Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Reply To Dr Khir Toyo On Kg Karuppiah Temple Breaking

Today (28th April, 2008), Malaysiakini reported that former MB of Selangor, Dr Khir Toyo stated that the Kg Karrupiah Temple (referred to by some as Rimba Jaya Temple or Padang Jawa Temple) breaking was ordered by MIC President Dato Seri S.Samy Vellu and that the temple was broken after Deepavali. This is my letter in reply to the editor of Malaysiakini.

To the Editor of Malaysiakini,

How could Dr. Mohd Khir Toyo say that the temple was broken two days after Deepavali? It was broken a week BEFORE Deepavali. Did the whole nation get it wrong? Or were all the reports and pictures in ALL the three Tamil Dailies of the broken temple, lies? Perhaps the former MB was referring to remnants of the temple structure that was left standing or the ‘temporary temple’ ‘rebuilt’ at the same site by some quarters after the initial breaking. However the Kg Karuppiah Maha Mariamman Temple as we know it was broken on the 30th October, 2007.

I was there on that day. The MBSA made the first attempt to break the temple in the morning around 9.00 am. They were stopped by the residence there and Shah Alam MIC Committee members. MBSA Officers then said that the temple will be broken by 12 noon and all the deities were to be removed by then. A number of youths began to gather at the temple site in an attempt to prevent the temple breaking.

MBSA kept to their word and made a charge around noon but was ordered to be stopped by the police as it turned violent. In the meantime fellow lawyer, Mr Sivanesan and me demanded MBSA to show that they had the authority to break the temple. The MBSA legal officer was called to the site but was unable to show a court order that specified that the temple be broken. He then resorted to a notice by MBSA. Upon inspection the notice was dated two years ago. We argued on the validity of the notice but the Legal Officer held his ground. A plea that the matter be referred to court to resolve ambiguity before the temple is broken also fell into deaf ears.

The Shah Alam Dato Bandar was there. He said he has his instructions and refused to budge. This was despite Mr Alex Thiagarajan (Klang MIC Chairman) telling the Dato Bandar that the temple breaking will have dire consequences for the BN government. The Dato Bandar gave the orders and ‘disappeared’ from the site. This was when MBSA made the final charge. Some youths were injured whilst others were arrested in the process. Some MBSA officers were also injured. With the youths that barricaded themselves between the MBSA officers and the temple removed, the bulldozer moved in.

The picture of the damaged the yellow structure shown in Malaysiakini’ s report is that of the temple’s ‘Mulla Staanum’ or inner sanctum. It is the most sacred place in the temple and the statute of the main deity is placed there in accordance with rites dating back thousands of years. Once the inner sanctum was damaged, the temple committee had no choice but to remove the statute of the main deity as they didn’t want the statute to be desecrated. All Hindus know that once the statute of the main deity is removed from the temple, the place ceases to be a temple.

Therefore the temple was broken on the 30th October, 2007. To say otherwise runs counter to irrefutable facts.

Murugesan Sinnandavar

Monday, April 28, 2008

MIC ... let it be

Ever since I journeyed into cyberspace and joined the blogging community, I have been inundated by calls to work towards the dissolution of MIC or to join a multi-racial party.

Invariably, the calls come from Malaysians of Indian origin. Why are they so eager to see MIC dissolved?

MCA, Gerakan and Umno suffered equally in the last general election but we seldom hear the Chinese or the Malays asking these parties to close shop.

Is this because the other Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties in Peninsular Malaysia played their role and MIC didn't?

The election results clearly showed that a substantial number of voters were unhappy with the ruling coalition as a whole. Yes, we accept the results and have gone back to the drawing board; as a component party and collectively as a coalition.

Our policies, attitudes and implementation must be reviewed and we intend to set things right.

The noblest argument, put forth by some, as to why MIC should be dissolved is that Malaysia is moving away from race-based politics. While I agree that Malaysia should move away from such politics, but is this the reality on the ground? Are we truly above and beyond race in Malaysia?

Granted that the results of the last election have given us reason to believe so, we must also not forget that 'a single sallow does not a summer make'.

The next general election and the one after will provide clearer indicators. The results from the two elections will determine if 2008 had indeed ushered in a changing trend.

We have multiracial parties in Malaysia, both within BN and Pakatan Rakyat. I salute them. But show me one so-called multi-racial party that has escaped the racial composition of its members.

