HINDRAF BADAWI ALBAR AND THE BRITISH
THE HINDU IN HINDRAF
The Hind in Hindraf has its origins in the word Hind or Hindu which means Indian and not necessarily Hindu as in Hinduism the religion.
Just as the word Indus is in actual fact a variant of Hindus or as Hindu Kush for that territory between Islamic Afghanistan and Pakistan adequately explains itself, the word Hindraf is not a religious based Non Government Organization in Malaysia. Hindraf is indisputably an organization representing interests of Malaysian with origins in the sub continent. It is inclusive of Indians, Bangladeshi, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans.
DISINFORMATION AND ITS ORIGINS
A disinformation campaign targeting Hindraf as an appendage of the LTTE was, according to sources close to the US State Department both conceived and orchestrated by a loose coalition of politicians from within the Barisan.
Initiated by restive local business interests, this coalition surprisingly also included elements of the mainstream opposition in Malaysia and former Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP) called upon to deliver an antidote to a Hindraf that threatened the coalition so close to a general election acted with haste. The main Indian party within the coalition the MIC (Malaysian Indian Congress) had lost its appeal amongst Indian voters, is riddled with corruption and rendered politically impotent.
By the IGP agreeing to orchestrate the disinformation campaign he damaged his personal and professional credibility and tainted the reputation of the force he heads. The viciousness and unprovoked nature of the campaign against Hindraf is in the view of foreign diplomats in KL, a Red Herring.
There has not been a scintilla of evidence to establish any credible link between the LTTE and Hindraf. Neither in November 2007 nor in 2009 now the LTTE is defunct had there been any links between the two.
The campaign against Hindraf though is unrelenting. And the same diplomatic sources add that any such connection even if proved would have been purely coincidental.
Closely observing the Malaysian police force and its various operatives has been an anxious US State Department teasing out intelligence about a nexus between the late Noordin Top, a Hambali in captivity and rogue elements of Malaysia’s security forces.
SYED HAMID ALBAR- MIC -THE IGP AND BRITAIN
COMMERCIAL CONSIDERATIONS FIRST
Syed Hamid Albar a trained lawyer and Malaysia’s Minister for Home Affairs at the time through his law firm Albar Zulkifly and Yap is reputed to have maintained an on going though undeclared pecuniary interest in the affairs of his firm’s high profile clients.
All this whilst still maintaining his parliamentary office as cabinet minister in the Badawi government. He is by several reliable accounts, reported to have been spooked by the Hindraf event sufficient to actively have participated directly in the disinformation campaign against Hindraf with the help of IGP.
It is widely believed that important commercial deals, involving client’s of Syed Hamid Albar’s firm Albar, Zulkifly and Yap were rendered vulnerable to abandonment at the time. And foreign investors amongst their clients fearing the onset of political unrest in Malaysia arising out the Hindraf rally were threatening to back out of those deals.
The perception of a Hindraf threat to stability and to foreign investment was internal and limited to clients and at least one partner of the firm. Syed Albar failed to indicate to the public any potential conflict of interest between his role as a cabinet minister and his commercial interests arising from arrangements between his firm and clients dealing with government then. There was a lot at stake if the rally went ahead.
IN CONCERT WITH OTHERS- INDIAN AND PAKISTANI AGENCIES
On or around mid December 2007 Syed Hamid Albar attended a lunch meeting with 3 officials from India’s ministry of foreign affairs at a Japanese restaurant at Kuala Lumpur’s Shangri La Hotel. Albar and the Indians provided mutual assurances to each other that the Hindraf five would not be an issue in bi lateral relations and that any intelligence gathered on Hindraf or their connections with the LTTE would be shared.
What Malaysia and perhaps Syed Hamid Albar were unaware of was the intense level of covert surveillance being carried out on the Malaysian police force at Bukit Aman and at other centres by foreign intelligence agenices for other reasons. These being mainly related to the war on terror.
