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Friday, January 29, 2010

Pig heads catch international attention, Hisham slammed

Wong Choon Mei
KUALA LUMPUR, 28 Jan: The Malaysian government has again attracted international infamy – this time over news that severed pig heads, which are taboo to Muslims, have been found in mosques in its capital city.

Foreign media, still sizing up a racial row over the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims that has resulted in 11 churches being attacked, seized on the latest details, highlighting the hard line stand adopted by Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Umno party. They have been widely blamed for opening the floodgates to the current rampage.

“It has been a case of ignore and neglect and we are now paying the price for it,” Ramon Navaratnam, chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Studies, told Harakahdaily.

"When the government gave the green light for the mosque demonstrations, civil society advised against it and warned these could aggravate an already tense situation, but we were ignored. When the church attacks began, there was another chorus of calls for immediate action to nab the culprits and initiate an interfaith dialogue, but again these were neglected,” Ramon added.

"Malaysia is hogging the international limelight for all the wrong reasons," DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang said in a statement. "This has undermined Malaysia’s international competitiveness and tarnished Malaysia as a safe and secure haven for Foreign Direct Investments and as an ideal location for tourists and students."

Is it Pakatan or Umno

Indeed Najib’s cousin, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, has rushed to deflect blame for the latest sacrileges, warning that the perpetrators "want clashes between people of different races and religions”. He did not mention names but it was clear he was trying to point the finger at Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and his Pakatan Rakyat coalition. 

However, Hishammuddin's comments may have backfired. Not only did his remarks raise eyebrows but they also appear to have hardened the suspicion most Malaysians already feel - that it is his Umno party that was yet again behind the latest incidents.  And their purpose - to rally the Malays behind them in a bid to snuff out the growing challenge from Pakatan.

“Hishammuddin, you are right about that. My forecast is the people involved are from your own party,” a member of the public wrote in response to Hishammuddin’s remarks published on a popular news portal.

“Start by looking there first. I don't think any right minded Malaysian would do such a thing but Umno's strategy to win has always been and will always be a strategy to invoke racial clashes and inciting racial hatreds among Malaysians,” the commentator advised.

The response was just one of an avalanche of such feedback found all over the electronic media that is extremely popular with the younger Malaysians, who shun the mainstream, traditional media for its pro-establishment news.

Look at the track record

Indeed, soon after the first few churches were attacked, speculation has swirled that a bigger plot was on the drawing board because despite widespread public outrage, both Najib and the police had steadfastly resisted acting with urgency to nab the culprits.

Their tepid responses fired rumours of a conspiracy including the imminent jailing of leading members of the opposition and civil society under the country's draconian Internal Security Act that allows for prolonged detention without trial.

Although 15 youths have since been detained, none have yet been charged. Instead their seven-day remand have been extended, stirring fears that they may be subject to coercive interrogation methods aimed at making them either make false confessions or to pinpoint Pakatan leaders as their ‘dalang’ or puppet-masters.

“The Malaysian police and anti-corruption commission are already world famous for their brutal treatment of detainees. The number of people who have died while in remand is one of the highest in the region and on record with the Amnesty International,” N Gobalakrishnan, PKR MP for Padang Serai, told Harakahdaily.

“That the current ruling elite can stoop so low as to try and frame Pakatan for this latest religious bigotry is completely plausible. Just look at the trumped-up sodomy cases against Anwar Ibrahim and the attempts to intimidate Dr Pornthip, the Thai forensic expert in the Teoh Beng Hock inquest. But will the Malaysian people and the world be so easily fooled? Actually, who are the real fools?”


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