ENG to CH Translation: Sad Road to Seetha’s Suicide 西達自殺凸顯印裔社會困境 (Malaysiakini 23 Nov 2009)

Original text link: http://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/117730

Chinese translation Link: http://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/118160

Sad road to Seetha’s suicide
Helen Ang
Nov 18, 09
4:19pm

I wrote the article below before news broke of Seetha’s passing. May she rest in peace. My prayers for her.

Words cannot hope to convey the plight of R Seetha (photo) who is in critical condition after her suicide bid.

Mine are hopelessly inadequate and I can only offer them in sympathy hearing that Seetha might die. Ingesting paraquat like she did causes liver, lung, heart or kidney failure within several days that can result in death.

In 2006, another young Indian woman M Sanggita took her four children to Sungei Gadut near Seremban to wait for the train to Singapore. The family was not going for a holiday but to their deaths.

Can you imagine such a state of mind where having the train run over you seems better than living? Sanggita, 30, and two of her children were killed that July day lying across the railway tracks.

“There is no use for all of us to live. I pity my kids. They have no future here. Let us be with God,” pleaded Sanggita in her suicide note.

She lamented that she could find no solace. “If given the opportunity, we would all come back as angels to help those in need,” the note ended. Like Sanggita, Seetha lived also in Negri Sembilan and perhaps angels did watch over her four children. Thankfully, they will – we’re hopeful – pull through after sipping the weed killer given by their mother.

Some people have called for Seetha to be charged with attempted murder.

It’s been reported that Seetha promised her children that if they drank the poison, they could meet their youngest uncle again who had been gunned down by police. I don’t think Seetha had it in mind to brutally kill her children – certainly not in the same way that police had done her brother Surendran.

Doubtless, I cannot claim to fathom what was going through her mind that tipped her over the edge. But neither can those condemning her imagine what Seetha has had to endure in her short life thus far. From the story fragments that have come to public knowledge, we can at best speculate.

A closed Tamil society

Seetha’s husband M Manimaran said his wife had told him that she wanted to see the departed Surendran and be with him.

Her father R Rampathy (far left) in his police report had said: “Seetha terlalu sayang kepada Surendran. Dia selalu nangis di hadapan gambar Surendran yang meninggal.”

The picture they paint is one of a woman consumed by inconsolable grief. For most of us, we lose our loved ones to old age or they succumb to natural causes. For the Tamil underclass like Seetha, death can visit a male sibling in a hail of bullets or occurring in the police lock-up. This comes about due to the chronic socio-economic deprivation of the community.

So, no, those comfortable armchair critics of Seetha can’t even begin to comprehend her anguish and the perennial dark cloud hanging when one is mired in poverty. Her father is a security guard; her husband a lorry driver. Both are low status and low pay jobs.

Seetha is a housewife; her mother is a housewife. A feminine shroud encloses homemakers in the still highly patriarchal Tamil society. The women’s limited life experience may not have allowed them to acquire the coping mechanisms that our ‘survival of the fittest’ advocates, preaching fortitude, would like to think everyone else should possess.

The defeatist proletariat, denied access to empowering education, does not enjoy the buffer zone that better-off Malaysians have when it comes to confronting adversity and despair. Not just the shock of violent, sudden death but the depression that daily dampens their dispiriting environment.

Worlds apart, chasm between

A poor family earns a combined income of under RM1,092 monthly. This amount is all that a household – usually calculated as a unit comprising five members – has at their disposal to cover all expenditure including housing, utilities, food, schooling expenses and transport.

On the other hand, an affluent young couple may spend more than a thousand ringgit a month on milk powder alone for two young children, what with the price of things skyrocketing nowadays.

I’ve given the example above of two sets of people whose finances are at opposite ends. Wouldn’t their thinking norms be very different too? Seetha’s critics simply have no inkling of the facets of her world.

Do you know how many percent of Indians earn only around a thousand ringgit? The answer is 108,000 households … five years ago (certainly more poor people today). These 540,000 souls make up the bottom 30% of the 1.8 million total Indian population, according to the Social Strategic Foundation report of April 2005.