Each multiracial party has its 'dominant race' and most of the key positions will be held by members of this race while the rest will be accorded ornamental positions to fulfill its quota of multi-racialism.

Are these multiracial parties willing to break free from the racial composition of its members and promote anyone based solely on ability; totally disregarding race?

The party that has a semblance of being multiracial is DAP. I remember it having at different points in time, a Malay, Chinese and an Indian as its chairman. However, that party didn't make much headway until the last election because it lacked the support of Malays. It still sees a need to champion Chinese-based issues to hold on to its Chinese vote bank.

On the other side of the fence, Gerakan made genuine attempts but still could not shake off its Chinese flavour. The reality is that we are still far from race-free politics despite having multi-racial parties.

Returning to MIC.

Who are those calling for the party's dissolution? The most vocal are non-members, people who did not vote for or support MIC to begin with. So what difference does it make to this group if the party continues to exist or otherwise?

What is their exigency in seeing the demise of MIC? Could this be supporters of the opposition who fear that MIC might make a strong comeback in the next polls?

For democracy flourish, is it not wiser to encourage the birth rather than the death of parties? So in that context, let MIC be, as an option for the voters, if not for anything else.

On that note, I would also like to see the same voices on a crusade against race-based parties to call for the dissolution of religious-based parties as well. Religious based parties can be more divisive than race-based parties. Why has this inconvenient truth been ignored?

Once again, allow me to reiterate that I am all for race-free politics and a Malaysia for Malaysians. I regard myself as truly being a Malaysian first above all else. My father is an Indian, my mother a Chinese and I look Malay. And my friends say that when I speak Bahasa Malaysia, I sound like one too. So there you have it.

Some of those calling for MIC's dissolution could be well-meaning, but it is recklessly naïve to call for the dismantling of an Indian-based party when others in the equation are unprepared to do so. Are we on a higher moral ground to dissolve MIC and call for race-free politics? Yes, perhaps. But are we being prudent? A definite NO.

For those who claim that MIC has not done anything for the Indian community, here are some facts and figures.

  • MIC, through it education arm MIED, has disbursed over RM85 million in scholarships and study loans to deserving Malaysian Indians over the last 23 years. It is currently assisting 1,200 Malaysian Indians studying all over the world through MIED study loans. Most of these loans are only recovered after legal action is threatened;
  • Annually, MIED encourages academic excellence amongst Indian students by identifying and awarding top achievers in UPSR, PMR, SPM and STPM;
  • MIED has prepared and printed workbooks for all Tamil School students sitting for the UPSR examination and have distributed these books for free. There has been a marked improvement in the students' achievement since this programme was introduced;
  • Tafe College produced tens of thousands of para-professionals. Lets not forget, the setting up of the Asian Institute of Medicine, Science and Technology (AIMST) University in Baling Kedah;
  • MIC's social arm, Yayasan Pemulihan Sosial handles an average of thirty social cases per day;
  • The party has also facilitated over 4,000 Malaysian Indians to obtain micro-credit loans amounting to RM40 million for business start-ups in 2005 and for another 2,000 Malaysian Indians in 2007.

The above list is not exhaustive but it reveals the socio-political commitment undertaken by MIC. Contrary to allegations, the party did not just sit in a corner doing nothing.

Could we have done more? Perhaps.

The March 8 elections made us sit up and take notice of this. It was a wake-up call that jolted the leaders and members. We have since resolved to relook at our priorities and the way we handle issues.

I acknowledge that keeping silent when one is required to speak up amounts to failure to discharge one's duty as a leader.

Now, when the voters have achieved their objective of opening the eyes of those in power, why are some 'hell-bent' on closing the eyes of the party for good?

There are countless number of MIC Branch Chairmen, Youths, Women, Puteris and Puteras whom have and are genuinely working tirelessly for the sake of the Indian community with no expectations of reward other than to see the progress of the community and the nation.

Reprimand MIC for our mistakes and reprove us if you will, as you did in the last election but please don't allow some loud voices deny the good that we have done.

There are also those who call for MIC president Dato Seri S Samy Vellu to resign in view of the party's poor performance in the general election. Those that make the call should remember that he is the elected president of the party. Whether he resigns or not before the end of his term is his decision to make.

People who call for the dissolution of the party have no right to call for the president to resign as this group only wish to see MIC destroyed. Let the party decide if it needs a new president.

