MEMORANDUM TO THE PRIME MINISTER ON THE RECENT SOCIO-ECONOMIC CENTRED ETHNIC CLASHES Indian-Malaysian Online Indian Malaysian Online
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MEMORANDUM TO THE PRIME MINISTER ON THE RECENT SOCIO-ECONOMIC CENTRED ETHNIC CLASHES


RECOMMENDATIONS
In light of the recent socio-economic centred ethnic violence in Kampung Medan and its surrounding areas off Old Klang Road in Petaling Jaya, we, the undersigned non-governmental organisations and concerned citizens:

REAFFIRM Malaysia's position that all human beings are born free, equal in dignity and rights, any doctrine of racial superiority is therefore, scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous and also has no justification whatsoever;

CONDEMN all forms of racism, racial discrimination and related intolerance in the context of fulfillment of civil, political, economic, social, religious and cultural rights;

DEMAND Yang Amat Berhormat Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad to initiate the following:


1) ROYAL COMMISSION OF INQUIRY

There have been conflicting reports, accusations and counter-accusations from several quarters since the violence erupted on March 8, 2001. Only a Royal Commission of Inquiry can ascertain the truth of the matter. This commission will:
a) ascertain the causes of the recent clashes;
b) bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice; and
c) identify the structural weaknesses in present poverty eradication programmes in order to prevent future recurrence of such tragedy.


2) FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR THE AFFECTED FAMILIES

The victims are from the low-income group and some families have lost their breadwinners. Therefore, immediate financial assistance, along with free counselling services and rehabilitation programmes that would overcome the trauma, must be extended to them.


3) IMMEDIATE SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES

New socio-economic development programmes must be planned and implemented in consultation with local community leaders. These programmes should be managed by an independent team without any direct political interference. These programmes will aim to provide adequate housing, sanitation, community centres, recreational facilities, public amenities and places of worship. The poorest segments of the community-regardless of their ethnic background-should be given further aid to own houses.


4) SPECIAL MULTI-ETHNIC POLICE TASK FORCE

The police was perceived to have acted sluggishly during the first three days. Therefore, we believe only a special multi-ethnic police task force will be suitable for handling Kampung Medan type of conflicts that involve racial dimensions.


5) A NATIONAL TASK FORCE AGAINST DRUGS AND GANGSTERISM

The communities living in the affected areas have long been suffering from drug and gangster related problems. These problems, however, are not merely confined to the Kampung Medan area. Therefore, a national task force that would take a holistic approach must be set up to resolve these problems. Besides police action, the task force should aim to find permanent solutions involving vocational training, creating employment and business opportunities. There should be avenues for recreational, religious and cultural activities.


6) RACE RELATIONS COMMISSION

Malaysians of all walks face racial discrimination and religious intolerance. Taking Kampung Medan incident as a cue, a Race Relations Commission be set up in order to eradicate all such unfair discrimination. The Commission will have the power to investigate overt and institutional racism, and to recommend possible remedies.


CONTENT

1) Introduction

1.1) Between March 8 and March 12, 2001, six people, who were either hacked or bludgeoned, died from a socio-economic centred racial strife. Over 40 people have since been treated for serious injuries-some of which were near fatal-in the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre. The majority of these people, both killed and injured, were predominantly poor Indian Malaysians.

1.2) The conflict has created a climate of fear, anxiety and suspicion. Many children in the affected areas are frightened to even enter their school buses, fearing those buses might be burnt down. Many families and their members in the affected areas, in particular, are traumatised.

1.3) The affected Indian Malaysians, and those who sympathise with them, are very much disillusioned with government response.


2.0) An Analysis of the Incidents

A preliminary fact finding (refer to Appendix I and II) allows us to make the following observations:

2.1) The attackers seem to be in the age range of 18 years - 28 years.

