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Time: Neighborly Hat Red [Kg Medan]
By Simon Elegant
24/3/2001 11:55 am Sat
[Tragedi Kg Medan berlaku akibat prasangka dan marah yang tidak tentu hala.
Seolah-olah kaum India bersalah sedangkan kerajaan sebenarnya yang bersalah
kerana meminggirkan masalah sosio ekonomi seperti setinggan dan kemiskinan di
bandar. Padahal kawasan ini menyumbang banyak undi buat BN sekian lama.
Unsur perkauman mewarnai pergaduhan ini kerana rakyat asyik dihujani
aktiviti yang membakarnya. Mahathir dan wakil rakyat Umno sendiri memberi
ucapan yang sering berbau perkauman tetapi polis tidakpun bertindak apa-apa.
Slogan "Takkan Melayu Hilang di Dunia", "Mandi Darah", dan "Melayu Perlu
Berperang Dalam Satu" semuanya berasal dari mulut pemimpin Umno belaka.
Patutlah begitu tragis jadinya.
Baru kini kerajaan mahu mengirim pembangunan kerana inilah punca sebenar
ketegangan. Adalah sukar untuk seseorang tidak kepanasan baran jika hidup
dalam tertekan serta dinafikan kemajuan semata-mata kerana mereka bergelar
setinggan. Nyatalah hanya segelintir pihak sahaja yang dapat mengecapi
nikmat kekayaan setelah 43 tahun ekonomi membesar. Patutlah Mahathir
tidak kepingin memijakkan kaki ke hospital untuk melihat mangsa Kg Medan.
Keadaan kini sudah semakin reda, tetapi banyak hati masih berdebar dan tidak
yakin walaupun polis ramai di sana. Kematian dan kecederaan yang dahsyat
itu masih terus berparut di dalam hidup mereka yang mengalaminya. Seribu
polis pun tidak akan mampu memadamkannya mungkin sampai bila-bila. Mereka
sudah tidak percaya.
Issue March 26, 2001
Neighborly Hat Red
Violence outside Kuala Lumpur pit ethnic Malays against Indians, who
share at least one thing: living on the edge of Malaysia's prosperity
By SIMON ELEGANT Kuala Lumpur
Zainal says tension between the Malays and Indians, the largest ethnic
groups in five roiled squatter settlements on the fringes of the
capital, is an old story. Squatting on a plastic stool outside his
home, a jerry-built shed of wooden planks and sheets of corrugated
iron, he describes a life of constant vigilance. He avoids Indian
areas, where the risk of confrontation is high, and watches his back
when returning home from the night shift at a nearby factory.
Indran, on the other hand, feels more than free-floating anxiety. The
tall, gawky 16-year-old with close-cropped hair rubs a long row of
stitches on his left temple as he describes, in a quavering voice, how
a group of 15 Malay youths attacked him around 10:45 p.m. on March 8
with wooden sticks and stones. To defend himself, Indran fell to the
ground and curled up: there are marks on his back where his assailants
jumped on him and kicked him. In the midst of the attack, he spotted a
Malay running toward him with a machete in his hand. In desperation,
Indran got to his feet and ran. The next thing he remembers is waking
up in a hospital. "I am really very scared," says Indran, who hasn't
been able to leave his home since returning from the hospital. "I
cannot forget what happened to me."
Malaysia's rich mix of cultures - Malay, Chinese, Indian, indigenous
tribal, Eurasian - is justly celebrated in its tourism advertisements.
But the national nightmare is all about race. In May 1969, hundreds
died in a paroxysm of politically sparked mob butchery, mainly between
bumiputras, mostly Malays, who comprise 58% of the population, and
Chinese, who make up 25%. That accounts for the government's grave
reaction to the recent outburst of violence. Hundreds of people have
been arrested, the majority of them Malays. Daily life has returned to
normal in communities such as Kampung Lindungan and Kampung Medan,
where much of the violence occurred. But the government isn't taking
any chances. Helicopters clatter overhead at night. Some 700 security
personnel patrol the settlement.
No one is sure about what sparked the killing spree, but all agree it
was something petty: a Malay wedding party blocked an Indian funeral,
or an Indian boy shattered the windshield of a Malay resident's car.
