Yesterday, some 20,000 Malaysians of Indian origin descended in downtown Kuala Lumpur, in defiance of a ban to join a rally organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF). They were determined to hand over a memorandum to the British envoy, to urge the Queen to appoint a QC to argue Hindraf's US$4 trillion class action suit against the British government for "neglecting the community's welfare after bringing their forefathers to Malaya as indentured labourers 150 years ago". On hand to meet them was the police and other para-military units armed with tear gas and water cannons equally determined to stop them in their tracks. (Read The Sun's report, here).
Although I had misgivings earlier about the rally and thought that perhaps the objective was a bit wishy-washy, I truly respect their right for freedom of assembly etc., and I do believe that some of their grouses are pretty legitimate. I also thought that their Gandhi-style peaceful 'civil disobedience' was a bit of a master stroke and they have indeed made their point loud and clear.
I am not a great fan of British writer Salman Rushdie, but in an article called "In Defense of Multiculturalism" soon after the October 2005 riots or 'civil unrest' by Muslims in France, he wrote: "The French riots demonstrate a stark truth. If people do not feel included in the national idea, their alienation will eventually turn to rage." Yesterday's demonstration was, to my mind, the second successful mass 'people power' rally in this country in recent months. So Pak Lah, Sammy Vellu and their ilk should perhaps wise up, take heed and be afraid.
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