2.2) Generally, there were groups of youths armed with parangs, samurai swords, spiked mace, iron rods and sticks roaming in the vicinity. Sometimes they travelled on motorcycles. (We fail to understand how armed mobs were able to move around in groups sometimes in broad daylight in a security tight situation.)

2.3) The majority of the dead and injured are members of the poorer section of the Indian Malaysian community.

2.4) In incidents outside the area in question, the victims were seem to be identified and targeted. They were attacked in isolated areas.


3.0) Emotional and Institutional Deformities

3.1) It appears that the government is actively denying the racial dimension. It seems to emotionally ask: "Racism in Malaysia? Hardly. These incidents are just like any fights. They have nothing to do with race." Perhaps the government is concerned about our nation's image; about investor's confidence. But such emotional attachment to a distorted reality is likely to prevent a comprehensive response to the problems we are facing. Our nation needs to wake up to the problem of racism in order to bring it into the open for discussion. Wishful thinking will not save us from the present predicament.

3.2) The political parties and the government speak about many social situations or events in racial terms while we are expected to be non-racial. In addition, many things that are going on among Malaysians are seen as problems associated with individual communities. This racial identification of issues that are essentially the problems of citizens of this country, seem to have maintained a layer of prejudice and distrust deep in our psyche and unconscious or routine practices. Add all this to the present moment in our nation's life -- the Malay unity talks, the Suqui episode, the Damansara Chinese school controversy and now the ethnic clash near Old Klang Road -- which have all contributed to the ethnic segmentation of our world further. It's about time we look at issues from a national people-centred perspective.

3.3) During an ethnic conflict, it is reasonable to expect the media to exercise great care and sensitivity in reporting the events. Unwittingly, the excessive control, self-censorship and distortion have had other consequences during the conflict. Firstly, a few victims ventured out of their homes only after learning from the electronic media that the situation in the area was normal; but they were attacked, and suffered serious injuries. Secondly, excessive media control leads to the spread of unhealthy rumours and speculations, which have the potential to worsen the conflict.

3.4) A public order agency dominated by one ethnic group working in a conflict situation within a multi-ethnic environment is not healthy. It creates problems of loyalty, between being sincere to professional conduct or to ethnic affiliation. What we probably need is a special multi-ethnic task force or group with the power to lead in the management of racial conflict situation swiftly and smoothly. Such a force also brings about a more positive response from the victims who can feel assured of support and care in a moment when their world loses any certainty. This force must of course go through a very different sort of training.

3.5) The government's social policy is in a state of disarray. Pushing its programme on privatisation, withdrawing from its re-distribution role and thinking itself to be a corporation has only shifted the government to suit the need of those in the upper sections of a pervasive system of social/income inequality. Housing and provision of basic services are of less concern particularly if it involves the poor and their locality. Services do not come unless something drastic like deaths happens. Why? Has the government implemented its policy on low-cost housing stringently? Has it made attempts to engineer social environments in which people from different ethnic groups can live peacefully?

3.6) The breakdown of the plantation economy, the migration of poor Indian Malaysians from rural to urban poverty, residence at squatter areas like the one involved in the recent ethnic conflict, lack of opportunities, the socialisation into anti-social survival strategies are not purely the making of the community. Why would any community want their young to become gangsters? This country is neither sensitive to unhealthy processes that are going on nor is it ready to take comprehensive action to resolve the problems in the early stage. The Indians are facing a problem with violent, aggressive youngsters who are very often gang members. Having such an aggressive youth group in an absolutely cruel, unfriendly, dilapidated multi-ethnic living environment brings the possibility of racial conflict to the centre of the present national but careless social agenda. The issue of Indian gangsterism is directly linked to economic marginalisation and it can only be resolved by:
(a) increasing the educational and economic opportunities of youth; and
(b) actively de-sensitising the youth to an aggressive anti-social culture that has developed as a survival strategy.
Till recently, what has the government done but kept releasing statistics about how many gangsters there are among the Indians.


