Malaysiakini News

Remembering Kampung Medan: one year after

Prasana Chandran  |  Published:  |  Modified:

There was a funeral, a wedding, and a misunderstanding over a broken van windscreen. These led to a full-blown racial clash in Petaling Jaya Selatan that left six people dead and scores others suffering from head injuries, slash wounds and broken bones.

Photographs in malaysiakini s possession are gruesome evidence of the extensive hurt, both physical and emotional, inflicted by the clashes.

One of the victims, V Vasu, 24, had both his hands hacked off by rampaging youths. Doctors managed to reattach his left hand but failed to save two of his fingers.

There are several large stitch wounds on his forearm and on his wrist. There is also an unsightly wound on his palm.

Another photograph shows a man with a 20cm healed wound from below the navel right up to the rib-cage. While a third shows a man with over 20 stitches on each wrist.

The infamous incident, better known as the Kampung Medan clashes, took place exactly a year ago today.

It is often compared to the racial riots of May 13, 1969 which was sparked off after an opposition partys election victory parade.

The May 13 incident has been frequently used as a bogeyman during election time by the ruling coalition to urge the masses to reject the opposition, claiming that a bloody riot could recur.

One wonders why the March 8 clashes had not been twisted to the ruling coalitions benefit as well?

Apart from the six deaths, the four-day long clashes, also saw more than 40 people hospitalised. The majority of the victims were poor Indian Malaysians.

The incident created a climate of fear, anxiety, suspicion and trauma as attackers armed with parangs, samurai swords, iron rods and sticks roamed the vicinity baying for blood.

The government has been accused of denying the racial dimension of the clashes, perhaps concerned over Malaysias international image as it might rattle investor confidence.

Until today, despite numerous memorandums sent to the Prime Ministers Department and Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), there has not been a show of a response.

This has undoubtedly created dismay among the minority Indians in the country.

The wedding tent

The whole episode supposedly started with an Indian security guard returning from work at 3am on March 4.

He found a tent erected for a wedding in the middle of the narrow road in Kampung Medan. He grew agitated and started kicking the tables and chairs.

This angered the Malay family that was preparing for the wedding, who rushed out and assaulted him. He fled but returned later with a parang and five other cohorts.

A fight broke out and at one point, the security guard fled to a nearby house, belonging to an Indian family, where a funeral wake was being held..

The group of Malays, who assumed he was a member of the household, then set fire to a car and two motorcycles parked nearby.

This marked the beginning of the bloody clashes, which was further aggravated when an Indian boy, using a slingshot, smashed the windscreen of his neighbours vehicle.

The angry van owner, an Indian, sought compensation from the childrens parents. He was joined by his driver, a Malay, but some villagers who saw the commotion thought that a Malay was threatening the Indians. Rumours began to spread and the rest is history.

The fragile balance of inter-racial harmony was tipped with dire consequences  neighbourhood quarrels led to a racial strife.

The accounts

A six-member team representing a network of NGOs for a Violence Free Community took upon themselves to record the names and injuries of the victims. Below are some of the details:

March 8 : A 26-year-old construction worker and his friend were returning to their homes in Kampung Semarak off Old Klang Road on a motorcycle at 10.30pm. They were attacked by about 50 youths carrying iron rods, wooden sticks and hockey sticks. His friend escaped, but the construction worker ended up with a broken right leg.

Suresh, 19, sustained head injuries when he was assaulted by five people at about 10.30pm. The college student from Taman Medan was returning home when five to six youths obstructed his way. They asked him about his ethnic origin. When he told them, Suresh was attacked with sharp instruments and wooden sticks. He passed out. He suffered multiple slash wounds on the head and abdomen. He also suffered a deep slash which almost severed the wrist from his left hand.

March 9 : Mathavan was assaulted by a gang of youths when he was returning home on a motorcycle. He suffered a leg fracture and injuries on his hands. His motorcycle was torched.

