Bersih 3.0- Hindraf, Human Rights Party Not Welcome


 Having first denied the detained members of Hindraf and the Human Rights Party, (a mainly ethnic Tamil working class political party in Malaysia) legal representation when   they were detained by the government of Malaysia in 2007-2008, Bersih 3.0 has once again decided to exclude, to airbrush  and to conveniently sideline this nascent  Indian movement from the consciousness of the public.

Ambiga Sreenivasan, a Brahmin and upper middle class Tamil has been at pains to distance herself from this much marginalizd group in Malaysia. Descendants of mainly indentured labourers from the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, many amongst this group  are the victims of a  unique form of racism. Much of it the work of the upper class Indian communities like Ambiga’s ,who are the third party in Malaysia’s coalition government the Barisan Nasional (BN).

Word has it that Ambiga Sreenivasan as head of the Malaysian Bar Council when the 5 Hindraf lawyers were arrested in November 2007, refused them the  right to free legal representation as lawyers as they were entitled to at the time. (Waythamurthi 2009)

Ambiga has now asked her executive committee and the prefects and marshalls entrusted with guiding and mustering the assembled at various points in Kuala Lumpur and other major cities for Bersih 3.0 on 28 April 2012, to steadfastly avoid contact and to avoid acknowledging the Tamils in general on the day.

They have been requested  not to identify or to associate with the Tamils or identify them with Bersih 3.0 its members or its allies.

It is unequivocal that Hindraf, the Human Rights Party and the membership of various other Tamil organizations are not welcome anywhere near Bersih 3.0, Ambiga or the Pakatan groups in opposition. It is clear that they are not to be seen or identified as being allied with or supporting the Bersih 3.0 rally or its causes under any circumstances. Political lepers to the opposition.

The exclusion and prohibitions against the Tamils is absolute.  Ambiga is after all the same individual who we understand gave former Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi the green light he needed to arrest members of Hindraf in 2007.


The chasm between the Ambiga Brahmins, the Theresa Kok and Chinese led opposition groups appear to be more than that of race alone. Their differences are measured in gulf like proportions of class colour and creed. In a demonstration of the type of racism that is often impugned to the conduct of Malays in government, the Chinese attitude of “Keling Kia” (or Indian Devil)  and the Brahmin ritual of caste separation appears to prevail in a vain attempt by Bersih to show the world that the Malaysian government is racist and that its elections are not free or fair. In other words rigged. The complete opposite is true when examined more closely.

The Tamils accoridng to Bersih and the Pakatan will only be supported by them on issues like the relocation or demolition of Hindu Temples, citizenship, job and educational quotas if the Tamils, and in particular the members of the Human Rights Party and Hindraf fall into a subservient role within the Pakatan and within the clutches of Ambiga Sreenivasan.

Anwar Ibrahim and his allies  have demonstrated through their acts and omissions that the Tamils are a dispensable commodity in their political agenda. More painfully the Tamil groups do not even appear as a blip on Bersih’s and more importantly Ambga Sreenivasan’s radar for now. It never did even prior to the birth of Hindraf.


It is  no secret and has been known for sometime that certain influential elements of the factions of UMNO have been behind Ambiga’s Bersih movement. Operating quite deftly and craftily behind the scenes out of sight in order to advance their own causes of destabilizing the current faction that controls UMNO,  these UMNO backers of Bersih and Ambiga have been actively encouraging the agitation that is Bersih 3.0.

The faction struggles of UMNO have found a bride of convenience in Bersih. And it is not a phenomenon that is either new or novel. UMNO’s faction members have found their way to the DAP and to PKR behind Anwar not because of a belief in the policies of the opposition but out of self interests, self preservation and in an effort to weaken the central groups within UMNO. Therein lies the strength and patrons of Bersih.

Bersih’s leadership has been insulated from the strife that follows unauthorized public demonstrations as occurred with the Hindraf rally in November 2007 . The intolerance for unauthorized political rallies has been a Malaysian government staple for all of its post independence rule. But oddly this has not been the case with Bersih 2.0 or Ambiga Sreenivasan. 

An exception to this rule was made in 2011 at Bersih 2.0. That exception will once more be made  on 28 April 2012 with some enlargements to it. The more radical elements of UMNO have been agitating for government to show its teeth and to arrest and to detain indefinately those members of the central committee of Bersih if they defy government orders. However the demands of the more radical  factions of UMNO have fallen on deaf ears and met with little success.

The ability of Bersih to have remained insulated from the law and out of reach of the clutches of the security apparatus, not having suffered the same fate as Hindraf appears to have its roots in the support of a centre left faction of UMNO.

These UMNO breakaways consist of elements of the Abdullah Badawi faction and a faction of upper class liberal Malays at least 3 of whom are fairly influential within UMNO’s central committees. One of these is a cabinet minister. There is also considerable support from the centre left factions of Wanita UMNO , Razaleigh and Zaid Ibrahim.

Bersih to its credit appears to have secured at least the support of a part of the most powerful political entity in Malaysia and its government in UMNO. How long the marriage of convenience will last is anyone’s guess. 

Roosters today, feather dusters tomorrow.

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