Interestingly Hindraf it is reported was not on the radar of any of these agencies except the ISI (Inter Service Intelligence) Pakistan’s premier intelligence service who appeared then to have an unusually close relationship with Malaysia’s Home Ministry and its apparatus in the Police and Special Branch.
On or around New Years Day 2008 a close confident and associate of Hamid Gul, former head of Pakistan’s ISI now consultant extraordinaire to the Taleban and other anti western forces in the region, entered Malaysia via Thailand and is believed to have met with Syed Hamid Albar and the IGP at a private residence in Kuala Lumpur’s outskirts.
The subject of their discussions and the reason for that meeting is not the subject of this article. And the writer will avoid speculation as to why and what reasons the trio had for that meeting.
SAMY VELU AND A DYSFUNCTIONAL MIC
Samy Velu the indolent and narcissistic head of a paralysed and politically dysfunctional MIC a party to the coalition government was only too eager to give his blessing to a strong response to the Hindraf march. He had a lot to loose loosing his iron grip on the Indian community followng decades of abuse of power .
Embroiled in a number of high profile scandals involving tens of millions of dollars or public funds, Velu vowed to see the Hindraf organizer and their supporters whom he called ingrates behind bars for as long as lawful incarceration under the ISA (Malaysia’s Internal Security Act) would allow.
BRITAINS ROLE AND BADAWI’S WEAKNESS
The British High Commission is believed to have initially facilitated or at the very least actively encouraged the attack on Hindraf. Playing bit parts in an attempt to discredit and destroy Hindraf and its leaders lest the contents of the petition against Britain reach its intended destination.
The British High Commission it is confirmed received prior intelligence of an intended gathering in KL by Indians intended to culminate with the symbolic delivery of a petition to the High Commissioner on 25 November 2007.
There was some degree of disquiet at Whitehall on learning of the planned march, the contents andgeneral tenor of the petition and the intentions of the Hindraf leadership commencing with that march on 25 November 2007.
AN AUDACIOUS MASTERLY STOKE
Waythamoorthy and his colleagues by their petition, the strategy and tactics they deployed and by the sheer audacity of their actions, directed like a precision guided missile to the very heart of their problems Britain. The actions and intentions of Hindraf upset and embarrassed many a sycophant of Whitehall in KL.
Sources close to Abdullah Badawi at the time claim that Badawi was embarrassed at the tone of the British High Commissioner’s request to him to stop that march. It was also a baptism of fire Badawi would find no salvation in, fail dismally, be left singed and battered. He would later resign before completing his term in office as a direct result of the fallout of the advent of Hindraf.
Badawi, was a man in a hurry, it would appear, to please the British High Commissioner at any cost over an emerging secular dynamic in the Malaysian Indian community likely to embarrass the British. Britain did not want the petition to see the light of day. Badawi willingly complied and did their bidding. Little did he or Britain suspect that this ‘stone in their shoe’ would not go away with government sanctioned intimidation and violence. It would come back to bite them in the proverbials over and over again.
OVER REACTION- MIDWIFE TO THE BIRTH OF A NEW POLITICAL IDIOM
The high handed government reaction to the Hindraf ‘uprising’ by a group of descendants of indentured Indian labourers marked a turning point in Malaysia’s contemporary history.
Hindraf’s action was spontaneous, well timed and focused like no other campaign in contemporary Asian politics. The Malaysian government over reacted and created a monster out of a mere otherwise benign idea.
None of the Hindraf protesters arrested by a heavily armed Reserve Unit Force of the Police had so much as a pencil on their person to warrant the use of such disproportionate force against them.
Hindraf protesters instead shielded (or so they hoped) themselves with nothing more than slogans and pictures of the man of the millennium Mahatma Gandhi, whom they adopted proudly as a symbol of their struggle that day and beyond.
