Malay Tamils Want Brits to Pay

27 Nov

This is one of the best stories I’ve heard in a while.

To go back in time a bit, if you were paying attention to world events in the 1990s, then you might remember Anwar Ibrahim, a Malaysian politician and former deputy prime minister who was jailed on charges of corruption and sodomy. Ibrahim, a Muslim who is married with children, called it a bullshit political move instigated by his boss and one time mentor, Mahatthir bin Mohammed. Nevertheless, he got sent to jail and that was that.

This was my first view of Malaysia other than the tales of economic progress (nurtured, incidentally, by Ibrahim who also served as Financial Minister and thus came into conflict with Mohammad who kickstarted the process) brought home by my father. Then, a few years later, I was making my way through VS Naipaul’s books and thus came upon Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey and subsequently, Beyond Belief:Islamic Excursions Amongst Converted Peoples.

I know, right? Naipaul! How could you ever trust anything he’s written, especially about Islam? But here’s the thing about Naipaul – he has an absolute genius for zeroing in on things that bother him and following that thread to its very end without care or concern for such things as feelings or political correctness. It is both his greatest strength and his greatest weakness as a writer. It is hardly unusual for nonfiction novels or travelogues to focus on the experience of the author rather than the experiences of the subject (duh!) but Naipaul and his prose are pretty darn special in that the latter is somehow able to illuminate the darkest recesses of the former’s mind with no attempt at sensationalism, letting the content do the heavy lifting instead. So even if you disagree with everything he has to say or believes in, it is impossible to argue that he uses his prose simply as a tool of his bigotry – it is too carefully structured and well thought out for that.

Coming back to Malaysia, these two books were my second insight into Malaysia (amongst other countries but that’s another story). Even if you separate Naipaul’s interpretation of events he describes in his books, there are signs that something is bubbling beneath the surface. For a long time after that – nothing. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to think about Malaysia apart from the odd news report, notes from my cousin who moved there and perhaps an account like this one.

But now comes this: Malaysia’s ethnic Indians, particularly those of Tamil origin who’re descendants of indentured laborers sent roughly 150 years ago by the British to what was then a colony of the Empire, are protesting racial discrimination. Malaysia, a Malay majority state with significant population of Chinese- and Indian-origin settlers, has faced these sort of allegations before. And rapid Islamization hasn’t helped any:

Analysts said that although they had long been a silent minority, many ethnic Indians have become radicalised by the increasing “Islamisation” of Malaysia, which minorities see as undermining their rights. The destruction of hundreds of Hindu temples in recent years, sometimes with bulldozers moving in even as devotees were praying, has also caused intense anger.

“The Indians have become alienated and that has basically transformed the nature of resistance,” said political analyst P Ramasamy, noting that ethnic Indian professionals were well represented at the protest.
“The character of struggle has changed. It has taken on a Hindu form — Hinduism versus Islam. And this is something that should not have taken place in a multi-racial society.”

While no two sources seem to agree on an exact figure, the number of protesters has been pegged somewhere between 5000 (BBC) and 20,000 (Time). But the best bit about this story is that the Malay Indians know who is to blame for this sorry state of affairs: Britain. The organizers of this particular rally, the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), have already filed suit in London against Britain for its role in their troubles:

“For over a decade we have been appealing to the government for help to alleviate our poverty but all our appeals had fell on deaf ears,” says Uthayakumar Ponnusamy, Hindraf’s legal adviser. “The British brought us here, exploited us for 150 years and left us to the mercy of a Malay Muslim government. They should compensate us now.”

The amount asked in damages? Only $4 trillion. That’s trillion with a t. But wait, the best is yet to come – Hindraf says it can’t afford to fight the case so it’d like the Queen to pick up the tab, please. In fact, they were on their way to present the Queen with their demand – “THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND — THE SYMBOL OF JUSTICE, WE STILL HAVE HOPE ON YOU” proclaimed placards – at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur when things turned nasty.

You just gotta love it!

While it’s highly unlikely the “symbol of justice” whose predecessors authorized the oh-so-just relocation of those Indians’ ancestors to Malaysia will lift a finger in their defense, this case does bring up a couple of interesting points.

1. If the British allow this case to be filed, what does this mean for the rest of the former Empire? Can you imagine the floodgates this will open?

2. Friends turned bitter foes, the DMK and the BJP might suddenly be in the same boat. The DMK is, of course, exercised over the Tamil aspect of the issue while I fully expect some profound statement from the BJP about the Hindu part of it. Not that anyone in Malaysia has asked anything of either of these two groups yet.

