DURING the week from 4 to 10 Oct 2008, Hindraf’s visit to the Muslim ministers’ Hari Raya Aidilfitri open house, and the competition within Umno, coloured reports in the Malay press.
On 5 Oct, Mingguan Malaysia front-paged demands by several individuals who wanted stern action taken against the Hindraf supporters who visited the open house to ask the prime minister to release all Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees.
University Utara Malaysia’s professor Dr Mohamed Mustafa Ishak said the government should act “before the group turned more aggressive”.
“[Our] past experience of religious fundamentalist groups that turned militant should serve as examples,” he said.
On the next day, an article in Utusan Malaysia titled Mengapa? argued that readers should remember why the five Hindraf leaders were detained under the ISA in the first place.
The writer, Othman Mohamad, also questioned the demands by those in government, especially the MIC, for the release of the Hindraf five. He asserted that the government had no choice but to detain the five because they were a threat to peace.
On 9 Oct, in an Utusan Malaysia article titled Hak Asasi Hanya Alasan, writer Md Shukri Shuib said Hindraf’s “storming” of the open house with its political agenda was an attempt to taint the Aidilfitri celebration.
Md Shukri said any demands should be properly channelled instead of resorting to complaints and street demonstrations, adding that people should be wary of religious manipulation.
Citing the banning of the Al-Arqam movement, he said the same action should be taken against groups like Hindraf which are “inclined to aggression”.
Md Shukri added that textbook definitions of human rights could not be applied in Malaysia because our current national context was different.
He said Malaysia had to defend the status quo so that all races could enjoy peace and stability through the generations.
On 10 Oct, Utusan Malaysia again frontpaged reactions to Hindraf and quoted Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar as saying action would be taken against Hindraf once investigations were completed.
Contests within Umno
On 6 Oct, Berita Harian interviewed Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on his daring move to contest the Umno deputy presidency.
In a report titled Bertentang Mata, Ahmad Zahid was quoted as saying “the scenario in Umno has changed, therefore the taste of the grassroots have also changed.”
Asked if the overwhelming interest in the deputy president’s position indicated fractures within the party, Ahmad Zahid said: “It is not an issue, as this is a democratic practice. The final decision is made by the members.”
In an article titled Pertandingan Suburkan Semula Demokrasi Umno, writer Manja Ismail said the latest developments would be a gauge of the party’s attempt to strengthen its position and regain public trust after the 8 March general election.
He added that the stiff contests for party posts showed that democracy was still alive in Umno. The perception that competition would be fractious for the party should be dismissed, he said.
On 9 Oct, the daily’s editorial titled Keputusan Abdullah Demi Kepentingan Parti, Negara praised the prime minister for his decision to vacate his seat. The editorial said it was “a showcase of a leader’s spirit who prioritises the interests of party, religion, race and nation.”
The writer urged Malaysian to assist the premier in fulfilling his visions during these trying times. “Now that the door is open for significant posts in Umno to be contested, it should not be abused by members to bring in negative elements such as factionalism, sabotage and political bribery,” the editorial added.
On 10 Oct, Berita Harian published a column titled Keputusan Berundur Bukan Pilihan Mudah bagi Abdullah by Datuk Kalimullah Hassan. The writer said party president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was being backstabbed by his own people, including those in the Umno supreme council.
He cited party leaders such as Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein as turning their backs on Abdullah once he began to lose power.
Kalimullah also highlighted the inconsistencies in Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s actions, for example, in repeatedly endorsing and then slamming his deputies.
On 5 Oct, Utusan Malaysia featured an interview with political analyst Prof Dr Zainal Kling in Tolak Sistem Politik Kelas.
Zainal dismissed calls for the National Economic Policy to be reviewed in the interest of equality for all, thus replacing race-based politics with class-based politics.
He said such an idea by the opposition was preposterous. He said Article 153 of the Constitution on Malay rights was still very relevant and urged Malays to defend it.
He criticised the weakness of current Malay leaders who allowed themselves to be questioned and manipulated by their non-Malay counterparts.
On the same day, Sinar Harian quoted People’s Progressive Party (PPP) president Datuk M Kayveas as saying race-based politics was no longer suitable. He dismissed the idea of joining the opposition, but said he was open to the idea of forming a “third force”.
On 6 Oct, Sinar Harian reported on its front page the 12.2 metre billboard image of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in Batu Caves.
It quoted Perlis Mufti Dr Asri Zainul Abidin as saying that the RM5,000 replica “has elements of idolatry and should be removed instantly.”
However, PKR’s state assemblyperson for Batu Caves, Amirudin Shari, defended the structure. He said it was erected in conjunction with the Aidilfitri celebration. “It is only a picture of Anwar, just like any other Selamat Hari Raya billboard,” Amirudin was quoted as saying in the daily.