In a strange twist of irony it would be the British that would instigate that high handed action in a repeat of the tactics (but without the casualties) applied by their ancestors at that peaceful gathering now infamously referred to as the Jalandabadh massacre in the Punjab nearly a century ago for the same reasons.
A German diplomat in Malaysia on that day remarked rather icily that Syed Hamid Albar’s treatment of Hindraf protesters reminded her of what her parents had experienced at opposition to Hitler’s rule during the Nazi era in Germany.
A BRITISH DILEMA- WESTMINSTER TRADITIONS DELIVERED BY MUSLIM SECULARISTS
The British High Commissioner according to highly placed sources was dismayed and aghast at the over reaction of the Malaysian Police to the otherwise peaceful demonstration by Hindraf. Eespecially that the object of that demonstration was to culminate in a symbolic presentation of a petition at the British High Commission.
The BBC at all times were kept informed and at bay in polite and diplomatic dispatches throughout the event on the 25th of November 2007 although they deny their silence was adopted as part of a wider strategy adopted by Britain in cahoots with the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur that day.
Al Jazeera, a secular Arab Muslim media organization took the story to the world. In Malaysia, tragically the Vincent Tan owned Star and government owned media recruited a willing raft of hitherto unknown and incredulous mainly Chinese Malaysian scribes ostensibly speaking on behalf of a nervous business community to vandalise Hindraf’s intentions .
Not to be exclusive they included a sprinkling of Malays and a Punjabi woman to produce a pathetic scribbling of patriotic prose in an attempt to undermine the Tsunami of people power spawned by Hindraf’s actions that day.
In more informed Malay circles, people took notice and respectfully acknowledged a well organized, a well informed and a generally well behaved Hindraf on the march. Amongst especially Malay Malaysians there has been centuries of camaraderie with Indians and sympathy for the plight of the Indian Malaysian.
The November 25thevent was not a surprise to many Malays. They too have been in disarray and disappointed, harbouring hostile sentiments against their representatives in government for their failures to reign in corruption and nepotism at the expense of the wider Malay community.
The Malays including the more progressive elements in government, MP’s and party apparachiks weer and continue to be unsuprisingly supportive of Hindraf. In doing so many have have expressed their discontent with the Barisan National in rather unconventional ways with swings to PKR and PAS and through meetings with Wathamoorthi in London on th quiet and with his party operatives in Kuala Lumpur. Najib Tun Razak has of late toned down the tenor and frequency of those contacts for reasonss best known to him and his advisors. Internaitonal legal and human rights observer though continue to watch and wait.
BADAWI –RUDDERLESS IN A POLITICAL VACUUM
The Mahathir factor had by this time been somewhat politically neutralised at UMNO. A political vacuum had been created with his departure from centre stage and a dangerous mish mash of adventurers, mercenaries and fortune seekers had descended from the bowels of hell as it were to fill that vacuum. The results were politically and morally devastating for Malaysia’s image as a tolerant multi cultural nation and for its future as the regions commercial and social hub.
Badawi a self proclaimed Islamic scholar and former career diplomat had no strategy, no experience and no plan to deal with such contingencies as Hindraf apart from the crude application of force as a response. Many of the Malay intelligentsia were embarrassed especially when Al Jazeera the flagship of Islamic secularism carried the event and its aftermath of brutality against a defenceless legitmate protest to the world.
It was particularly embarassing that these actios of brutality and intolerancce were relayed as the reactions of a ‘tolerant liberal’ Muslim state against an unarmed minority rightfully exercising their free will in a democracy. Everything Dr. Mahahtir had taken decades to build was crushed, trampled by an elephant of incompetence at the hands of Badawi in a single moment of unguarded panic.
Syed Hamid Albar’s public statements, his contradictions and the general inconsistency of his explanations for what was unfolding before the word did little to add to his already fatally wounded reputation and credibility. It did less for the credibility of the government of Malaysia. And even lesser still for race relations.
