DAP proposes a
special Cabinet committee tomorrow headed by Samy Vellu tasked to repair
Malaysia-India relations which had plunged to an all-time low after the Palm
Court police mistreatment of Indian IT professionals on March 9
by Lim Kit Siang
The last-minute pull-out of the Indian national hockey team from the
prestigious Azlan Shah Cup Hockey Tournament to be held in Ipoh from March
22 is a grim reminder of the parlous state of Malaysia-India relations after
the Palm Court police mistreatment of Indian IT professionals, which had
been aggravated by the unsatisfactory and insensitive responses from the
The statements by three Cabinet Ministers, namely Works Minister, Datuk Seri
S. Samy Vellu, Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik and the
Primary Industries Minister, Datuk Seri Lim Keng Yaik, on the issue on
Sunday had not helped to repair the bilateral Malaysia-India relations which
had plunged to an all-time low, as they sounded very self-serving and
therefore quite offensive, especially as they were made more than a week
after the Palm Court Incident.
If the statements of the three Cabinet Ministers had been of any use, the
last-minute pull-out of the Indian team from the Azlan Shah Hockey
Tournament would not have taken place, as the decision was clearly very last
minute after the Cabinet trio had spoken, on the directive of the Indian
Government when the Indian hockety team was getting ready to leave for
Malaysia within the next few hours.
The Hindu today quoted sources in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs as
saying "that the decision was part of the approach the Indian Government had
adopted since the ill-treatment meted out to about 270 Indian IT
professionals by the Malaysian police". (http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/stories/2003031806270100.htm)
The report said:
pull-out from the tournament was a way of expressing the country's
displeasure against such treatment, sources said.
"This kind of posture, sources explained, was likely to continue till the
Malaysian authorities get back to the Indian Government with an official
report on the incident, notwithstanding the expression of regrets by the
acting Prime Minister of Malaysia.
"Such a report had
not come till Monday evening, but when asked whether the presentation of
such a report could lead to a change in the decision regarding the hockey
pull-out, even at this late stage, the Government spokesman said:
"'At the moment,
the team is not going.' India was scheduled to play New Zealand in the
opener on March 22."
redeeming feature of the Palm Court Incident and its aftermath was the
intervention by the Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
on Friday, expressing regret for the incident and directing the
Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai, to personally investigate
and submit a report to him the following week - which I had described as the
"first correct, proper and responsible reaction made by the Malaysian
Government in the six-day diplomatic crisis between the two countries".
What is saddening is that although another three days have passed,
Abdullah's intervention last Friday had remained the only "correct, proper
and responsible reaction" of the Malaysian government so far, resulting in
the last-minute pull-out of the Indian team from the Azlan Shah hockey
I had reminded the government and police in my media statement on Saturday
that they must be serious about a full and thorough investigation into the
Palm Court incident and that there would be no attempt in any "cover-ups".
I had in fact expressed surprise at media reports that the IGP would be
submitting his report to Abdullah yesterday, asking whether this was
possible when up till last Friday night, the Indian IT professionals who
were victims of the Palm Court police mistreatment were completely unaware
of any police investigations into the incident.
Up to now, nobody knows who are the police officers conductng the IGP
investigation as directed by Abdullah. From a New Straits Times report
today, "Policemen quizzed over raid on Indian nationals", it would appear
that the police investigations are being conducted by the earlier-announced
Kuala Lumpur City police disciplinary division - which would make its
findings immediately suspect as its superior, the City Deputy Police Officer
Datuk Ahmad Bahrin Idrus had already exonerated the 67-strong police squad
responsible for the Palm Court Incident from any criminal offences or
wrongdoings after an "initial investigation".
These flip-flops are not calculated to encourage national and international
confidence that the government and police are taking a most serious attitude
towards the Palm Court Incident or to repair Malaysia-India bilateral
The Cabinet failed at its meeting last Wednesday to realize the gravity of
the Palm Court Incident and its far-reaching repercussions to Malaysia-India
relations, the country's international image after the 13th NAM Summit, our
ambition to be an IT power, the future of Multimedia Super Corridor and
national economic recovery plans so as to take immediate remedial measures
to avert a major diplomatic crisis with India.
The Cabinet tomorrow should be more perceptive and pro-active by
establishing a special Cabinet committee headed by Samy Vellu tasked to
repair Malaysia-India relations which had plunged to an all-time low after
the Palm Court Incident.
Before the Cabinet meeting tomorrow, all Ministers should be provided with a
copy of the Asia Times report "Malaysia takes an Indian tiger by the
tail" on the economic fallout to Malaysia in the diplomatic row with
The report said:
"The affected IT
professionals belong to the world's fifth largest software house, Infosys of
India, and whose owner, T N Narayanmurthi, is an adviser to Malaysia's
Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) and helped Malaysia in creating it.
"Apart from the embarrassment over the incident of which the police version
now appears questionable, the economic fallout for Malaysia is likely to be
considerable. For one, Malaysian Airlines (MAS), expecting to be in the
black this year, has applied to increase the number of its flights to India
- from three times a week to daily flights to Delhi and Mumbai, in addition
to retaining its daily flights to Chennai. MAS has also applied for four
flights each to Bangalore and Hyderabad, and finally to Cochin, and two
flights to Kolkata, where it does not presently fly. India has already
prepared her lash list that includes a travel advisory to Indian tourists to
avoid Malaysia and a freeze on the application by MAS for extra flights. New
Delhi will also reconsider the issue of Indian IT professionals working in
Malaysia, and stop further progress on a road construction contract in
India, worth $150 million, the first phase of which was awarded to Malaysia.
"Last year, Samy Vellu, Minister of Works in Mahathir's cabinet, visited
India three times to clinch road construction contracts to build two major
toll highways in India, one connecting Delhi to Jaipur in the tourist belt
of Rajasthan and the other for a north-south super highway. The total
contract value would be over $15 billion.
"The other soft area of Malaysia's economy is palm oil. During the past
three years of economic downturn, India's gesture to purchase palm oil from
Malaysia boosted its economy as palm oil still accounts for 20 percent of
Malaysia's economy; another 20 percent comes from tourism. Following a slump
in tourist arrivals from Western countries in the post September 11 period,
tourists from India have been filling Malaysia's hotels. The Legend Hotel in
Kuala Lumpur, for example, says that almost 80 percent of its occupancy is
due to tourists from India.
"That is not all. Malaysia has emerged as an ideal country for the shooting
of a large percentage of India's 1,500 films made annually in Hindi by
Bollywood, or in the Tamil language, at reasonable cost. K Swamy, an event
manager who helps to organize "shoots" in Malaysia, says, "This is mega
business as a four-day shooting will mean about 100,000 Malaysian ringgit
[US$26,000] per day." Last year, Genting Highland, Malaysia's Las Vegas,
earned 10 million ringgit from the Bombay Film Award ceremony held there."
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National