Hornbill Unleashed

April 9, 2013

Pakatan’s missed opportunity with Hindraf

Kua Kia Soong

By failing to compromise on the Hindraf blueprint, Pakatan has wasted an excellent chance to overthrow the BN rule.

I attended one of Hindraf’s dinners a few weeks ago at which they explained their blueprint for the 13GE.

After the presentation, I posed the hypothetical question which seemed like quite a likely scenario: “What if the BN embraces your blueprint? What then?”

Waythamoorthy’s reply was clear: “We would rather Pakatan accepts our blueprint after all we have gone through under BN since Independence…” or words to that effect.

Well, now the election has been called and what is the scenario? BN is at the point of embracing Hindraf’s blueprint, whether in toto or in part.

What is politically bewildering is that Pakatan has rebuffed Hindraf and has not included any proposals from the blueprint in their manifesto or that challenges the institutional racism (in particular, the NEP) that has been part of BN policy since 1971.

The rationale was that Hindraf’s blueprint was based on race while their manifesto was based on need of all classes.

After Hindraf’s criticism of the Pakatan manifesto, the Indian leaders in Pakatan gave the lame excuse that they were not in the drafting committee of the Pakatan manifesto.

This was hardly convincing, while giving the public a poor image of the way in which policies are made within the Pakatan coalition.

Soon after that, the DAP has seen fit to include several “pro-Indian” proposals in their post facto “Gelang Patah Declaration” and after they had done that, Hindraf accused the DAP of plagiarising from their blueprint.

The bizarre and total inconsistency of this Gelang Patah Declaration is the fact that it was promulgated as a DAP rather than a Pakatan policy statement!

Why wasn’t it a Pakatan declaration? Is the declaration only acceptable by the DAP but not PKR and PAS?

Why was this not “racist” when the Pakatan had said that the Hindraf blueprint was racist? Politically, it looked ridiculous while providing more grist for BN fire against the Pakatan coalition.

Hindraf accepting BN

Whatever happens to this blossoming BN-Hindraf romance, we will have to see if the union is eventually solemnised.

It should not if the Hindraf leaders have any political nous and honesty regarding Umno’s cynical use of institutional racism through their 56 year reign, which is the root cause of national oppression of the ethnic minorities.

If BN can accept Hindraf’s blueprint, something’s wrong with the blueprint.

I have pointed out in an earlier article that the main failure in Hindraf’s blueprint is its failure to demand the eradication of institutional racism.

I have shared several fora with Hindraf leaders at which we have condemned institutional racism in Malaysia. And despite their efforts in recent years highlighting the entrenchment of racial discrimination in the constitution, I am surprised that the Hindraf blueprint does not call for the abolition of the “New Economic Policy”.

Pakatan cannot claim to be holier than thou because neither does Pakatan condemn this institutional racism and announce their readiness to abolish the NEP in their manifesto.

Any corrective action in all economic and education policies must be based on need or sector or class and not on race with priority given to indigenous people, marginalised and poor communities.

Since their blueprint extols human rights, Hindraf should put forward their demands for all minorities and not just the Indian community.

Thus we find a gaping “disconnect” between Hindraf’s noble challenge to racial discrimination entrenched in the constitution and their “Indians Only” proposals in the blueprint.

And because the blueprint is couched in terms of “Indian demands” as MIC has traditionally done so, it is easy for BN to accede to their blueprint.

In fact, it is back to the quintessential “Alliance formula” of 1957 except that BN will then have a new associate tagged onto the MIC.

I have also earlier pointed out that to be consistent in their human rights stand, Hindraf should also call for:

  • the repeal of Amendment (8A) of Article 153 that was passed during the state of emergency in 1971 and was not in the original 1957 federal constitution;
  • institutionalising means testing for any access to scholarships or other entitlements;
  • implementing merit-based recruitment in civil & armed services;
  • enacting an Equality Act to promote equality and non-discrimination irrespective of race, creed, religion, gender or disability with provision for an Equality & Human Rights Commission;
  • institutionalising equality and human rights education at all decision-making levels, including state and non-state actors/ institutions;
  • ratifying the Convention on the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

If the Hindraf blueprint was couched in these human rights terms, do you think BN would accept it?

Certainly not because BN has always been a “racial formula”, the coalition is the sum of its racialist parts – “Umno, MCA, MIC and associates”.

Is Pakatan suffering from a mental block?

But why is Pakatan averse to coopting Hindraf’s blueprint and now losing the opportunity of a historic alliance with Hindraf?

Is it because Pakatan is more purist than BN on the national question? I don’t think so because if the Pakatan manifesto can take into account “Felda settlers”, there is no reason why it cannot make considerations for “displaced plantation communities” or “the stateless”, etc. that is in the post facto Gelang Patah declaration.

The DAP, as usual, are “wise after the event”, a euphemism for opportunism!

Or could it be that incorporating Hindraf would pose a threat to the jostling for seats among the Indian leaders in Pakatan?

If this “realpolitik” is indeed one of the reasons for the Pakatan-Hindraf fallout, it is a let-down of serious proportions for all Malaysians who hope for change in the 13GE.

And having been spurned by the Pakatan manifesto, we could only expect the fury of the Hindraf backlash against the plagiarism by DAP.

No, in the end it boils down to Pakatan’s failure to come to terms with the national question, and that involves taking a stand on the NEP.

Isn’t it time for change? Isn’t it time for real change that will set our nation on a new footing of reconciliation and reconstruction, when we are no longer divided into “races” and progressive policies can be put in place to help the truly needy?

Alas, I am afraid the “Ubah” in Pakatan does not go far enough. (And I would ask all the homespun political philosophers to spare me their pearls of wisdom about the “pragmatic” reasons for “not frightening the Malays” in this 13GE!)

Ultimately, a nation that is unequal can never be free or be at peace. Hindraf has already announced that they will be putting up candidates in several seats.

Likewise, Pakatan’s ambivalence toward the left, namely PSM, will likely see three-corner contests in those constituencies that PSM will be contesting.

I am afraid this historic non-compromise between Pakatan and Hindraf in the 13GE will probably go down in Malaysian history as one of the most unfortunate missed opportunities in the overthrow of BN rule.


  1. It is all right for now, let us see what happen next ( aftr GE13 ). Remember Hindraf there is alot racist in BN it self and they also place a candidate in shah alam Zulkifli Noordin who giving a religious sermon belittling Hinduism. I only can say that you already sold Hindus dignity to them!

    Comment by JJ — April 19, 2013 @ 2:28 PM | Reply

  2. Forget about the Hindraf and take care of the neglected and poor Indians. Indians are Malaysians and not Hindrafs.

    Comment by Sabri Yaman — April 11, 2013 @ 7:47 AM | Reply

  3. let hindraf suffer the same fate as PAS which join hnads with UMNO the last time. Look at Gerakan, which has been neutralised to become a mosquito party. the same fate will befall Hindraf.
    PR can wait for another 5 years rather than succumb to unreasonable demands of Hindraf.

    Comment by abb — April 9, 2013 @ 9:11 PM | Reply

  4. If Hindraf wants special treatment, then Hindraf should become a political party to fight on its own as it cannot work with anyone.

    Comment by Gopal Raj Kumar — April 9, 2013 @ 8:43 PM | Reply

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