I refer to the Hindraf rally that took place in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. In a nutshell, I am very disappointed with both the organisers and the police.
I feel the police and the government is largely responsible for turning what could have been a positive event into a disaster. Malaysia seems to be globally popular for the wrong reasons. Yesterday's action by the government and police further reinforce international opinion about Malaysia.
Let us scan what is written in the major newspapers around the world and see how they have reported the the event:
CNN: Malaysia clashes - Malaysian police tried to disperse more than 10,000 ethnic Indians who tried to stage a rally, demanding equal rights.
Al Jazeera: Police break up Malaysia protest - Malaysian police have fired tear gas and water cannons to break up a massive street demonstration by ethnic Indians in the country's largest city, Kuala Lumpur ... Rally organiser, the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), had called the protest over alleged discriminatory policies which favour ethnic Malays.
BBC: Ethnic Indian protesters in Malaysia are calling for reparations from the UK for sending Indians to Malaysia as indentured labourers a century ago.
Singapore Straits Times: Kuala Lumpur police fire tear gas to halt protest - Malaysian police used tear gas and water cannons on Sunday to quell a street protest by more than 10,000 ethnic Indians complaining of government discrimination against their community.
From what I see, except for Malaysiakini, all the papers has given a slanted and negative view of the scenario. Why did this happen? I believe this happened because the politicians sitting in their almighty offices at Putrajaya were not given the right advice. I also believe they need to attend a crash course on public relations. The foreign media will snap up any news features that will help sell its papers. From what I see, all the major international news organisations like CNN, BCC and Al Jazeera has portrayed a negative picture of the government.
- Hindraf wants to submit a memorandum and had organised a peaceful gathering for that purpose.
- The government and the police should have allowed the gathering with conditions attached to ensure peace and safety.
- The image of the Malaysian government would have been enhanced if the police and organisers sat down to find ways to make it a positive event.
- The police act of creating roadblocks and selectively stopping Indians at these roadblocks had angered more Indians and other Malaysians due to the traffic jam. This actually made more Indians participate in the gathering.
- The ministers making threatening remarks as highlighted in the local media actually further fueled the tension and emotions.
- Distorted stories in the streets makes things worst for ethnic relations in this country. It is now being gossiped as an Indian versus Malay problem.
I would like to appeal to all, including the government, police and event organisers, to look at the request objectively and accommodate requests for gatherings with common sense. I think if the police and the organisers agreed for the event to be held in an indoor stadium and arranged for the British high commissioner to accept the memorandum at a stadium, it would have turned out well for Malaysia at large.
As for the MIC, I feel they should have played a greater and more positive role in this matter. Instead, Uncle Samy makes things worst for MIC and himself by taking a cheap shot at the Indian community that took part in the demonstrations.