4.0) Who is Responsible?

4.1) Given the situation as discussed above, the majority of the people in this country and certainly most Indian Malaysians placed their lives and their future in the care of the government. That is the basis of a social contract. The people elect the government and the government delivers goods, services, a peaceful environment and uplift the quality of life and standard of living. This government has failed in providing for and taking care of the poor Malaysians. This we believe is a violation of the social contract and trust placed on the elected government.

4.2) The government has not over the years addressed the problem of racism comprehensively. In fact such a denial provided the basis for political survival. It continues to deny the problem while promoting it in its actions and policies only further consolidating the racial situation in this country. Further, it does not seem to make social impact assessment of various events and their bearing on race relations in this country.

4.3) We believe the Prime Minister of Malaysia had the power and authority to decisively act to minimise the deaths of Malaysian citizens and reduce the harm meted out to many who have survived the ordeal.

4.4) We hold the Prime Minister of Malaysia and the government responsible for what happened in Kampung Medan and the surrounding areas off Old Klang Road.


APPENDIX I


The names and injuries of victims of the violence in Kampung Medan and surrounding areas off Old Klang Road warded in the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre were recorded by a six-member team representing a network of NGOs for a Violence Free Community at noon on March 13, 2001.

They visited 24 people, including four who were in serious conditions. The ethnic breakdown is 18 Indians, two Malays, one Chinese, one Indonesian, one Bangladeshi and one Pakistani.


Sixth Floor:

1) Kanan, a security guard, was assaulted in Kampung Medan when he was returning home from work on March 9. He had head injuries, a fractured leg and his kidney was bleeding.
2) Ramli, his head was swathed.
3) Nadeson Dass, aged 20, appeared confused and had injuries on his head.
4) Rajathurai was on drips and resuscitation machine.


Eight Floor:

5) Naharul Hisham, 20, was assaulted by two men when he was returning home from work on a motorcycle near Mid-Valley at the Federal Highway on March 11. He had injuries on his hands and his fingers were almost severed.
6) Norhashihadi was returning to Kampung Medan after work when he was attacked by 10 men on March 11. He has head injuries.
7) Sujari, an Indonesian contract worker, was attacked by six men in Sungai Way on March 10.
8) Yong So Lin was attacked by three people in Sungai Way on March 10.
9) Sahjahan, a Bangladeshi factory worker, was eating in a shop in Sungai Way when a man attacked him on March 11. He fell unconscious and has injuries on his head and hands. He says an old man was also beaten up.


Ninth Floor:

10) Kathirvelu had nose and head injuries.
11) Thinakaran had injuries on his hand and leg.
12) Parthiban, 19, came to deliver fruits with his employer in a lorry when he was assaulted on March 10. He had stitches on the face and head.
13) Anbarasan had injuries on his legs, hands and ear.
14) Ramesan, a mute, was attacked in Kampung Medan on March 10. He had injuries on his legs and hands.
15) Tamil Selvam had injuries on his abdomen and head.
16) Muthukumar, from Bidor, Perak, was delivering fruits when he and his co-worker were attacked by youths below 25 years on March 10. He had head injuries.
17) Anbalakan was assaulted by a few youths when he stopped at the traffic lights near Kampung Datuk Harun on March 10. He was on his way to his house in Sungai Buloh. He had leg injuries.
18) Subramaniam was going from Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur to his home in Sri Sentosa when he was assaulted on March 12. He had injuries on his head and back.
19) Suresh, 19, was assaulted by five people on March 8. He had injuries on his head, legs and hand.
20) Illaiyaraja was admitted on March 10.
21) Bakhshish Elahi, a Pakistani, was assaulted together with his partner in a lorry by about 100 youths with pipes, swords and parangs on March 10. He had injuries on his head, legs and hand.
22) Mathavan was assaulted by a gang of youths when he was returning home on a motorcycle on March 9. He had a leg fracture and injuries on his hands. His motorcycle was burnt.
23) Annadurai was carrying goods in his van when youths attacked him near the Shell petrol station in Sri Manja (near Taman Medan) on March 9. He had injuries on his head and hands.
24) Batumalai.

