At noon on 5 September, the Tamil Malar office at Jalan Ipoh, KL was like a scene from a Rajinikanth movie, as some 80 to 100 MIC members were believed to have gathered at the office gate, where they jostled the Tamil newspaper’s staff.
“My boss (Oms Thiagaran, Tamil Malar Chairman) was arguing with Saravanan … and then a member of Saravanan’s group wearing a t-shirt saying ‘MIC Taskforce’ punched my boss. There was a fight and they even tore my boss’ shirt. And they snatched her (Saraswathy Kandasamy, legal adviser) phone because she was taking photographs. One of our photographers named Shan was also slapped. They grabbed his camera.” – C. Christ, Tamil Malar journalist, Malaysiakini
Watch it here:
What happened?! On social media, many are claiming that somebody important is behind it… Federal Territory MIC Chief M. Saravanan. But Saravanan, who is also Deputy Youth and Sports Minister, denied his involvement, saying his role was more that of a peacemaker…
“I was there to ask both parties to disperse.”
According to the Deputy Minister (whose office was right opposite Tamil Malar’s), he was there to break up the scuffle.
“I was there to ask both parties to disperse. There was no fight, just some pushing and no one went into the Tamil Malar office. The office was closed. So the youths decided to have teh tarik at the stall next to the office. Then two staff from the daily came out and provoked the youths and a heated argument broke out” Saravanan told The Malaysian Insight
That was not how the Tamil Malar staff put it though…their legal adviser Saraswathy said there was no violence until Saravanan approached the office, only then the group of people went at her: “How can he say that he was dispersing the crowd when he was there from the beginning till end?”
But why on earth did 80-100 MIC members go there to harass them? Apparently it happened over some news reports Tamil Malar published:
“In the last two days, Tamil Malar had been publishing fake news about Federal Territory MIC and today, some MIC Youth boys wanted to clarify the issue (with the newspaper). They had an argument on the streets, they were pushing each other but it was not a serious attack.” – Saravanan told Malaysiakini
The Deputy Minister later held a live press conference, link here. Our Tamil friends caught the tail end of it but not much was mentioned of the fracas.
Tamil Malar reported that MIC’s accounts did not add up
In a series of reports, the Tamil daily had written that the Federal Territory MIC unit had not published its accounts over the last 20 years and had been secretive about how they spent party money.
On 3 Sept, they published an article with the headline, “Where is the rental money collection?” on its front page. It was a report on the Selangor MIC annual general meeting (AGM), where MIC Kota Raja Chief V.T. Rajen had asked about the missing rental payment receipts for the Federal Territory MIC building, explained N. Nandini, the journalist who wrote it.
“We named Saravanan and asked him to account for the rental money collected from tenants of the building. We named him as he is the FT MIC chairman.” – S.M. Periasamy, Tamil Malar Executive Editor, The Malaysian Insight
As a result, Saravanan was not happy, recounts Periasamay, and called him to complain that the article had damaged his image. “I told him that the paper would carry out his statement on the front page. We will carry his rebuttal or explanation and I told him that I would call him upon my return to Kuala Lumpur at 1pm,” explained Periasamy. So, he didn’t expect the Deputy Minister to behave like a thug or to send thugs to the office, especially after that.
“Having leaders at the door arguing with us over our articles is normal. But thugs and physical assault are something new; we are afraid for our safety.” – Periasamy
This is not the first time MIC has been linked to violence against Tamil media
Since the incident, 11 people have been questioned by the police, including Saravanan. However, at this time of writing, no arrests have been made (neither has Khairy commented about his No.2’s alleged involvement). More importantly, it has also gotten people speaking out against MIC’s violence and hooliganism towards Tamil media, especially during Samy Vellu’s time :
“This is not the way to treat the media. Any unhappiness could have been dealt with without resorting to violence.” – A.K. Ramalingam, former MIC Secretary-General said during a press conference
The most recent case was when political writer K. Muthukrishnan, 69, was beaten up by three unknown individuals. They had approached him and started to use vulgar words, warning him to stop writing articles supporting the opposition. They also warned the victim not to criticise BN leaders, especially from MIC.
In 2013, when Malaysia Nanban was ambushed by People’s Progressive Party President M. Kayveas and a group of his supporters – also over an article that had called on Indians to demand for their rights since the ruling coalition had failed them. Gelang Patah MP (DAP) Lim Kit Siang also pointed out incidents on Tamil Nanban and Thinamani Tamil newspapers in the 1990s, when the Maika Holdings issue involving MIC was a hot topic.
However, Tuesday’s incident would not deter them highlighting the issues that affected the Indian community. “We are not against the government. But we are against the malpractices of leaders, corrupt leaders who fail to channel the funds to the needy Indians and make sure their needs are taken care of,” said Periasamy.
“I am sure Tamil Malar and all peace-loving people will condemn yesterday’s incident as a black mark on journalism in Malaysia. Rest assured the critical writings in Tamil Malar and other papers on the MIC and BN will not subside because of this despicable act of gangsters.” – Ipoh Barat MP (DAP) M. Kulasegaran, Free Malaysia Today