FOR the week between 23 and 29 March 2009, Tamil papers highlighted the victory of Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu as the MIC president for a record 11th term. The Tamil dailies also reported a case of police brutality in Perak, and gave an insight into the plight of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Malaysia.
It’s Samy Vellu!
There was jubilation and shock over Samy Vellu’s uncontested victory as the MIC party president, and it was the dominant news on 23 March.
Samy Vellu (Pic courtesy of theSun)Tamil Nesan, known to be pro-Samy Vellu (the paper publishes a poem by Samy Vellu every Sunday), waxed lyrical over his victory under the headline Datuk Seri Samy Vellu wins unopposed. The report stated that Samy Vellu won after former vice-president Datuk M Muthupalaniappan only mustered five nomination papers, while his other 48 were rejected. The paper also reported that Samy Vellu would not seek another term as president.
A whole page was devoted to comments by various MIC leaders on the importance of Samy Vellu’s victory for the Indian Malaysian community. The report, titled The party and community will be further strengthened, quoted deputy president Datuk G Palanivel as saying: “For the next three years, Datuk Seri Samy Vellu, as president of the party, will ensure that the party and our community will reap many benefits.”
On 24 March, Tamil Nesan ran an editorial on Samy Vellu’s victory titled Let the leadership of Datuk Seri Samy Vellu strengthen MIC. “The unshakeable faith of the MIC branch leaders in Datuk Seri Samy Vellu’s leadership has been proven once again … We have no doubt that the next three years under his leadership will see him bring many beneficial and long-lasting changes to the party and the Indian [Malaysian] community.”
Makkal Osai and Malaysia Nanban covered Samy Vellu’s victory, but the tone was decidedly muted. Samy Vellu won without any contest, was the headline of Makkal Osai. On the same front page, below the picture of the triumphant Samy Vellu, it ran a story with a picture of Muthupalaniappan titled Democracy is dead in MIC, charges Datuk Muthu.
There were more columns devoted to his angry tirade than to Samy Vellu’s victory. “Leaders can come and go but the party must survive,” said Muthupalaniappan. He issued a warning about the party’s future: “Nobody likes MIC anymore. Nobody wants to be in the party; they all hate it. Wherever I go, people advise me, ‘Don’t waste your time in the party, Datuk.’”
Malaysia Nanban‘s headline was stark: Treachery won. Nomination papers rejected, complains Muthu.
All the Tamil dailies reported a case of police brutality that has upset many Indian Malaysians in Ipoh. It was one of the front-page main stories on 29 March.
The facts of the case are as follows: K Vijayakumar was detained by police in Chemor. His brother K Pathmanathan and a friend, Uthaya Kumar, went to the station to get more information. As there was no news from Pathmanathan, his parents became worried. They were told by the police that the brothers had been moved to the Ipoh police station.
The next day, the anxious parents and relatives waited at the Ipoh court to get a glimpse of their sons. What they saw shocked them.
Vijayakumar appeared with swollen lips, and bruises on his hands and face. He told his parents that the younger brother was in hospital.
Malaysia Nanban, in the detailed story on the back page under the headline Brother and friend who went to visit elder brother in police detention beaten, quoted K Devagi, the elder sister: “When we went to the hospital, we saw our brother Pathmanathan handcuffed to the bed. There were stitches near his mouth, his left eye was swollen, his hands were injured, and he was in a semi-conscious state. It was so pitiful.”
The paper reported that family members and Makkal Sakthi supporters, together with Perak assemblyperson A Sivanesan, Ipoh Barat Member of Parliament (MP) M Kulasegaran, and Kapar MP S Manikavasagam, held a peaceful demonstration with placards condemning the police for its action outside the Ipoh police station.
Makkal Osai in its story Brothers Vijayakumar and Pathmanathan beaten. Parents protest reported on the tense situation at the police station. It said Ipoh OCPD ACP Azizman Alias assured the parents that a thorough investigation would be conducted into the matter. “Do not blow up this situation. Please do not resort to unpleasant actions and disperse peacefully,” he requested.
Tamil Nesan in its report Two brothers beaten while in police custody gave additional information on the brothers’ background. It reported that their father, M Krishnan, was a former police personnel himself. It also quoted Azizman pleading for people to be calm. “Please do not spread rumours via SMS that the brothers are in critical condition. They will be released today and are in good health,” he said.
Sri Lanka on the globe (Source: Wikimedia) Makkal Osai gave an insight into the misery of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in Malaysia in its front-page story on 24 March titled No peace in the country of our origin; no life in the country of our refuge! We fast to protest.
The report said about 7,000 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in Malaysia are fasting as a sign of protest against the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)’s refusal to look into their plight.
The spokesperson for the refugees, Kamalaraja Kulanthaivelu, lambasted the UNHCR’s apathy towards them. “The UNHCR, which protects refugees worldwide, seems to turn a blind eye to the plight of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees here. Why does the UNHCR ignore us? We have no other choice but to go on this fast to highlight our dire straits.”
The paper followed up on 25 March with a full-page story on the refugees’ bitter experiences of living here. A feature titled We crossed the seas … we are floating on tears contained many heartwrenching stories from the refugees about the terrible situation they face here.
One such story was about Arasa Ratnam, who was being held in a detention centre. “There were some people from Myanmar who were also detained with me. When the officials from the UNHCR came, they only took steps to release those from Myanmar … I pleaded with them to help me, but my pleas fell on deaf ears,” he said.