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FT: Kg Medan: Malaysian Royal inquiry demanded
By Sheila McNulty

22/3/2001 11:03 pm Thu

[Tragedi Kg Medan mencerminkan banyak kegagalan di pihak kerajaan.

  1. Polis tidak menunjukkan kesungguhan di peringkat awal walaupun sudah ramai tercedera atau terkorban. Padahal inilah kawasan yang hitam kerana sudah banyak berlaku jenayah ngeri sejak dulu tetapi sengaja dibiarkan. Sebaliknya polis begitu pantas mengirim bala kepada reformis jalanan sedangkan reformis cuma bersenjatakan lidah yang tidak bertulang.

  2. Pemberitaan yang kesamaran oleh akhbar menyebabkan kabar angin bertiup kencang. Perkauman terus menjadi sesuatu yang bermain di fikiran rakyat kerana lapuran akhbar tidak menyakinkan.

  3. Pembangunan yang tidak dititik beratkan menyebabkan Kg Medan menjadi tempat yang kelam dan sesuai buat samseng bersarang.

  4. Rakyat sudah tidak mempercayai lapuran media kerajaan. Keadaan makin tegang kerana kerajaan tidak bersungguhan. Malah Mahathir sendiri tidak sudi menjejakkan kaki di Kg Medan mahupun di hospital untuk melihat mangsa kejadian.

  5. Menteri cuba datang bila ada kekecohan. Jangan lupa satu ketika dulu bekas MB selangor, Abu Hasan, duduk berdiam di kediaman beliau bila ratusan (atau ribuan) rakyat datang ingin berjumpa. Baru sekarang kerajaan mahu mengirim kemajuan sedangkan rakyat sudah lama merintih malang. Apakah kerajan BN mahu rakyat memberontak dulu baru mahu mengirim kemajuan?

  6. Rakyat mempunyai perasaan ingin tahu yang perlu ditangani dengan lebih berkesan bukannya dengan kesamaran. Disinilah laman web memainkan peranan kerana akhbar sudah terikat kaki dan tangan.


The Financial Times, UK
21st March 2001

Malaysian Royal inquiry demanded

By Sheila McNulty in Singapore

Malaysian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are demanding a royal inquiry into the country's worst racial violence since the 1960s in a petition detailing how victims were brutally hacked or bludgeoned with swords, iron rods and sticks - sometimes in broad daylight.

The 51 NGOs of teacher, consumer and youth groups, based their report on visits to 24 of those most injured in the violence earlier this month that left six dead. Almost 200 people have been arrested.

The NGOs said the attackers had generally been groups of men, aged between 18 and 28, and striking in isolated areas on the outskirts of the capital, Kuala Lumpur. One man's fingers were almost severed. Another had stitches on his face and head. A third said he was beaten on the head, legs and hand by a group of 100 youths armed with pipes, swords and Malay knives, known as parangs. A fourth was left with a broken leg, head injuries and a bleeding kidney.

"The conflict has created a climate of fear, anxiety and suspicion," the NGOs said. "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 area, in particular, are traumatised."

The violence has stunned the nation, leading to rumours that it was led by foreigners from Indonesia, which has faced racial turmoil since the regional financial crisis. But this has not been confirmed.

Malaysia has prided itself on the harmony in which its three main ethnic groups - Malay, Chinese and Indian - have lived since race riots in 1969. But its people still identify themselves first by ethnicity, and the NGOs indicated that the racial issue needed to be confronted: "Our nation needs to wake up to the problem of racism."

Siti Zaharah Sulaiman, minister for national unity and social development, said a paper on how to foster racial unity will be presented at today's cabinet meeting. Leaders of the ruling coalition have met once on the violence and are to do so again. The government has ordered the opposition not to capitalise on the instability.

The NGOs said the government should provide immediate financial assistance to the victims and their families, noting they are all from low-income groups and some had lost their breadwinners.

They said a multi-ethnic police taskforce should be trained to deal with such racial attacks to eliminate instincts to protect one's own. They also demanded a race relations commission to eradicate racial discrimination and religious intolerance.

