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Spotlight on Hindraf in-fighting

REPORTS on the Permatang Pauh by-election and the fight between Hindraf leaders dominated most of the headlines for the past week in both Makkal Osai and Malaysia Nanban.

On 27 Aug 2008, apart from the coverage of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s victory in the Permatang Puah by-election, there was also coverage of the ongoing tussle between two Hindraf leaders, P Waytha Moorthy and K Vasantha Kumar.

Malaysia Nanban reported that Waytha Moorthy accused Vasantha Kumar of raising the question of misused public donations to divert allegations that he was a police agent. Vasantha Kumar denied this, as was reported by Malaysia Nanban and Makkal Osai on their front pages the following day.

On 24 Aug, Makkal Osai had reported on Hindraf leader Waytha Moorthy, who is currently in London, as saying that Vasantha Kumar, who joined Hindraf in September 2007 and is currently an Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee, was actually a special branch police agent.

Waytha Moorthy said two high-ranking government officers revealed this to him in January 2008. He said police had planted Vasantha Kumar within Hindraf to distract and destroy Hindraf from the inside.

The following day, Vasantha Kumar’s wife, K Vickneswary, condemned Waytha Moorthy’s statement as a blatant lie, as reported in Makkal Osai. She was reported as saying that if her husband were a police agent, he wouldn’t have been arrested and detained under the ISA.

She said Waytha Moorthy was a “coward” who ran away from the country while other Hindraf leaders continued to fight bravely for the cause. She alleged that according to her husband, Waytha Moorthy was using people’s money for his own agenda.

Malaysia Nanban also reported on Raidu Rao, brother of ISA detainee V Ganapathy Rao, questioning Waytha Moorthy about the class suit against the British government for bringing Indians as indentured labourers into Malaya and exploiting them.

Raido Rao said Waytha Moorthy should stop issuing statements from London and return to Malaysia to detail progress on the case to the Indian community.

On 29 Aug, some Hindraf supporters condemned Raidu Rao for his remarks, and accused him of betraying Hindraf. This made the front page of both Malaysia Nanban and Makkal Osai.

Elsewhere in Makkal Osai, a report quoted community observer Dr Nagappan Arumugam as saying Hindraf leaders should refrain from making statements that might jeopardise the “voice of the community”.

He also said Waytha Moorthy shouldn’t have waited this long to tell the people about Vasantha Kumar if he’d already known about Vasantha’s police background in January 2008. Nagappan said this showed that Hindraf was in crisis.

Arrests outside temple

On 24 Aug, Malaysia Nanban and Makkal Osai reported that nine people, including Hindraf national coordinator R S Thanenthiran, were arrested for an illegal gathering outside the Mariamman Temple in Seberang Jaya in Permatang Pauh.

Supporters had organised a prayer meeting for the release of the five Hindraf leaders who are ISA detainees.

Makkal Osai reported that prime minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who made an appearance at the temple during the prayer (while the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign was ongoing), invited Hindraf leaders to meet him for a discussion.

By 26 Aug, all nine detainees were reportedly released. Malaysian Nanban reported Thanenthiran as saying the arrests had been illegal. The paper also quoted Penang deputy chief minister Dr P Ramasamy as asking who gave the order for arrest.

Hindu temples and Tamil schools

On 23 Aug, Makkal Osai reported on Selangor state executive councilor Ronnie Liu’s announcement that the state had approved nine land title applications for Hindu temples.

He also said the Pakatan Rakyat government had fulfilled its commitment not to demolish any temples in Selangor, as promised during the 8 March general election campaign.

Malaysia Nanban’s editorials on 26 and 27 Aug were about the needs of Tamil schools and recommendations for improvement.

On 26 Aug, the editorial welcomed the Education Ministry’s move to recommend that some Tamil schools be fully assisted by the government. Currently, there are more than 300 Tamil schools that only enjoy partial government assistance.

The editorial questioned just how many schools would benefit from the ministry’s move, and added that this was a 40-year-old demand for the improvement of Tamil schools.

In its editorial on 27 Aug, the paper said deputy minister in the prime minister’s department S K Devamany made a timely reminder when he noted that the intake for Tamil schools is increasing every year.

Devamany was also reported to have said that the Education Ministry should foresee the needs of Tamil schools nationwide to improve facilities and infrastructure. End of Article

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