there are no plans to improve facilities or expand the school, and that the school is not getting any help from the education department.

On the same day, Makkal Osai reported that the Selangor government will give four acres of land to the Midlands Estate Tamil School, according to Shah Alam city councillor K Uthayasoorian. This would end the school’s long battle for it to have its own land to build a new school. End of Article

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