APPENDIX II


The interviews with the following victims were conducted by a group of professionals with the aim to obtain the views of the victims on the ninth floor of Universiti Malaya Medical Centre between 6pm and 8pm on March 15 and 16, 2001.


Case 1: According to a 26-year-old construction worker, he and his friend were returning to their homes in Kampung Semarak off Old Klang Road on a motorcycle after having dinner in a restaurant at 10.30pm on March 8 when they were attacked by about 50 armed youths. The youths, aged 22-23 years, were on motorcycles and a white Proton Iswara car. They were carrying iron rods, wooden sticks and hockey sticks. The construction worker's friend, who was the pillion rider, was hit by one of the youths. The pillion rider jumped off the motorcycle and ran as fast as he could. The worker says he rode on but the youths caught up with him and beat him up with everything that they were carrying. They left the scene after assaulting him. The man's right leg is broken and has bruises on the body and both hands. He is certain his attackers were not from there but outsiders. About 2.30am, he says he saw an ambulance passing his way and threw stones at the ambulance to get the attention of the driver because he was too weak to shout for help. The ambulance driver and his partner then took him to the hospital. He now fears for the safety of his mother and three sisters, as they are too frightened to even go out to dry their laundry.


Case 2: On March 8 about 10.30pm, a 19-year-old college student from Taman Medan was returning home on a motorcycle after buying some burgers. The burger stall is situated about 100 yards from a T-junction near Sekolah Menengah Datuk Harun. Earlier, as he was heading towards the stall he saw a white Proton Wira police patrol car plying the same road and felt that there was nothing to be unduly worried about. As he was approaching the school, about five to six youths, aged 25-26 years, obstructed his way and ordered him to stop. When he stopped, they asked him about his ethnic origin. The student says the men immediately attacked him when he identified himself with sharp instruments, wooden sticks and a heavily spiked mace on his head, abdomen and hands. The student says he lost consciousness. When he regained consciousness in the school grounds, he saw a policewoman and three policemen nearby. He says he blacked out again and regained consciousness in the hospital. The student has multiple slash wounds on the head and abdomen. He also has a deep slash almost severing the wrist from the left hand. The student says he has seen his attackers before in a neighbouring village but they do not know each other.


Case 3: A Form 5 student from Kampung Gandhi was accompanying his elder brother to park their van near their aunt's house in Taman Medan at 3 pm on March 10 when they were chased by about 100 men on motorcycles. The men who were armed with samurai swords, wooden sticks and iron rods, caught up with the two and assaulted them near their aunt's house that was locked at that time. The student's injuries were not as severe as his brother's was. His brother's hands were almost severed. At the time of interview on March 15, the student's brother was unable to speak coherently. The student says he has never seen his attackers before. He is certain they are outsiders. He says he and his brother shouted for help but none of the Indian or Malay neighbours came to their aid. About 30 minutes later an ambulance arrived and took them to the hospital.


Case 4: Between 2.30pm and 3.30pm on March 10, a fruit seller employer and his two assistants from Bidor, Perak, had delivered fruits to a shop in Kampung Datuk Harun. According to the 31-year-old fruit seller, as they were on their way out of the place in his lorry, he heard shouts. Then a group of people knocked on the side of the window where the assistants were sitting and asked them to get down from the lorry. The fruit seller says the front and left glasses of the lorry were smashed. He says the men who knocked on the side of the window pulled him to the right side of the lorry and his assistants to the left. He says he was not assaulted but his two assistants were. The fruit seller says he told the assailants that the two were his workers. When he tried to help his workers, the assailants showed parangs and short swords at him. He says he lodged a police report after the injured workers were sent to the hospital by the police.