The Business Times, Singapore
21st March 2001

Govt urged to allow media freedom to report on ethnic issues

NST editor says media lost credibility due to calls to downplay incidents

A TOP Malaysian English newspaper yesterday urged the government to give the local media freedom to report fully on problems concerning national unity and ethnic relations.

The New Straits Times group editor Ahmad Talib said the local media had lost its credibility because it had to comply with directives from the authorities to either downplay such incidents or not report them at all.

This led to a tendency among the public to believe in rumours, he was quoted as saying by the Bernama news agency at a dialogue between media editors and members of the National Unity Advisory Panel.

Editors of other Malaysian newspapers also criticised the lack of free flow of information with regard to recent ethnic clashes.

"Our national unity is still fragile but the media cannot really report the truth because of the various restrictions, so the media is made a party to this window-dressing," Mr Ahmad said.

"We have to be allowed to report the truth. If the media is restricted from reporting the truth, then we are not doing our job in fostering national unity. The mainstream media has a responsibility towards national unity but if we are allowed only to report half-truths, over the years of this indoctrination, we become part of the window-dressing process."

Mr Ahmad said the public would be deprived of correct information if the media was not allowed to do its job and "call a spade a spade".

According to Bernama, the dialogue focused on recent clashes between ethnic Indians and Malays in a poor suburb outside Kuala Lumpur that left six people dead.

Fifty people were also injured and 230 people arrested during four days of violence, which broke out on March 8.

The Malay-language Berita Harian group editor Ahmad Rejal Arbee said: "It took a few days before what actually happened was officially told to the media. It could have been defused much earlier if only it was handled properly."

Aziz Ishak, senior news editor at another Malay daily Utusan Malaysia, said crisis management remains weak in Malaysia and this was again exposed during the clashes.

"As far as the flow of information to the media is concerned, the incidents were not well-handled and we need to do something about this," he said. -- AFP

The South China Morning Post, HK
21st March 2001

Indians call on Mahathir to tackle racism

Two hundred people, mainly ethnic Indians, staged a peaceful demonstration yesterday outside Parliament, seeking development for the poor in the wake of ethnic clashes.

The protesters, representing a group known as the Concerned Citizens, chanted: "Long live the people."

They also held banners stating, "We demand justice and development" and "We are also Malaysians".

Dozens of policemen stood watch but made no move to disperse the crowd.

In a memorandum addressed to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the group said six deaths during four days of clashes from March 8 between Indians and Malays were due to "socio-economic-centred racial strife".

The memorandum said the affected Indian community was disillusioned with the Government's response to the incident, which had "created a climate of fear, anxiety and suspicion".

Five Indians and an Indonesian were killed during the violence in impoverished areas of Petaling Jaya town, west of Kuala Lumpur.

Fifty people were also injured and about 230 people arrested.

The memorandum said the Government appeared to be denying the racial dimensions of the incidents.

"Perhaps the Government is concerned about our nation's image, about investors' confidence, but such emotional attachment to a distorted reality is likely to prevent a comprehensive response to the problems," it said.

"Our nation needs to wake up to the problem of racism in order to bring it into the open for discussion."

It called for a royal commission of inquiry to ascertain the causes of the clashes and to identify weaknesses in poverty-eradication programmes.

It also proposed the formation of a race relations commission to eradicate all unfair discrimination. The body should be given the power to investigate overt and institutional racism and recommend remedies.

The premier was also urged to implement new development programmes to provide adequate housing, sanitation and public amenities in poor areas.

The memorandum called for the formation of a national taskforce to resolve drug and gangster-related problems in poor areas.

It said many Indian youths had become gang members due to economic marginalisation and called for increased education and economic opportunities for them.

It added that a special multi-ethnic police taskforce should be formed to handle racial clashes and that victims and families in the troubled areas should be given financial aid.

Malays and other races deemed indigenous make up about 64 per cent of the population, Chinese about 25 per cent and Indians eight per cent.