Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Sizeable Indian presence at Pakatan ceramah in Johor

Despite the fact that the size of the attendance at their ceramah has become an object of derision by their BN adversaries, Pakatan Rakyat are enthused by the reception they received on Sunday from a crowd in Ulu Tiram in Johor.

The ceramah was organised by Johor PKR and featured speakers from coalition partners DAP and PAS.

NONEAn overflow crowd of about 2,000 people, overwhelmingly Indian Malaysians, turned up to hear Pakatan heavies, Salahuddin Ayub of PAS and M Kulasegaran (right) of DAP.

They sat in a tented area located near a row of shophouses in a residential suburb of Ulu Tiram, a township in the parliamentary constituency of Tebrau, northeast of Johor Bahru.
The local complement of Pakatan was represented by Johor DAP chief Dr Boo Cheng Hau and Dr Mahfodz Mohamed, the PAS state chief.

PKR vice-president N Surendran was the highest ranking official of his party to speak at the ceramah, which dwelt in no small measure on the theme of stateless Indians in the country.

The biggest cheers from the crowd were reserved for Mahfodz when he expressed astonishment that some residents born in Malaysia cannot seem to get citizenship documents whereas workers born in foreign soil have obtained such documents and registered as voters.

NONEThe crowd also expressed their solidarity for the predicament of Bersih co-chair Ambiga Sreenevasan, the target of attacks by Perkasa and other right-wing groups resentful of her role in the organisation of the polls advocacy pressure group’s mass protest of April 28.

Every mention of her name by the evening’s speakers drew a round of sympathetic applause from the crowd, some of whom were seen carrying banners emblazoned with her picture.

BN’s wooing of the Indians

Indians have been a mainstay of support for the BN until the 2008 general election when they deserted the ruling coalition in droves over a host of grievances ranging from the endemic poverty of uprooted plantation workers forced by estate fragmentation to seek their living in towns to the demolition of Hindu temples.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has attempted to win back lost Indian support with direct cash aid to the poor and other inducements like an additional ministry for the MIC in the federal cabinet.

These measures are trumpeted by the MIC as having had the effect of enticing Indians back to the BN fold but the turnout of Indians at opposition events such as that in Ulu Tiram tends to gainsay those projections.

NONESurendran (far left) said: “The facts on the ground are more ambiguous than the claims made by opinion surveys and the BN generally that Indians have returned to backing the federal coalition.”

He added that the attacks of Perkasa and other Malay right-wing groups on Ambiga have drawn the sympathy of Indians to her, which could translate into a choice to stay with the opposition rather than reconcile with the BN.

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