From 23 Feb to 1 March 2009, the Tamil press focused on, among others, the war of words between MIC president Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu and Penang Deputy Chief Minister II Prof Dr P Ramasamy from the DAP.
War of words
During the week, a fiery war of words erupted between Samy Vellu and Ramasamy over which party has done more for Indian Malaysians.
Makkal Osai was the first to report on the brewing war between the two on 24 Feb with the headline What did you do? Are you ready for a public debate? Professor Ramasamy challenges Samy Vellu.
Samy Vellu (Source: Wikipedia)“MIC president Datuk Seri Samy Vellu’s allegations that the Pakatan Rakyat’s promises to Indian [Malaysians] have come to nought is ridiculous,” Ramasamy said. “Only in the states ruled by the Pakatan Rakyat have Indian [Malaysians] been appointed to such high posts such as deputy chief minister and state assembly speaker. Under the Barisan Nasional’s 50-year rule, were such appointments possible?”
By 27 Feb, their spat was the main headline on the front page of all three papers. What have you done for the advancement of Indians? said the headline in Tamil Nesan.
“Although Professor Dr P Ramasamy has been appointed as the deputy chief minister, the Indian [Malaysian] community has not benefited from this,” said Samy Vellu. “But he dares criticise the MIC’s efforts to uplift the community via various programmes through the federal government,” he added.
“For someone who proudly proclaimed that he did not represent any ethnic group, why is the good professor suddenly so concerned about the welfare of Indian [Malaysians]?”
The armchair critic Professor Ramasamy is a zero, blasts MIC President Datuk Seri Samy Vellu, declared Makkal Osai. “He is a genius at armchair criticism but he is of no use to anybody,” Samy Vellu said.
The paper also allowed Ramasamy to answer Samy Vellu’s allegations. In the article Am I a zero or a hero? Let the people decide, Ramasamy pointed out the “misdeeds” of the MIC under Samy Vellu.
“He has no right to talk about me. I am not the one who persuaded poor Indian [Malaysians] to invest almost RM100 million, and then betrayed them. If you had served the Indian [Malaysian] community well, why did the MIC fare so badly during the last general election? Let Samy Vellu answer that first,” Ramasamy shot back.
Another story that dominated the Tamil newspapers during this time was the protest by Indian Malaysians demanding medical treatment for Hindraf leader and Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee P Uthayakumar.
This was the one story that was prominently covered by all the Tamil papers on 1 March. The reports depicted police spraying hundreds of Indian Malaysians, who had gathered in front of the Brickfields police station, with chemical-laced water.
18 people arrested. Supporters of Uthayakumar shot with chemical water, screamed the headlines of Malaysia Nanban. A distressing gathering, said Tamil Nesan. Supporters who came to lodge a report urging for proper medical treatment for Uthayakumar water-cannoned with chemical water was the headline for Makkal Osai.
Water cannons similarly being used on demonstrators during the Hindraf
rally in 2007 (© Shamshahrin Shamsudin; source: Flickr)
All papers carried lots of pictures of the scuffles between police and protestors and of the aftermath of people being sprayed by the water cannon. Those arrested included Kapar Member of Parliament (MP) S Manikavasagam, Police Watch and Human Rights Committee member S Jayathas, and Hindraf coordinator R Thanenthiran.
Makkal Osai gave the most detailed report of the whole affair, including one on the treatment meted out to Manikavasagam during his arrest. In the report,18 people freed on bail. We were stripped and then photographed charges Manikavasagam, Manikavasagam lashed out at the police for arresting the 18 after they were invited into the station by the police. They were detained for six hours.
He further criticised the police for not respecting him as an MP. He condemned the police for ordering all of them to strip and to be photographed. “They treated us like common criminals. We only entered the police station to lodge a report. We did not commit any crime,” he said.
In another news story accompanied by many pictures taken at the scene, titled What wrong did we do, asks Manikavasagam, it quoted him as saying, “We want justice, we want fairness. We are citizens of this country … I told the police we came to lodge a police report and that we were not here to cause any trouble. And yet the police did not bother to listen to us. It looked like they had made up their mind to arrest us.”
Chitrakala strikes back
The Tamil press also reported on the shocking revelations by Maju Institute for Education Development (MIED) chief executive officer P Chitrakala Vasu, the woman in the centre of the controversy involving criminal breach of trust.
MIED is the education arm of MIC and is currently the subject of police investigations.
Chitrakala recently lodged a report at the Shah Alam police station stating that important documents and contracts had mysteriously disappeared from the institute.
Her story made the front page in Malaysia Nanban and Makkal Osai on 1 March. Tamil Nesan, aligned to Samy Vellu, remained silent on the issue. The files were carted away in lorries: Chitrakala’s shocking revelations was the headline in Malaysia Nanban.
Chitrakala has been linked with some missing contract documents and alleged irregularities in giving out maintenance contracts. In her defence, she said that when she left the office (she was forced to go on long leave until the internal investigations were over), she did not remove any documents or files with her.
“I was later shocked to read in the papers that (MIC vice-president and MIED director) Datuk S Sothinathan had lodged a police report on the missing documents and files from my office. He knows very well that I left everything behind and did not touch anything.”
In Makkal Osai, the story was the main lead. Titled Investigate the disappearance of the MIED files: Chitrakala lodges police report, the story gave an insight into the relationship between Samy Vellu and her before the fallout. The paper quoted her as saying: “Datuk Seri Samy Vellu was like a father to me.” She added that she never dreamt that one day, he would turn against her.
“She is determined to fight for the truth,” reported the paper.