3. The example Malaysia sets: here is a country that has seen rapid economic progress, has a multicultural identity of which it is very proud, a stable nation that is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary of Independence. But thanks to an affirmative policy that services the majority and it’s policies that favor one religion above others, here’s Hindraf (which is apparently “inspired” by Hindu right wing parties in India) jockeying for their rights. Makes you think doesn’t it? Although if you’re on the right, I’m sure it makes you think thoughts completely different from mine. :mrgreen:


Posted by on November 27, 2007 in Politics


12 responses to “Malay Tamils Want Brits to Pay

  1. anangbhai

    November 27, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    No actually, I agree with a lot of what you said. I have heard similar stories from Indian friends from the Middle East and Africa where people of Indian descent are treated like third class citizens.
    Middle East = they equate us with their servants, much like Hispanics in America. Funny story, this old crusty white guy once told me and my friend that we were dressed like his gardeners because we showed up to meet him in regular clothes. I never made the connection until now.
    Africa/Island Nations: Discrimination because the people in power believe the only way to raise their people is to tread on the foreigners. Black/Malay pride vis a vis “Look at those indians, stealing our air, lending us money and then asking for it back” and so on.

    As for the whole reparations thing, if you didn’t get it when they were doling them out, then you ain’t never gonna. Its a dangerous precedent to set and zombiefying the past (which IS what they’re doing) is just going to end up in more deaths and bloodshed.

    They should be paid $4 trillion? Really? If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Rameswaram I’d like to sell you.
    Hey VHP! The Sri Lankans called. They want 1 meelion trillion dollars in punitive damages and emotional distress. Your boy Hanuman firebombed their city and they had nowhere to live and then the harsh sun turned them black. They had to survive on velveeta and cheetos for 500 years.

    Way I see it, you either work hard for your money or you rob people at gunpoint. So man up, cause its gonna take a lot of guns to rob the O.O.Gs of the Union Jack.

  2. OrangeJammies

    November 28, 2007 at 10:27 am

    I spilled porridge in my lap this morning. Quaker Oats needs to supply me a cleaning lady and dishcloths for the rest of my klutzy life. Only fair, no?

  3. Nithya

    November 28, 2007 at 10:56 am

    Hi there – just wanted to comment/ agree on your Naipaul observation – or as I fondly call it, the Naipaul Narcicissim. I innocently picked up India, a Wounded Civilization as my 1st Naipaul book and reeled in despair as a member of the doomed Indian race. It has taken me time to come to the same conclusion. You can choose to not read Naipaul and dismiss his observations as bigotry or you can take the bigotry and use it to be as educated as possible on one and only one side of any subject. I have chosen to do the latter and forgiven Naipaul for his manic brilliance.

  4. Nithya

    November 28, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Also forgive my fanciful spelling – i meant narcissism 🙂

  5. Sujatha

    November 29, 2007 at 1:41 am

  6. Amrita

    November 29, 2007 at 11:30 am

    Anang – LOL!! I told my mom that one and we both laughed our heads off.

    OJ – I’ll be your lawyer! Those damned oats have claimed their last victim!

    Nithya – HAHAHAH! Try his fiction, it sort of eases you gently into murky waters and tells you exactly who he is. And when you’ve built up an immunity, try reading his Letters – they’re wonderfully frank and you’ll be happy to know in addition to our many miseries, we’re also a “thieving lot” 😀 …. and I got what you meant 🙂

    Suj – thanks babe 🙂

  7. desiGirl

    November 29, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    Takes punitive damages to an whole new level eh? Who’d have thot someone else wud be able to beat the Americans at it!! (suing the crap outta someone, i mean!)

    I love Anang’s clever comeback. Darned good, bhai!

  8. Nits

    November 30, 2007 at 11:52 am

    Oh yes, I have – I loved Biswas and in fact see where some of his angst comes from. He also takes it upon himself to absolve us of our evils in Million Mutinies…whatever he is, he can’t be ignored, no?

  9. Amrita

    December 1, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    DG – i think its really a publicity stunt than a serious attempt but can you imagine the thoughts that must be running through the Consulate right now? hee hee!

    Nithya – well, I certainly can’t! 😀

  10. Guna

    December 8, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    India being a soft country that it is.. is afraid to question anything happening to existing Indian citizens(middle east) so it would be in vain to expect India to do something for people of Indian orgin. Well, after reading the comments on this room … i don’t think u guys really sympathise or even take a second look at issues concerning Tamils in foreign shores.. then why care enuf to mock.. Don’t u morons have something better to do ur community fellas… May be it is a publicity campaign so what.. sue me!

  11. Guna

    December 9, 2007 at 1:26 am

    When the chinesse came after Indians it was not even able to stand up for itself.. yes it’s history .. so we have a history of being pushed-about.. you know what that make us …YELLOW. Go back to ur beds and cover urself with the imaginary protective besheets of urs.. It’s United Commuinities of India ..not a unified India… every community (i don’t mean caste as it will further break the country up) to itself. How many of you really know that the pakis were about to nuke delhi during kargil war… it took Clinton one call to aviod that! We indians can’t help ourselves… weak men leading us towards a weak cause.

  12. Amrita

    December 9, 2007 at 2:23 am

    Guna – if you hate being Indian so much, why don’t you relocate elsewhere? I’m sure nobody will stop you.

%d bloggers like this: