Friday, September 6, 2013

Reality bites, Waythamoorthy | Free Malaysia Today

Reality bites, Waythamoorthy

Jeswan Kaur | September 6, 2013
Does Waythamoorthy have it in him to allow puppeteer Najib to call the shots as and when he likes?
‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter’ – Martin Luther King, Jr

For the conscientious person, the the above quote from King, Jr sends a shiver down the spine, for when it comes to crisis, silence is never golden.

But not for the Barisan Nasional-led federal government who long ago decided that truth ‘hurts’, hence all endeavours to hide the facts from falling into the hands of the rakyat.

For one, the government kept promoting a homegrown production that gives a twisted take on the May 13, 1969 communal riots. Not just that, BN kept looking for ways and means to publicise Tanda Putera as far and wide as possible, so much so that Umno Youth deputy chief Razali Ibrahim declared this Shuhaimi Baba flick be studied at universities.

Gibberish as it is, such remarks hardly catch prime minister Najib Tun Razak’s goat. The premier rather the country’s ministers and deputy ministers talk rot instead of talking business, as did activist-turned-politician P Waythamoorthy, for the first and maybe his last time.

It was only a few days ago that Najib chastised Waythamoorthy for sounding more like an activist and not a BN politician when the former Hindraf activist criticised the police in tackling the menace of gangsterism.

Waythamoorthy, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, had questioned the police shooting of five gang members in Penang on Aug 19 following complaints from family members of the five that they were shot by the police while asleep in the wee hours of the morning in their rented apartment.

The families concerned said the police could have arrested the five instead of sending a hit squad to kill the five. The police have said that the five were armed evident from firearms found at the apartment they were staying.

That Waythamoorthy dare open his mouth miffed not only Najib but also Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin – the trio want Waythamoorthy to quit his deputy minister’s post over his criticism against the police in handling gangsterism.

It is baffling as to why Khairy, Ahmad Zahid and Hishammuddin became so ‘touchy’ by Waythamoorthy’s stand over an issue that affects all Malaysians.

All three ministers had ganged up and asked Waythamoorthy to decide if he wanted to remain as deputy minister or continue being an activist of a non-governmental organisation.

Is gangsterism not an issue that needs to be ‘discussed’ transparently? Or has the Najib-administration adopted the ‘execution style’ approach in getting rid of gangsters in the country?

Was it wrong for a politician to question the police about their night time ‘modus operandi’ that left five youngsters dead? Who really failed to ‘toe the line’, Waythamoorthy or the police?

Even DAP chairperson Karpal Singh has urged the government to order an inquest into the shooting which he said could have been avoided.

“They could very well have been arrested without the need for the police to have been trigger-happy.
“The police must be prepared to justify their actions in court and the families of the men who were killed be given an opportunity to have the truth established,” Karpal was quoted as saying.

Turning Waythamoorthy into ‘yes boss’ man
It does seem that Najib cannot care less how the police combats gangsterism in the country. In other words, the cops have the license to do as their wish and there will be no questions asked.

Maybe that is why after all the drama and tension surrounding the murder of Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu, the two former police commandos charged with her death were let off the hook by the court on Aug 23 this year.

(Former chief inspector Azilah Hadri and former corporal Sirul Azhar Umar were jointly charged and convicted by the High Court in Shah Alam in 2009 for murdering Altantuya, 28, at a forest reserve in Shah Alam in October, 2006).

Both were then with the Bukit Aman Special Action Squad and were in Najib’s security team when he was deputy prime minister and defence minister).

So as far as Najib is concerned, the police dances but only to his tunes. The rakyat’s woes and troubles do not bother the premier. That explains why Najib lost his cool when Waythamoorthy turned vocal over the issue of gangsterism back home.

The ‘truth’ hurts and it did Khairy, Hishammuddin and Ahmad Zahid – but should their and Najib’s rebuke deter Waythamoorthy from speaking out in favour of the truth?

In Najib’s case, to condemn a fellow minister for standing up against wrongdoings simply means the former has something to hide. Why otherwise would he warn Waythamoorthy ‘to toe the line’?

What really was Najib’s agenda when he welcomed Waythamoorthy into BN’s fold? Was Najib hoping to turn the latter into a ‘P Kamalanathan’, Najib’s all-time favourite ‘yes boss’ boy who never has the courage to champion the real cause at hand.

When the non-Muslim students of SK Seri Pristana were forced by the headmaster Mohd Nasir Mohd Nor to have their meals in a shower room during the fasting month of Ramadan, Kamalanathan, the deputy education minister, dismissed the issue as having racial undercurrent.

In a recent development, a parent of a pupil from the school was arrested for allegedly intimidating the headmaster. While other parents have also disclosed that they and their children have been ostracised in the school ever since the canteen fiasco erupted, prompting at least 10 of them to pullout their kids from the school.

But Kamalanathan said the entire fisaco surrounding SK Seri Pristana was a ‘small one’ compared with other schools that had done well in integrating its students.

Refusing to address the issue of racism at schools and saving BN’s ‘reputation’ at all costs is how Kamalanathan endears himself to Najib.

Does Waythamoorthy have it in him to allow puppeteer Najib to call the shots as and when he likes?

Reality bites, Waythamoorthy
It has only been three months since lawyer-turned-politician Waythamoorthy assumed the role of a minister. The hope in the early days was that his appointment would usher in a new wave of hope to improve the livelihood of the Indian community, following a memorandum with the BN government.
On April 18 this year, Hindraf and BN signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with six key points, aimed at bringing poor Indians into the mainstream of the country’s development.

However, the gangsterism issue and Waythamoorthy’s stand on this matter have ruffled some feathers in the Cabinet, hence the calls for him to shut up and speak only when necessary or else leave politics and return to life as an activist.

The ball is now in Waythamoorthy’s court to decide whether he has had enough of the ‘real’ politics or is he bent on bringing about changes his way, never mind the obstacles that continue to harass him.
For one, Waythamoorthy is wise enough to realise that reality bites and now that he has been bitten hard enough, has that thickened his skin and made his immune to such bites in the future?

In the interim, how does Waythamoorthy plan to deal with calls for him to quit, not only from BN but also the DAP?

DAP’s Karpal said after the barrage of criticisms suffered by Waythamoorthy at the hands of BN leaders, the best was for Waythamoorthy to step down pronto to defend his dignity.

“He is not a deputy minister in his own right as he is not an elected representative of the people. Therefore, he has no moral authority to the post he is holding in the government and has no right to cling on to his post any longer,” Karpal had said.

Whatever his next move, Waythamoorthy has to know ‘backdoor’ minister or otherwise, he is accountable to the people of this country, for standing up for the truth in spite of the threats and condemnations that come his way.

In case he has lost the spirit of ‘comradeship’ and is toying with the idea of adopting the ‘Kamalanathan’ way of apple-polishing his political masters, it is a sign for Waythamoorthy to return to what he does best, hunger strikes and taking on ‘international missions’.

Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.

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