Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pakatan courts Indian community at Indraf 2.0 rally

The opposition-backed Indian Rights Action Force (Indraf 2.0) drew a crowd of over 1,000 this evening for its maiden rally here, organised amid widespread predictions that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) would bleed Indian electoral support in the coming polls.

The star-studded event saw PR leaders dish out pledges to resolve the longstanding problem of “stateless Indians” in Malaysia as well as highlight the alleged “abuses” against the community by the ruling Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN).

“PR leaders attended the gathering, which highlighted the Indian community’s disgust against the Umno-aligned groups’ abusive behaviour outside (Bersih co-chairman Datuk) Ambiga Sreenevasan’s house, as well as the ongoing and yet unresolved stateless Indians in Malaysia,” PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar told The Malaysian Insider after the event this evening.

Nurul Izzah, the Lembah Pantai MP, along with other key PR leaders including its de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, had attended the 3pm event held at the Girl Guide’s Hall in Brickfields.

“Pakatan reiterates its commitment to revamping the New Economic Policy (NEP) and producing a needs-based economic policy which will go a long way in addressing the needs of the impoverished Indian community,” she added.

Penang deputy chief minister (II) Dr P. Ramasamy, who is one of the event’s organisers, however said he felt that PR’s Indian support remains strong, blaming the BN-controlled media for claims stating otherwise.

“That is just the game of the BN media. I am confident that the Indian community fully backs PR.

“In BN’s 55 years of ruling, it had not managed to solve the problems of the community... such as issues related to their birth certificates, identification cards, problems getting education scholarships, as well as problems in raising their socioeconomic status,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Adding to this, Ramasamy predicted the Indian community would only be able to seek an end to their woes through the PR leadership and would therefore reject MIC’s or any other BN party leadership.

“We no longer believe any other Indian parties, including the MIC. We have placed our trust fully in Pakatan to help the Indian community,” he said.

“Indraf will join forces with Pakatan in the coming polls,” he added.

Indraf 2.0 is a project initiated by the Malaysian Indian Voice led by DAP’s Penang deputy chief minister (II) Dr P. Ramasamy, the National Interlok Action Team president Datuk Thasleem Ibrahim and former ISA detainees V. Ganabatirau and R. Kengadharan.

Earlier this month, PKR admitted it is likely to lose a whopping one-third of its Indian support in the coming polls due to the Najib administration’s policies and a revamped MIC leadership under the aggressive leadership of Datuk Seri G. Palanivel, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu’s successor.

Since assuming office, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has been actively courting the Indian community — which had largely abandoned BN in the last election — as well as voters in east Malaysia and rural Malays, both of whom are seen as traditional vote banks for BN.

The Indian community’s swing to the opposition in Election 2008 had followed a government crackdown on the November 2007 Hindraf rally, where some 30,000 Indians marched for better opportunities.

The community has long been seen as a “fixed deposit” vote bank for BN but Hindraf’s march to the Petronas Twin Towers had blown the lid on the group’s simmering frustrations over being left out of development for decades.

The tumultuous event, together with Bersih’s first march for free and fair elections, have been credited for the staggering losses suffered by the ruling coalition during the March 8, 2008 general election.

The historic polls saw BN only taking 140 seats in the 222-seat Parliament, losing its customary two-thirds majority, as well as four state governments and Kelantan, which has remained in PAS hands for 20 over years. A coalition needs 112 MPs to gain a simple majority and 148 to win two-thirds.
However since then, the now outlawed Hindraf movement has split up, with some leaders favouring the BN government while others have aligned themselves with the federal opposition or grown completely disenchanted with both coalitions.

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