"Honestly, if you're given the choice between Armageddon or tea, you don't say 'what kind of tea?"
- Neil Gaiman
COMMENT The question is why Hindraf should wait until April 18 to see which alliance comes to the altar. My answer is they should not. They should not wait hat in hand to see which disingenuous group comes a-calling but send out a message to their grassroots that they should vote as their conscience dictates.
Staying out of the elections is an unacceptable choice. As Rabindranath Tagore says, "You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water."
Hindraf's national adviser N Ganesan said, "We don't owe allegiance to any political party in the country, we owe allegiance to the people we represent," and I support this one hundred percent and would add "that most political parties have shown no allegiance to the people they claim to represent".
However, there is no way Umno would ever endorse the blueprint because by doing so, it would repudiate the racial power-sharing formula and the so-called social contract they jealously guard. In addition, always remember this election is a referendum on the decades-long Umno watch.
At this moment, Umno and BN, despite what Pakatan Rakyat partisans think, are playing the political game far more shrewdly than Pakatan. Caretaker PM Najib Razak is going out cash in hand to every major and minor sub-ethnic group to shore up support for his regime. His job depends on not whether his party wins but by the margin of victory.
Pakatan obviously realises that his cash handouts are gaining traction, which is why it made an about-turn and said that cash handouts would not end if they come into power after Pakatan and their supporters spent months decrying the horrid nature of Umno-BN's "money politics".
Right-thinking Malaysians have come to expect these kinds of reversals from Pakatan. This is why after months of acrimony, the DAP suddenly comes up with the Galang Patah declaration which predictably includes many points raised by the Hindraf blueprint. This of course follows a dodgy script when it comes to dealings with Hindraf. Remember the whole Indraf fiasco?
I have no idea on what basis DAP MP Charles Santiago (left) thinks that Pakatan is "not at war with Hindraf" since by the actions of their supporters and comments like "childish", the tone is anything but civil. However, Hindraf too has been politically inept in dealing with Pakatan. Calling Indian representatives of Pakatan "mandores" is a war cry in itself. Therefore, there is plenty of blame to go around.
By the way, there is nothing "childish" in the response of Hindraf to the Galang Patah declaration in the context of the "plagiarism" charges, unless of course you consider Nurul Izzah accusation of plagiarism on BN's manifesto childish?
However as Kua Kia Soong alluded in his article, concerning Hindraf's blueprint "Or could it be that incorporating Hindraf's proposals would pose a threat to the jostling for seats among the Indian leaders in Pakatan? If this realpolitik is indeed one of the reasons for the Pakatan-Hindraf fallout, it is a let-down of serious proportions for all Malaysians who hope for change in GE13."
I have heard much the same from Malay and Chinese representatives in Pakatan. Unfortunately, political expediency nearly always trumps commitment to principles or as Kua describes this phenomenon as "wise after the event". But then again, Pakatan is not the only player in this game.
Umno-BN has been playing this game for far too long. All these cash handouts to various communities are to split whatever cohesiveness Pakatan has tenuously cobbled together. If the question is supporting the devil you know versus the devil you do not, then the answer is simple.
You support the devil you do not simply because the devil you know through the MIC is the reason why the disenfranchised of the Indian community is in the state they are in now.
Pakatan may have been derelict in fulfilling whatever promise they made to the disenfranchised of the Indian community but the fact remains that the plight of these people are a direct result of the decades-long Umno hegemony through the MIC and the apathy of most Malaysians.
How damaging would it be to the Indian community if because of the inaction of Hindraf, the MIC gains a foothold again in BN? How damaging would it be, if honest politicians like Sungai Siput MP D Jeyakumar, who benefitted from the Hindraf wave and has shown honest support for the Hindraf cause, loses to an MIC candidate ?
There is no way that BN would replace the MIC. If they were serious about Hindraf, they would have dropped MIC a long time ago, but the reason they do not is that they realise that Hindraf would not be the running dogs, content to sit in their kennels until commanded to address the Indian community.
Moreover, as far as Pakatan is concerned, they assume that the Hindraf does not command the Indian vote because if they did, they would be upon you like bees on honey. The last thing I want for Hindraf, when after the slaying of the MIC beast, is to be the means in which it is reanimated again. This could happen if by some insane outcome Hindraf throws its support behind BN.
Race still matters
Hindraf has done much to be proud of. The movement is a constant reminder that race is still a factor in this election even though the rhetoric of Pakatan and BN with their Bangsa Malaysia and 1Malaysia kool aid is a lie that is propagated as truth or worse reality.
Hindraf has managed to induce BN to recognise the plight of the disenfranchised Indians by doing what they do best, enticing the electorate with "goodies" as evidenced in their manifesto.
Concerning Pakatan, the Galang Patah declaration is evidence no matter how hard revisionists claim otherwise, that Hindraf forced their hand in this issue. What needs to be done as a political social entity not beholden to any political party, is to see that these words from both alliances translate into action.
Hindraf cannot endorse BN and Umno because their record speaks for itself. They will not commit to the blueprint because it would mean the end of the culture of privilege that favours that Malays and they do not intend to extend said privilege to disenfranchised Indians.
And even if they did, it would be because they want another handout class to act as a buffer against those recalcitrant Pakatan Malays and the Chinese community. This is one political honey trap that should be avoided at all costs.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.