More data: From the Household Income Survey 2004 by the Economic Planning Unit and Department of Statistics. On the incidence of urban poverty, Bumiputera register 4.1%, Chinese 0.4% and Indian 2.4%.

Now compare with their respective population ratio that same year: Bumiputera was 61%, Chinese 24% and Indian 7% out of 25.6 million Malaysians. Indians who comprised a mere 7% of this country in 2004 showed a disproportionately high poverty rate in stark contrast to Chinese and Malays.

“You are on your own. Don’t hold out your hand because nothing will fall into it.” This quote is attributed to long overstaying MIC president Samy Vellu in the book ‘The Malaysian Indians’ by Muzafar Desmond Tate.

Heck, not only are the poor Indians refused help, even what little they had was taken away from them.

Rendered jobless and homeless

In 1980, plantation workers still accounted for over half of the entire Indian community, wrote Muzafar. What has been happening since then is that the plantations have been fragmented and their workers evicted from the labourer quarters.

The Putrajaya mega-project dislodged estate workers too (Golden Hope plantations among them) and in Mahathirville’s 4,580 hectares, there is no room for the Indians; you don’t see them in this shiny new administrative capital.

Rubber estates like Golden Hope, Guthrie, Sime Darby and Boustead had been colonial enterprises.

Then, government agencies like Pemodalan Nasional Berhad took over Sime Darby (today merged with Guthrie and Golden Hope) while Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera acquired a controlling equity interest in Boustead. Now owned by government-linked Malays and managed by Malays, these corporations are developing the previously plantation land into lucrative real estate properties and new townships.

Oh well, too bad for the hapless Indians. Its displaced young generation drift to urban settlements and create slums.

As mentioned earlier, about 7% of the Malaysian general population is Indian but in their making up 16.1% of squatters, the ratio is double, not proportional. It’s hardly surprising that the Indian quota for low-cost rented accommodation with KL City Hall is always exhausted.

Meanwhile in Penang, a report submitted to the state government by the Socio-economic and Environmental Research Institute (Seri) in November 1998 revealed deplorable housing conditions.

Five percent of the survey respondents lived in containers while in Sungai Tiram, the majority of respondents lived in shacks which used to provide shelter for animals before. Ten years down the road, Penang kindly gave Indians the Kg Buah Pala saga.

The poverty trap led Surendran to his fateful meeting with destiny and trigger-happy cops. Seetha is the collateral damage. Can’t their circumstances and they too be considered hostage to the Indian condition?

Human Rights Party pro-tem secretary-general P Uthayakumar has intimated that should she die, he will bring her body to Parliament to drive home the point that police shootings of racially profiled and so-called ‘suspects’ must stop.

Uthaya’s threat recalls the self-immolation or suicide by fire, of Buddhist monks to protest the Vietnamese regime in the 1960s.

Perhaps it will take a drastic measure like a frail, pretty corpse brought outside Parliament under the glare of international media attention to finally open Malaysia’s eyes. A deliberately neglected community is at the end of its tether, if only you knew.

Do you remember the unforgettable Hindraf rally images of Indians passively allowing themselves be drenched by chemical-laced water fired by the FRU cannons? How would an ordinary robust individual react in the same circumstances? You’d run.

So how did a swathe of marginalized Malaysians come to such pass that they squat wet in the street like martyrs with nothing else to lose?

Some have slammed Seetha for attempting to take her own life. Can these censorious people please try to plumb the question that plagued one who deserves only our compassion: ‘What’s there to live for?’