Annadurai was carrying goods in his van when youths attacked him near the Shell petrol station in Sri Manja (near Taman Medan). He suffered injuries on his head and hands.

Security guard Kanan was assaulted in Kampung Medan while returning home from work. He had head injuries, a fractured leg and suffered a hemorrhage in his kidney. Rajathurai was on drips and on a resuscitation machine.

Naharul Hisham sustained injuries on his hands and his fingers were almost severed.

March 10 : A fifth form student from Kampung Gandhi who was in Taman Medan with his brother at 3pm were chased by about 100 men on motorcycles, armed with samurai swords, wooden sticks and iron rods. The two were caught and assaulted. His brothers hands were almost severed.

Norhashihadi was returning to Kampung Medan after work when he was attacked by 10 men. He suffered head injuries.

In Sungei Way, Indonesian worker Sujari was attacked by six men while Yong So Lin was attacked by three.

Muthukumar, from Bidor, Perak, was delivering fruits when he and his co-worker were attacked by youths in Kampung Datuk Harun. He sustained head injuries.

Anbalakan was assaulted by a few youths when he stopped at the traffic light near Kampung Datuk Harun. He was on his way home to Sungai Buloh. He had leg injuries.

Ramesan, a mute, was attacked in Kampung Medan, sustaining injuries on his legs and hands.

March 11 : Sahjahan, a Bangladeshi factory worker, was attacked by a man in Sungei Way. He fell unconscious and sustained injuries on his head and hands.

Kathirvelu had nose and head injuries. Thinakaran had injuries on his hand and leg.

Parthiban, 19, had stitches on the face and head. Anbarasan had injuries on his legs, hands and ear.

March 12 : Subramaniam was travelling from Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur to his home in Sri Sentosa when he was assaulted. He had injuries on his head and back.

Bakhshish Elahi, a Pakistani, and his partner were assaulted in a lorry by about 100 youths armed with pipes, swords and parangs. He had injuries on his head, legs and hand.

March 13 : A lorry driver and a factory supervisor were attacked by youths with parangs. Four fingers on the supervisors right hand were almost severed. He also had two slash wounds across his shoulders. The lorry driver's fingers on his left hand were almost severed. He also suffered a slash wound to the back of the head.

In the aftermath

Following the bloody clashes, a group of concerned citizens comprising non-governmental organisations and individuals came together to draw-up a memorandum that was sent to the Prime Ministers Department, after failing to hand it personally to premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the Parliament House last year.

In the memorandum, the group asked that financial support be provided for the affected families as the victims were from the lower-income group such as petty traders, lorry drivers and factory workers. And some families had lost their breadwinner.

The group asked for immediate socio-economic development programmes aimed at providing adequate housing, sanitation, community centres, recreational facilities, public amenities and places of worship in Kampung Medan and the affected areas. The poorest of them, regardless of their ethnic background, should be given further aid to own houses.

There was a request for the setting up of a special multi-ethnic police task force as the police were perceived to have acted sluggishly during the first three days of the clashes. Only a multi-ethnic police force would be able to handle Kampung Medan-type of conflicts that involve racial dimensions, said the memorandum.

The communities living in the affected areas have long been suffering from drug and gang related problems. These problems, however, are not merely confined to the Kampung Medan area. Therefore, the setting up of a national task force was in order to take a holistic approach to resolve the problems.

The memorandum said Malaysians from all walks of life face racial discrimination and religious intolerance. Taking the Kampung Medan incident as a cue, it called for a Race Relations Commission be set up in order to eradicate unfair discrimination.

However, there has been no response to the memorandum, and no Royal Commission of Inquiry into the matter.

A political party, Parti Reformasi Insan Malaysia (Prim), has also been pressuring the government for adequate compensation and to investigate the cause of the clashes.

In the aftermath of the clashes, a BBC news article dated March 18, 2001 reported: Today, it is clear that beneath the normally tranquil surface of Malaysian society, dangerous tensions of the potential for violence still lurks.

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