In success and failure alike, no one person is responsible. It's unfair and unbecoming to attribute the failure to one man, no matter how high his post is or how long he has been at the helm. It's easy to go with the tide and blame everything on one man or one party. It takes character to stand against the wave and put things in perspective.

All members of MIC, like in success, also have a share in its failure. I as a Central Working Committee member of MIC and as a former candidate take full responsibility on my part for the poor showing of MIC in the last general election. I will work towards putting things right and I believe, so will my colleagues.

The voters have exercised their democratic right and their sentiment has been duly noted. MIC is looking both inwards and outwards to see what went wrong. If we get our act together by the next election, vote us in. If we don't, vote us out. This is democracy.

Until such a time arrives when all BN component parties decide to merge to form, not only a multi-racial party, but a race-free party, MIC will remain relevant to the community and this nation.

Murugesan Sinnandavar

Central Working Committee Member



Saturday, April 26, 2008

Renewal of Makkal Osai's Permit

In less then ten days since the Home Affairs Ministry chose not renew the publication permit of the Tamil Daily Makkal Osai, it ‘reconsidered’ its decision and renewed the permit after all.

It indicates a few good things about the Ministry. First, it shows that the Ministry does indeed listen to the public. Second it indicates that the Ministry is willing to change its decision if it does not sit well with public opinion. On these I congratulate the Government. It brightens the path towards a more interactive and responsive government.

However, the Ministry’s reversal also raises several questions. What has so drastically changed in the last ten days that warranted the reversal? Does this not indicate that the Ministry’s decision not to renew in the first place was based on subjective grounds?

This whole episode also highlights the thin ice upon which our press thread. The employees of the daily would be have been put in a state of uncertainty and despair during the ‘ban’. The livelihood of people working in the press is entirely dependant on some decision taken by someone somewhere based on grounds upon which they have no control.

A free, vigilant and robust press is essential for a vibrant democracy.

The Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984 must be reviewed.

I would like to hear your opinion on this.

Murugesan Sinnandavar


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Makkal Osai and Freedom of Expression

It’s a sad day for free speech when the Home Affairs Ministry ‘banned’ the Tamil Daily Makkal Osai a few days ago. When contacted, the Home Affairs Minister chose to get technical and said that it was ‘not a ban’ and that the Ministry simply ‘chose not to renew’ the daily’s permit.

Free speech is not a privilege that can be bestowed and revoked at the government’s wish. It is an inalienable right which can only be curtailed by law when that freedom is abused in such a way that it injures another or poses a threat to national security. Granted that we have laws regulating press and publication, the Home Affairs Ministry should not be fast to use its discretionary powers to curtail freedom of expression.

The Ministry should give detailed reasons as to why the daily’s permit was not renewed. A mere statement that it ‘violated guidelines threatening racial harmony’ is insufficient. If in fact the daily had violated the guidelines, then the Ministry should list the ‘violating’ articles that ‘threaten racial harmony’ of this country. This will allow readers to judge for themselves if the articles were in fact a ‘threat to racial harmony’ and thus the appropriateness of the Ministry’s move.

Previously the Ministry imposed a one month ban on Makkal Osai for its front page publication of a picture of Jesus with a beer can in hand. In that case the Ministry was specific about the offending picture and the ban was generally accepted. The absence of specifics will give rise to speculations which will be damaging to the government. As a friend once said, “they can muffle the voice but the whispers travel faster and are more damaging”.

To be clear, I am not a great fan of that daily. I find its reporting often one-sided and at times, vindictive. However, so long as it keeps within the frame-work the law, its permit should not be revoked, no matter how uncomfortable one might feel towards its reporting.

The Ministry’s move to ‘ban’ the daily will further erode people’s trust and reliance on the mainstream media. This cannot be good for the nation.

With the advent of internet, the flow information can no longer be regulated. There are bound to be misinformation in the media and not all of it can be weeded-out by the government. Except in extreme cases, it is best that the government allows citizens to sieve for themselves the truth from half-truths and lies.

We cannot march towards becoming a great nation by trampling on freedom of expression.

Murugesan Sinnandavar


Monday, April 14, 2008

Press Release

I call upon the Kamunting Prison Authorities to seriously look into the health condition of Internal Security Act detainee P Uthayakumar and provide him with the necessary medical attention.

Special consideration must also be given to his diet since he is a diabetic patient.