原文:Helen Ang
翻譯:姚文傑

我撰寫以下篇文章時,西達仍未辭世。我會爲她祈禱,但願她在天之靈可以安息。
西達嘗試自殺之後,病情危急,她的痛苦,不是筆墨可以形容的。比起西達,我的痛苦算不了什麼。聽到西達或許會離開人間,我只能同情她。像她這般灌了除草劑,肝臟、肺部、心臟或腎臟,都在幾天內衰竭致死的。
2006 年,另一個印裔婦女桑吉達(M Sanggita)帶著四個孩子到靠近芙蓉雙溪芽篤(Sungei Gadut),等著開往新加坡的火車。這家人並不是去度假,而是要尋死。讓火車碾過自己的身軀,也比活著來得更好,閣下能想像這種心理狀態嗎?年僅30歲的桑吉達和兩個孩子,就在七月的某一天躺在火車軌道上,被火車碾死了。
桑吉達在遺書上寫道,“活著根本無甚意義。我同情我的孩子,他們在這裡沒有前途。讓我們和上帝在一起吧”。她抱怨她無法找到慰藉。
遺書以這句結尾:“如果有機會,我們會化作天使,回來幫助需要幫助的人。”
西達也跟桑吉達同樣住在森美蘭,也許天使有守護著她的四個孩子吧。他們喝過了母親給的除草劑,現在卻得以逃過死劫。謝天謝地,我們滿懷信心,他們會度過難關的。
有些人呼籲檢控單位起訴西達企圖謀殺。根據報導,西達答應她的孩子,他們很快就可見到被警方擊斃的小舅。我不認爲西達是要殘忍殺害自己的孩子。警方對待她弟弟的態度,肯定不是她對待孩子的態度。
毫無疑問地,當她被逼到死角的時候,心裡想著什麼,我並不能自作主張揣測一番。但是批評她的人們,也不能憑空想像她在短暫生命旅程中所必須承受的一切。從公眾所知道的故事碎片來看,我們頂多只能推測而已。

封閉的淡米爾社會
西達的丈夫瑪尼馬蘭(Manimaran)表示,西達曾跟他說過要見她的弟弟,要和他在一起。西達的父親南峇迪在警局錄口供時表示:“西達太疼愛弟弟蘇納登了,她常常拿著弟弟的遺照哭泣。”(Seetha terlalu sayang kepada Surendran. Dia selalu nangis di hadapan gambar Surendran yang meninggal.)
一個女人,受盡苦痛,難以安撫,就是他們所描繪的情景。對我們大多數人而言,我們失去摯愛的原因,不外乎是他們年紀大了,抑或自然死亡。西達出身淡米爾社會底層,對他們而言,死神召喚自己兄弟姐妹的時候,可以是在槍林彈雨中,或者在扣留室裡。印裔社會長期被剝奪社會經濟機會,因此落得如此殘局。
西達的悲痛,還有一個人陷入貧窮泥淖中,生活長期愁雲慘澹的情況,都不是脫離現實的安逸評論人所能開始理解的。她父親是保安人員,丈夫是貨車司機,都是從事低階低薪的工作。
西達是個家庭主婦,她的母親也一樣。一個女性的身份,把家庭主婦困在仍然父權至上的淡米爾社會。我們的「適者生存」理論要求每一個人要有競爭力、要堅韌不拔,但婦女生活經驗有限,也許並不能讓她們具備這競爭能力。
教育可增強人的自信心與能力,但最底層的失敗主義者,都被拒於教育門外。不同於生活條件較好的大馬人,他們面對困難與絕望的時候,並沒有緩衝區。暴力與突然死亡所帶來的驚愕,再加上日以繼夜的憂鬱,更進一步打擊了他們的頹喪生活環境。