Case 5: At 1.30pm on March 10, a 28-year-old road construction worker left his house in Taman Medan to have lunch in Medan Sunway after being reassured by the news over radio that the situation in the neighbourhood is normal. As he was cycling towards Sekolah Menengah Dato Harun he saw a motorcyclist who had an angry look riding in the opposite direction. The worker says the motorcyclist turned back, came from behind and hit him across his face with a long piece of wood and rode off. He says his nose was broken and bleeding. The worker says the motorcyclist was about to return and assault him further when a policeman who was passing by on a motorcycle witnessed the incident. The policeman went to the worker's rescue and the assailant fled the scene. The worker says the policeman took him to a public booth and telephoned for a patrol car. While he was waiting about 10-20 villagers came to him and expressed sympathy. One gentleman, about 70, offered to keep the victim's bicycle safely in his compound till he is well to ride again. Soon the police patrol car arrived and took the victim to the hospital.


Case 6: At 9pm on March 13, a lorry driver and a factory supervisor had just stepped out of the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple compound in Puchong after switching off the lights. They had walked a short distance when suddenly two men sprang up from behind a parked lorry with parangs and attacked them. The neighbours came to the victims' help after hearing their cries for help. The assailants fled. The lorry driver identifies the two assailants as small built and between 25 and 28 years. The supervisor's four fingers on the right hand were nearly severed and have been reattached. He also has two slash wounds across his shoulders. He says he has no police record and has never been involved in any gang fights. The lorry driver's fingers in the left hand were almost severed. He also has a slash wound at the back of the head.


APPENDIX III

List of organisations endorsing the memorandum:

1) Child Development Initiative
2) Civil Rights Committee (Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall)
3) Community Development Centre (CDC)
4) Education and Research Association for Consumers (ERA Consumer)
5) Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (FOMCA)
6) Ideal Times
7) Inisiatif Manifesto Rakyat (PMI)
8) Institut Kajian Dasar
9) Malaysia Democratic Student and Youth Movement (DEMA)
10) National Human Rights Society of Malaysia (Persatuan HAKAM)
11) Pahang Association of Consumers (PAC)
12) Persatuan Sivik India Malaysia
13) Pertubuhan Tamil Antarabangsa
14) Persatuan Tamil Neri Malaysia
15) Persatuan Bell Belia Tamil (Kajang)
16) Persatuan Hindu Malaysia (Sentul)
17) Malaysian Indian Youth Council
18) Persatuan Dravidian Malaysia
19) Hindu Youth Organisation (Port Klang)
20) Hindu Sevai Sangam
21) Koperasi Kredit Pekerja
22) Indian Youth Cultural Centre
23) Persatuan Penduduk Prima Selayang
24) Persatuan Belia Graduan WP dan Selangor
25) U Bangsar Utama
26) New Vision Studio
27) Alaigal
28) Penang Protection of Consumers Association (PPCA)
29) Klang Consumers Association (KCA)
30) Selangor Consumers Associaton (SCA)
31) Workers Organisation
32) People's Service Organisations (PSO)
33) Perak Consumers Association (PCA)
34) Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan Permas
35) Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
36) Pertubuhan Jamaah Islah Malaysia (JIM)
37) Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat (KOMAS)
38) Semparuthi Iyakkam
39) Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
40) Tamil Support Group for Human Rights
41) Tenaganita
42) Tholilaliyin Tholar (Sahabat Perkerja/Friends of Workers)
43) Women Aid Organisation (WAO)
44) Women Candidate Initiative (WCI)
45) Malaysian Chinese Organisers Election Appeal Committee (Suqui)
46) Koperasi Kredit Rakyat
47) Red Rose Youth Centre
48) Persatuan Siswazah Lihua Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan
49) Lembaga Sekolah Cina Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan
50) United Chinese Schools Committee Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong)
51) United Chinese School Teachers Association of Malaysia (Jiao Zong)

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