It is the duty of the prison authorities to ensure the health and safety of those under their custody, a duty made onerous in cases where one is held without trial.

The authorities must act on the advice of doctors and in cases where there is doubt, they must act and think in favour of the detainee.

Murugesan Sinnandavar

Sunday, April 6, 2008

News Sunday Times, 6th April, 2008

Attached below please find My Interview with Ms Veena Babulal of NST published on 6th April, 2008

Email to friend Email to Friend Print article Print Article
S. Murugesan says communities want to see people stand up for them and be their voice
S. Murugesan says communities want to see people stand up for them and be their voice

KUALA LUMPUR: A defeat at the ballot box in the 12th general election simply means life goes on for MIC Subang parliamentary candidate S. Murugesan.

The 40-year-old looks forward to returning to his legal practice in Klang and service work in Shah Alam.

There has also been word from Astro Vaanavil that Sattam, a legal talk show he hosts, will start shooting its second season soon.

Murugesan hopes to stand again in five years' time "as a wiser man". He admits the election outcome left a bitter taste in his mouth.

"Like victories, defeats have to be taken with sportsmanship. I was shocked by my defeat after the encouraging response I received on my rounds, but the voters are always right."
He urged some BN candidates to "listen, because the customer is always right".

"BN representatives have come to the level of explaining government policies to the people, telling them to accept them. But the people's issues are not voiced," added the father of three.

Murugesan said BN had to examine itself.

"Instead of bickering about the electorate, it's high time to find out whether this is a change in our political landscape or the people venting their anger."

Alarm had been raised over the Indian vote swing to the opposition after the Hindu Rights Action Force rally last year, but what Murugesan had not expected was the shift in votes among the more affluent.

Bukit Lanjan, the state seat for the posh neighbourhoods of Tropicana, Bandar Utama and Damansara Perdana, was his "biggest loss", he said.

Besides Bukit Lanjan, Paya Jaras and Kota Damansara were plagued by local council woes. Strata title problems, high water tariffs, late rubbish collection and unreplaced street lights were the most complaints to Murugesan.

"They don't vote for councillors, so they look for the next elected representative, even though they know their MP or state assemblyman's capacity is limited.

"People are not stupid. They know they cannot get everything they ask for. But they want to see people stand up for them and be their voice. That's the part we have not grasped, the expectation many of us have not met."

Friday, April 4, 2008

Video Clips Degrading Religion

Its 12.30 am and I couldn't sleep. Mind you, I dozed off on the couch and went to bed early. Once in bed I couldn't sleep. I began to toss and turn. As it often happens in cases such as these, the mind starts throwing up things for consideration. There was something that was bothering me.
A few days earlier a Dutch guy released a video which was offensive to Muslims all over the world. There were demonstrations in Indonesia and angry write-ups in the local Malay dailies. There was also a call for boycott of all Dutch products with one chain-retailer labeling all Dutch products to alert the conscientious purchaser. This set off a round of debate on the net on the wisdom and genuineness of the retailer's move. Dutch Lady quickly came out with an advertisement condemning the video and disassociated itself from the maker.
Earlier I received a few smses and e-mails informing me about someone posting a video clip on you-tube which had angered Hindus. There was another round of debate on the net, especially on the Indian based groups condemning the act and calling for a 'fatwa' against the maker.
I had a hearing today ( or yesterday, rather ) so I didn't have time to download and watch any of those videos. In any event, I wasn't too keen to watch it as it is an utter waste of time to watch a video that ridicules another's religion. Besides, it hurts the humanity that is in all of us.
The intention of the maker is to enrage some and then to raise the curiosity in others in order to attract as many viewers as possible. Whether we watched it out of curiosity, to agree or disagree with it, the makers' objective would have been met. We watched it!
Which brings me to the main point of this post. The video that seeks to degrade Islam should be condemned. The video that seeks to degrade Hinduism should also be condemned. They should be condemned not only because it disrespects OUR religion but because it disrespects ANOTHER's. We should oppose such degradation regardless of our own religion or the religion it was intended against. Any act that maliciously seeks to degrade another person's faith or lack thereof is an affront to ALL humanity, not just people of that faith. We should not play into the hands of the instigators that seek to polarize one group against another.
If God is ultimately ONE, then all of us irrespective of our religion, colour or creed are also ONE. Let humanity be the common thread that strings us together as ONE.

Murugesan Sinnandavar