兩個世界,天淵之別

一戶貧窮人家,每個月的總收入低於1092令吉。這就是一戶人家,通常是五個人的家庭,可以花在房屋、水電費、膳食、學雜費和交通費的金額了。相反地,如今物價飆漲,一對富有的年輕夫婦,單單是買給兩個小孩的奶粉錢,每個月就可能超過一千令吉。
財務狀況完全不同的兩組人,我已經舉例說明了。他們的思考模式不也會大不相同嗎?西達的批評者,對她所身處的世界根本連一點認識都沒有。
你知道印裔社群當中月入1000令吉的比例是多少嗎?答案是10萬8000戶人家。這是五年前的資料,今天的窮人肯定更多。根據社會策略基金會報告,這54萬個人在180萬印裔社群中墊底,成爲最底層的30%。
經濟策劃小組和統計局的2004年家庭收入調查報告有更多的資料。以城市貧困率來說,土著占了4.1%,華裔0.4%和印裔2.4%。現在就拿當年的人口比例來比較一下:在2560萬大馬人口當中,土著占了61%、華裔24%和印裔7%。在2004年只占了我國人口7%的印裔,貧困率高得不成比例,跟華裔和土著形成強烈對比。
《大馬印裔》 的作者慕紮法戴斯蒙(Muzafar Desmond Tate)以這番話標籤在位太久的國大黨主席三美威魯:
「你們要自力更生,不要伸手,沒有什麼東西會掉在你的手掌上。」
唉,不只是貧窮印裔求助無門,甚至連屬於他們的一丁點東西,也都被奪走了。

被迫停工、流離失所
慕紮法寫道,在1980年,整個印裔社會有超過一半是園丘工人。後來發生的事情是,園丘關閉了,住在宿舍的工人被趕了出來。布城的大型工程也驅趕園丘工人,金希望 (Golden Hope)就是其中一家公司。占地4580公頃的「敦馬城堡」,印裔可沒一席之地,閣下很難在這金碧輝煌的行政區看到他們。
種植公司如金希望、牙直利(Guthrie)、森那美(Sime Darby)和莫實得(Boustead),都是殖民地時代的企業。後來,官聯公司如國民投資公司(Pemodalan Nasional Berhad)收購森那美。森那美現在也跟牙直利和金希望合併了。這些公司現在由一些跟政府有關係的馬來人所擁有,並由他們管理。原本是園丘的一片片土地,在他們的手上轉變成很賺錢的房地產和新城鎮。
至於倒楣的印裔,那真是太不幸了。流離失所的新生代飄泊到城市邊緣,蓋了貧民窟。誠如之前所述,非法木屋區居民有16.1%是印裔,而印裔只占我國人口大約7%,這比例是多了一倍,是不成比例的。吉隆玻市政局的低廉租金組屋計畫,分配給印裔的配額總是一掃而空,這其實是不稀奇的。
在檳城,社會經濟與環境研究中心(Seri)於1998年11月提交給州政府的報告,則披露了糟透的居住環境。報告指出,百分之五的受訪者住在貨櫃箱。在地南河(Sungai Tiram),曾經是動物棲息處的簡陋木屋,大多受訪者都住在那裡。十年了,檳城給了印裔一記「豆蔻村事件」。
貧窮的陷阱,牽引著蘇納登的命運,碰上了以開槍爲樂的員警。西達是間接的受害者。他們的情況,乃至於他們本人,不能被視爲是印裔困境的人質嗎?
人權黨的籌委會總秘書烏達雅古瑪 (Uthayakumar)表示,若是西達不幸身亡,他會抬著她的棺材到國會抗議,極力呼籲警方停止開槍射擊特定族群和所謂的「疑犯」。烏達雅古瑪的威脅,讓人回想起在1960年代,佛教僧侶自焚抗議越南政權的歷史。
激進的手段,例如在國際媒體的鎂光燈下,抬著一具脆弱而美麗的屍體到國會大廈外,也許這樣才能終於睜開大馬人的眼睛吧。一個被刻意忽視的社會,是忍無可忍了,要是閣下知道就好了。
還記得興權會遊行的的照片嗎?還記得那些印裔,任由聯邦後備隊以滲有化學物質的水炮掃射他們嗎?面對這樣的情況,一個健全的人會怎麼反應?一定會抱腿就跑。一群被邊緣化的大馬人,怎麼會躺在街上,全身濕透,仿若已經沒有什麼可以失去的烈士?
有些人猛烈抨擊西達企圖輕生。對於一個我們應該憐憫的弱者,這些愛好批評的人,可否思索她所面對的問題:「活著,是爲了什麼?」

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