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Takeovers and killings

FOR the week of 2 to 8 Feb 2009, the Tamil papers highlighted the political tussle in Perak, the effect of the Sri Lankan war, and the Thaipusam festivities.

Fallout in Perak

The political events in Perak that resulted in the state’s takeover by the Barisan Nasional (BN) were widely reported in the Tamil papers just as in the other language media, with the main reports in the Tamil papers being almost the same as in the English-language papers.

Makkal Osai offered a unique perspective in its 6 Feb news report Don’t bargain with us: Indian Malaysian MPs from Pakatan Rakyat (PR) send warning. It quoted Indian Malaysian Members of Parliament (MPs) from the DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) who said they would stand by Pakatan Rakyat and not give in to any enticement from other parties. They swore not to leave Pakatan Rakyat.


Sivakumar with his parents (Source: pakatanrakyat-
perak.blogspot.com)
The article quoted DAP MP for Tronoh, V Sivakumar, who is also the Perak state assembly speaker, as saying certain parties were offering him up to RM60 million to switch sides.

The MP for Sungkai, A Sivanesan, said, “I will not give up my political goals and self-respect by betraying the voters who voted for me. My main political aim was to give the people, especially the Indian [Malaysians], a voice in the government. The leaders in the BN have only been throwing scraps to the Indian [Malaysians]. But the Pakatan Rakyat government has been giving Indian [Malaysians] their rights.”

Makkal Osai was also the only paper that came out with a one-page editorial by editor-in-chief M Rajan on the matter. His thoughtful editorial, titled What are the lessons learnt from Perak? Whatever that happened, was it right?, looked at the issue from several angles.

He said what happened in Perak was not unusual as it has happened in other countries. “We have seen this happen many times in India, which is regarded as the world’s largest democracy.”

He also took a swipe at Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, saying that the PKR advisor and opposition leader must be held responsible for floating the idea of taking over the federal government by inducing BN elected reps to hop over to the Pakatan Rakyat.

The biggest losers in Perak were the Indian Malaysians, Rajan said. “As far as Indian [Malaysians] are concerned, a question has arisen as to who will look after their concerns.”

He pointed out that under the Pakatan Rakyat, Indian Malaysians were well represented in the state government. “The deputy prime minister’s assurance that the BN government will look after the interests of all, and be fair to all, is very heartening and encouraging,” Rajan added.

Worldwide demonstrations

The worldwide outrage felt by Tamilians over the killing of innocent Tamil civilians was reported in all the Tamil papers. There were demonstrations in London, Paris, Norway, New Zealand, Canada, France, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Netherlands, Australia, and even in Malaysia. The biggest was in London, where more than 100,000 people demonstrated.

Indian Malaysians demonstrated in front of the Indian embassy to urge the Indian government to stop giving military aid to Sri Lanka and to intervene to stop the war. This received front- and full back-page coverage in all the Tamil papers.

Tamil Nesan‘s report, Peaceful protest in front of Indian embassy, said around 1,000 people participated in the demonstration. “Although the demonstration was largely peaceful, some youths became emotional and stepped and kicked pictures of the Sri Lankan prime minister,” said the paper.

Dying for Sri Lankan Tamils

The killing of Sri Lankan Tamils has also affected Tamils living in Malaysia, driving them to kill themselves to bring attention to the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils.

Depressed over the killings of Tamils in Sri Lanka, Indian Malaysian youth commits suicide by throwing himself in front of a lorry was the headline of the report in Tamil Nesan on 3 Feb. “A day before he killed himself, Steven spoke glowingly to all his friends of the sacrifice of K Muthukumaran, the Tamil youth who immolated himself to highlight the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils,” said the paper. His death has sent shockwaves through the whole community, the article added.

A few days later, another suicide in the name of Sri Lankan Tamils was chronicled by the Tamil papers. Tamil Nesan gave the most gruesome details in its report titled Immolation in Seremban: Sri Lankan Tamil youth’s brave sacrifice to highlight Sri Lankan Tamil’s plight.

It quoted 27-year-old Madai Raja’s last testament, which was found in a diary near his body. “I am immolating myself in the hope that Tamilians all over the world will help to save their brethren in Sri Lanka. President Obama should stop the war in Sri Lanka immediately,” he said.

It was also reported that Madai Raja had been depressed with all the news in the local Tamil papers about the killing of civilians.

Thaipusam

The Tamil papers were filled with stories of Thaipusam celebrations one week before the actual event. The chariot procession that left the Jalan Bandar Mariamman Temple and reached Batu Caves on 7 Feb was front-page news in all the Tamil papers on 8 Feb.


(© Andrzej Gdula / sxc.hu)
On 7 Feb, the day before Thaipusam, Malaysian Nanban carried an article urging devotees to show self-restraint when breaking coconuts. The article, titled One coconut is enough, reported on the proposal by the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) to reduce the offerings of coconut and milk at temples during Thaipusam.

“We should fulfil our prayers by breaking just one coconut. There is no need to break hundreds or thousands which eventually end up in the rubbish dump,” said CAP education officer NV Subbarow.

He suggested that the money spent on coconuts and milk should instead be donated to various charities like orphanages and old folks homes, which are suffering from a shortage of funds during the current economic downturn.

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