FOR the week of 4 to 10 May 2009, the release of the Hindraf three dominated the headlines of Tamil papers.
Other stories included Datuk S Subramaniam’s announcement that he would contest the MIC deputy presidency, and the inquest into the death of Tamil TV drama actress K Sujatha.
Free at last
The release of the last three Hindraf leaders — P Uthayakumar, M Manoharan and K Vasanthakumar — dominated the headlines of all the Tamil papers on 10 May. The stories were accompanied by many pictures in the back and inside pages.
Malaysia Nanban‘s headline read Joy. It had a large picture of Uthayakumar being hoisted by supporters. The other pictures were of a smiling Manoharan, and Vasanthakumar being kissed by his wife accompanied by their two daughters.
Of the three, Uthayakumar received the most attention because he was the most pugnacious. In the front-page story titled They brought me out like a sack: Uthayakumar, he revealed that he refused to sign the papers for his conditional release. “I told the authorities that they had to release me unconditionally; if not, I will stay on in this detention centre,” he said defiantly.
“I am not going to thank the government for freeing me because they should have charged me in court for my alleged crimes.”
Commenting on his dishevelled appearance, he said he had vowed not to shave or cut his hair while in detention and would only do so after his release. “See, I am wearing the same prison garb since the time I was detained. I might look like a mad man to you. But the detention gave me a lot of time to think. I have thought of a lot of plans to uplift the condition of Indian [Malaysians].”
Uthayakumar addressing his supporters after being released on 9 May (Pic courtesy of Hindraf)
Tamil Nesan‘s story Hindraf leaders freed quoted Uthayakumar as saying the authorities had pestered him to sign the documents since 9am the day before his release. In another story titled I will continue to voice out the rights of Indian [Malaysians], Uthayakumar vividly described the authorities’ reaction when they could not force him to sign his conditional release papers.
“One of them who was very angry with me grabbed me by my neck and dragged me all the way to the van where some of the guards were waiting for me,” he said.
Makkal Osai in a follow-up story titled Uthayakumar to jump into politics stated that rumours are rife among some Makkal Sakthi followers that he might soon start a new political party.
Subra in the ring
After months of speculation, Subramaniam has finally decided that he will contest for the MIC deputy presidency. His announcement pushed the story of the Hindraf leaders’ release to the second headline in Makkal Osai on 10 May. The paper is run by Subramaniam’s supporters (the paper always refers to him as “the people’s leader”).
In Datuk Subra to contest for the post of MIC deputy president, the paper quoted him as saying: “As far as politics is concerned, I have no enemies in the MIC. I just wish for all Indian [Malaysians] to be on the MIC’s side and to support the party.”
Palanivel (Source: Wiki-
media commons) Malaysia Nanban also carried Subramaniam’s announcement on the front page under the headline Contest for deputy president: Subra. It also carried another story on the reaction of incumbent deputy president Datuk G Palanivel. The story, titled I will announce my decision at the last minute, quoted Palanivel as saying that since the MIC elections are in September, there is still time for him to decide whether he would run or not.
“Even in the last elections (in 2006), I only made my decision to run at the last minute. So please be patient until then,” he told the paper via a telephone interview.
When told that former MIC deputy president Subramaniam had announced his candidacy for the post, the paper reported that Palanivel muttered, “Really?” in surprise, and then refused to comment any further on the matter.
Subramaniam lost the No. 2 post to Palanivel in the 2006 MIC elections after holding on to the post for nearly a decade.
An actress’s death, part two
A beautiful TV Tamil drama actress who was also the personal secretary of the son of a top politician. A bottle of paraquat. And the death of the actress. The question remains unanswered: Was it suicide, or was there foul play?
No, this is not the latest Tamil movie to hit town. The mystery surrounding the death of K Sujatha is to be solved at an inquest into her death.
For three days from 6 to 8 May, Sujatha hogged the headlines. Even the chaos in the Perak state assembly could not get this off the front page.
Tamil Nesan downplayed the story in the inside pages when an inquest was previously held in March. The paper is aligned to MIC president Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu. His son, S Vell Paari, is chief executive officer of Maika Holdings, and was Sujatha’s boss. Vell Paari was the one who took her to the hospital after he discovered she had imbibed paraquat. She died a few days later.
SujathaTamil Nesan reported on Sujatha with either muted headlines, or headlines that implicated others and put them in a bad light. The paper’s headline on 6 May read: They tried to buy me via bribes: Sujatha’s brother Surenthiran testifies.
In his testimony, Surenthiran said Kapar Member of Parliament S Manikavasagam tried to entice him to testify against Vell Paari by promising him contracts. Malaysia Nanban and Makkal Osai subsequently ran stories of Manikavasagam lodging a police report against Surenthiran for perjury. The Parti Keadilan Rakyat politician said he would also sue Surenthiran.
The headline of Malaysia Nanban on the same day read I bought the paraquat for my sister Sujatha in Ipoh, testifies Surenthiran; while Makkal Osai‘s headline was Sujatha’s blood sample goes missing at the Klang General Hospital.
On 7 May, Malaysia Nanban‘s headline read My sister committed suicide: Sujatha’s brother testifies. During the first inquest, it was argued that Sujatha “accidentally” drank the paraquat and did not mean to kill herself.
The inquest resumes in June.