Syed Hamid Albar would reinforce his image as that of a racist bully following the brutal murder of a young Tamil many months later. A man he called a suspected car thief, tortured and killed in police custody whilst he was still minister for Home Affiars. He made a point of reinforcing the need for Hindraf through his stated sad justifications for that death in custody.
Syed Hamid Albar and Badawis’ logic had a circumlocutious quality that gives a plausible but ultimately false legitimacy when linking any unfavourable (in their view) Tamil sentiment or expression of rights to links with the LTTE and crime.
No argument of the Badawi government could provide an effective anti dote to quell the ground swell which now included every other opposition force galvanized at the brazen courage of a few in Hindraf giving life to Churchill’s famous phrase “never have so few given so much for so many”.
WAYTHAMOORTHY- A LONDON DEBACLE
Where Syed Albar and Badawi resorted to a syllogistic sleight of hand to cover the weaknesses in their argument, Waythamoorthy a lawyer and founding member of Hindraf relied on the law, the constitution and in his words ‘the truth’ of his and his movement’s assertions as contained in their demands and in that statement of claim against Britain on behalf of his Malaysian Indian fellow citizens.
He continued with his mission taking it abroad when he embarked on a trip to Britain where the British immigration authorities acting on a request by Malaysia detained him at Gatwick Airport confiscating his Malaysian passport from him.
The debacle and ensuing diplomatic embarrassment that followed continues to play itself out with Malaysia digging for itself a hole it will find difficult to get out of later. The British clearly are not amused. Waythamoorthi inconvenienced and the high handedness of desperatee amatures in government once more exposed to the international community.
Waythamoorthi’s battles ar far from over. He poses a moral and a legal dilema for Malaysia’s new government under Tun Najib Razak, himself a victim of slander, unresolved allegations of corruption and involvement in and arms deal that ended with the death of a Mongolian call girl he is reputed to have associated with.
It is quite clear that desperation and lack of experience or maturity in effectively dealing with a major strategic component of the electorate, the Indian minority by any one of the two larger component communities in Malaysia seeking government have backfired. Its consequences will continue to be felt long term on the shape of the BN and on Malaysia’s political stability.
Denials do not of themselves provide strategic options of any value. It does not build confidence in a government riddled with the stench of unaccountability and allegations of corruption.
Clearly whoever it is who advised the Razak government to enter into relations with a break up usurper in Makkal Sakti has rocks in his head trying to stem an arterial bleeding with a band aid.
The government of Malaysia (BN) is undergoing a metamorphosis as any other organization of its size does with the diversity and the complexities of an evolving society as Malaysia is.
Meaningful dialogue with truly representative organizations like Hindraf and PAS (who otherwise appear to be an anachronism in a pluralistic struggling secular Malaysia) can only enhance the strength and the future of any worthwhile Barisan government. It takes courage and true mark of leadership to be able to engage in such dialogue at a critical time of change in Malaysia’s political development.
MIC is dead whichever way one looks at it. A new breed of Malaysian Indian may have humble roots like many a Malay, but their needs, their objectives and their aspirations cannot be traded for tins of condensed milk, a gantang of rice and a beating for stepping out of line anymore. They want a meaningful stake in Malaysia and have lawfully staked that claim through Hindraf.
The Malaysian government for its part has an obligation to support the lawful claims of its Indian citizens against Britain. It also has an obligation to accord them full rights as citizens of Malaysia without the threat of punitive sanction for exercising those rights lawfully. If it enacts a new constitution that is race neutral all the better. But that appears a long way off.
Others communities like the Chinese may be focused on rehabilitation of a brutal communist insurgency leader like Chin Peng at the behest of powerful regional commercial and political forces.
Much is to be tested of Razak’s resolve to bringing calm and political stability and harmony to a troubled state where anything louder than the sound of a bus backfiring in the current tense environment can send the KLSE and its neighbouring bourses tumbling to unprecedented depths.
Sayed Azlan, Gopal Raj Kumar and Reza Khan