Locals don't want to discuss it, and no wonder. Two people have
already been arrested for rumormongering. The Indians took the brunt
of the violence: 5 of the 6 killed were Indian, as were 47 of the 48
wounded. This is a fairly apt reading of the status of the Indian
community, which makes up 7.2% of Malaysia's population. Indians are
rapidly becoming a permanent underclass, riven by drug addiction,
prostitution, alcoholism and a range of other social ills.
But the country's convulsion of unrest is less a flashback to the
ethnically restive past than a wake-up call to fresh social problems.
The government's actions concede as much: the squatter settlements
have seen drastic improvements in the past few days. The omnipresent
mounds of garbage disappeared last week for the first time in memory,
and police are setting up permanent patrol sheds after years of
complaints that they ignored the area. Government officials now say
they will spend some $25 million to build low-cost homes for squatters
and provide financial aid for people wanting them. Streetlights have
finally been installed. "It is an indictment of the government," says
Charles Santiago, an academic and frequent government critic, "that it
took several deaths and so many wounded to get them to install
Why did it take an outburst of violence outside Kuala Lumpur for the
country to recognize that years of rapid economic growth have brought
skyscrapers and Starbucks - but also produced a large, resentful class
of have-nots? Among the neglected are Malaysia's urban squatters - there
are half a million around Kuala Lumpur alone and 50,000 in the
settlements that house Zainal and Indran. "I put the blame squarely on
the government," says P. Ramasamy, who teaches political science at
the National University of Malaysia. "In 43 years of pushing economic
growth it's always been the big boys who benefited most and the people
in places like Kampung Lindungan who got nothing."
Slums like Kampung Medan are ground zero for Malaysia's have-not
society. After the race riots of 1969, the government embarked on an
ambitious affirmative action program aimed at raising education and
income levels among Malays, who were significantly poorer than the
Chinese. At the same time, Malaysia began its drive for the kind of
export-led development that for decades fueled double-digit economic
growth rates. The first factories to spring from that drive were
built-and many still operate-in an industrial zone on the other side
of the clogged highway from the alleys where the violence erupted.
Malays migrated en masse from rural villages to fill assembly-line
jobs. The Indians came too, but with less hope. Their families had
worked rubber and palm-oil plantations for generations, but the
plantations were steadily lost to urban sprawl and industrialization.
The Indians struggled to find housing and jobs, and many gravitated to
squatter settlements near the factories.
Decades later, many of those immigrants are still living there, some
of them worse off now than when they arrived. Zaidi, who sits astride
an open drain into which he flicks cigarette ash, was born in Kampung
Medan after his parents migrated from their rural village. He works at
the Pioneer factory where he earns $150 a month, enough to live on but
not even close to the sum needed to get out of Kampung Medan. Abdul
Jalil, a Malay, runs a food stall selling nasi campur, rice and mixed
curries. A bearded man in a sarong and skullcap, he politely ignores
questions about the incident. Abdul's reluctance is understandable:
parked a few feet away, directly in front of his stall, is the wreck
of the car that belonged to Chandran, a 32-year-old who was one of the
first Indians to be killed. Chandran died in the hospital after being
dragged from the car and slashed with machetes. Abdul, who lives
behind his stall, saw and heard nothing when Chandran was killed at
around five in the morning. He doesn't know who the attackers were,
but he's sure it couldn't have been his neighbors. "We are friends
here. Indian and Malay boys come in here after playing soccer and sit
together." He points to a young Indian drinking tea at a table. "He
and I, we are like brothers."
The government has hinted that opposition parties may have provoked
the violence for political ends. The Prime Minister himself declared:
"There were no racial clashes but when people start spreading rumors
that Indians are attacking Malays, then people come out and it
happens." Many caution that unless someone recognizes the plight of
Zainal, Indran and Zaidi, another flare-up could erupt. And once
started, violence can be self-perpetuating. Mild-mannered Indran is
already caught up in its deadly allure. "The Malays think we are
incapable of fighting back," he says. "If they start fighting again,
we will fight back. We are ready."
With reporting by Mageswary Ramakrishnan/Kuala Lumpur