Sunday, February 27, 2011

Uthayakumar's Folly

On Saturday morning PKR's voluble Mr.'Mike' Manickavasagam received a call from Mr.Naragan, HRP's Adviser and a close aide to Mr.Uthayakumar. HRP, he was told, did not want him to attend their rally the next day at KLCC. Nor did they want any other ethnic Indian leader from PKR to attend their rally.
This was in stark contrast to the call on their website for all PKR, DAP and PAS leaders to support them at their rally. They say, it would seem, different things in private from what they profess in public.

A week before that, PKR's Mr.Surendran received a call from the same Mr.Naragan. HRP, he was informed, did not want him issuing any further condemnations of the BN government for their arrests of HRP members. Mr.Surendran, a human rights lawyer, had been representing HRP members arrested during their convoy protest. He had then condemned the BN government for the arrests and harsh treament of these members. To most observers, it would appear a strange thing to ask of Mr.Surendran, as he is always in the forefront of human rights violation cases. And, among his many pro bono clients, is Mr.Uthayakumar himself.

We can reasonably assume other calls were made to other opposition parties, requesting their ethnic Indian leaders not to attend HRP's 27th February rally. HRP and Mr.Uthayakumar, it would appear, are concerned with ensuring that all credit for any 'Indian' struggle in Malaysia is theirs alone. They wish, it seems, to be the sole representative of the Indian community. They want, clearly, to gain control of the Indian Vote and then wield it as they see fit. Which we do not think would be a good thing. For HRP has become cultish, and Mr.Uthayakumar appears too much to aspire to the role played by the cloddish, boorish Mr.Samy Velu for 30 ineffective years.
(Update : As if to prove our conclusions correct, Mr.Gobind Singh, upon going to render legal assistance to the detainees at Jinjang police station was practically chased away by shouts of 'mandore' and 'balik'. He has, of course, left.)

The rally, would, in any event, fail. Mr.Uthayakumar had overestimated and overextended himself. He cannot argue that it was frustrated by police action and roadblocks. For these were also present in 2007. In the end, he could only muster the attendance of a few hundred supporters, a far cry from the 30,000 strong rally 3 years ago. He had made the fatal error of many a political leader; he had believed in his own publicity.

Mr.Uthayakumar had enjoyed the goodwill of many citizens(Indian and not) and groups by the time he was released from ISA detention. And to many Indians he had assumed the form of a hero of mythical proportions. Yet in self-defeating fashion, he immediately set about alienating his supporters.

First, he rejected all his non-Indian supporters by declaring that he would fight for the Indians, setting the tone for the all-Indian HRP that he would form.
Then, he attacked PKR and DAP, despite those parties standing and campaigning strongly for him to be freed when he was in detention. Insultingly, he would label their leaders 'mandores', a derogatory term that up to then he had mostly reserved for MIC politicians.
He had forgotten that most people who had supported him, had also supported PKR and DAP. He may have deluded himself that these supporters would back him instead. But clearly, they prefer to stay with Pakatan, which they view as their only real way of realising the vision of a two-party state.
And he had long ago spurned the thinking, liberal community by forming a race-based party.

Nor does it help that his shrill website has become little more than a crude churner-out of propaganda. And sometimes, it publishes complete falsehoods.
As in claiming that disabled people were arrested at today's rally. It is completely false news. Of this outrage, at least, the police are not guilty.
Or in claiming that no Pakatan leader was involved in the 2007 rally. We know for a fact that several DAP leaders were present in that protest. As were PKR leaders Mr.Tian Chua, Mr.Sivarasah, Mr.Surendran and Mr.Manickavasagam amongst numerous others, in the thick of the protest, reeling from tear gas and water cannon but still bravely organising and trying to manage the protestors. And trying too, to protect the protestors, to the best of their ability, from the brutal attentions of the Malaysian police.
While Mr.Uthayakumar parked himself further up Jalan Ampang, giving speeches, and left, inexplicably, without marching to the British Embassy.
HRP's website, sadly, has degenerated into a veritable Indian Utusan.

How HRP will fare after this unsuccesful protest, we do not care to predict. But Mr.Uthayakumar, by alienating all, and trusting to one throw of the dice, may have undone himself. And cast himself into the role of yesterday's hero, not tomorrow's arbiter of the Indian Vote.

Which, in the interest of rational, progressive Malaysian politics, is for the best.

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