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Rumblings in MIC

FOR the week of 6 to 12 April 2009, the news in the Tamil press was almost the same as that in the English papers. Coverage was focused on the results of the triple by-elections and the announcement of the new cabinet.

Where it differed was in the way the papers highlighted the MIC’s unhappiness over the cabinet line-up. This culminated in the news report that the party might pull out of the cabinet.

The issue of controversial conversions of children to Islam also continued to rile up the Indian Malaysian community with the occurrence two new cases in Ipoh last week.

New cabinet

The MIC’s unhappiness over the new cabinet line-up was first indicated in Tamil Nesan‘s 10 April editorial. The paper has traditionally been very pro-Barisan Nasional (BN) as it is seen as the MIC’s mouthpiece. However, its editorial that day was titled New cabinet is a let-down.

The editorial started off by mentioning the changes Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had brought to the cabinet by introducing new faces and dropping old ones. Then it went to the heart of the matter: “However, it cannot be denied that for Indian [Malaysians], who make up the third largest ethic group in this country, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib’s announcement of his new cabinet is a huge letdown.”

The editorial stated that the Indian Malaysian community had expected the prime minister to award at least two ministerial positions, but they were only given one. The paper pointed out that at one time, the MIC had two ministers in the cabinet, but about 30 years ago, some changes were made and it had to contend with just one.

“The community had high expectations that their 30-year wait for a second ministerial position in the cabinet would be realised. But the announcement that the MIC would only have one minister and two deputy ministers has caused a lot of unhappiness within the community.”

The paper pointed out that other component parties like Parti Bersatu Sabah, which was formed in the 1980s, have more minister and deputy minister posts. However, the MIC, which was one of the pioneers in the BN and which has stood together with the government through various challenges, has never seen an increase in ministers and deputy ministers in cabinet.

The paper warned that the community would be very unhappy with this development.

Malaysia Nanban also carried an editorial on the same day expressing its disappointment over what it termed as the under-representation in the cabinet of the third largest component party in BN.

Titled People’s high expectations of Najib’s cabinet, the editorial noted: “For a long time, the Indian [Malaysians] have asked for another ministerial post in the cabinet. Looking at the changes in Datuk Seri Najib’s cabinet, this request has obviously not been answered.”

The editorial ended on a cautionary note to the new prime minister. “There are Malay [Malaysians] who are disappointed that Khairy (Jamaluddin) did not get a cabinet post and there are Indian [Malaysians] who are saddened that they did not get two ministerial posts. It will be interesting to see how the new PM is going to placate the two sides.”

MIC to leave cabinet?

On 12 April, the main headline in the papers was the news that the MIC was contemplating leaving the cabinet. All the papers took the main story from Malaysiakini, which first broke the story.

Samy Vellu (Pic courtesy of theSun)
What was interesting was that only one of the papers, Malaysia Nanban, went out to get quotes from MIC leaders on the story. The other two papers just took the story from the news site.

Malaysia Nanban‘s headline was titled Not satisfied with new cabinet line-up, MIC to pull out? Not true, says minister Subra. The report started off with MIC secretary-general Datuk Dr S Subramaniam, who is also the human resources minister, categorically denying the Malaysiakini report. “There is no basis for the story and there is no shred of truth in it,” he said.

Tamil Nesan‘s headline read MIC to pull out of the cabinet? What was surprising was this paper, which acts as the organ for the MIC and has easy access to party president Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu (he writes a weekly poem for the paper while his wife has a Sunday column), did not bother getting a quote from him or any senior member of the party. This gives rise to the speculation that something might be brewing in the MIC.

Conversion of minors

Malaysia Hindu Sangam’s president Datuk A Vaithilingam has come out strongly against the conversion of an infant. Makkal Osai carried this report on 9 April in a story titled An appeal to Raja Nazrin: Is it necessary to convert a breastfed infant?

“At a time when Malaysians welcome the 1Malaysia concept, we still have instances where ulama have no qualms about converting an 11-month-old infant who is still being breastfed,” he said.

He was referring to the conversion of Prasanna Triksha, who was forcibly taken from her mother by her father. He further lamented the fact that the police and the judiciary seem unwilling to deal with situations such as forced conversions to Islam.

He appealed to Raja Nazrin Shah to intervene to resolve the problem amicably in a way that was acceptable to all parties

Just as Indian Malaysians in Ipoh were coming to grips with this incident, they were rocked by the case of T Tharmakannoo, who lodged a report against his wife K Nalina Devi. After a misunderstanding, Nalina left the house with both their sons, aged five and six years old.

Baby (Stock pic by fairyangel /
The husband said he looked for them everywhere and had no news of their whereabouts for months. But recently, he received a letter from a lawyer’s office informing him that his wife and their sons had converted to another religion, and ordering him to pay a monthly alimony of RM500.

Both Makkal Osai and Tamil Nesan carried the story on the front page. Makkal Osai‘s story was titled Conversion of children: Husband lodges report against wife. While the details in both reports were the same, Makkal Osai did not mention the religion they converted to.

Tamil Nesan revealed that the wife and children had converted to Islam. It also revealed that Tharmakannoo’s monthly income as a grass cutter was around RM650, making it impossible for him to pay the alimony. “My children were converted without my knowledge and permission and I strongly object to this act,” he said.

The Tamil papers had in the previous week also reported on another baby’s conversion to Islam by the father, without the mother’s knowledge.

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