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Monday, August 29, 2011

India must pressure Malaysia over ethnic issue

London-based lawyer P Waythamoorthy believes that India's Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs should take the lead to champion Hindraf’s cause.

GEORGE TOWN: Hindraf Makkal Sakti today called on New Delhi to exert international pressure on the government to address and resolve the ethnic Indian community issues in Malaysia.

Given India’s growing stature as a regional economic and political power, Hindraf supremo P Waythamoorthy said the Indian government should raise issues of human rights violations on Malaysian Indians in international forums.

He recalled how India pressured the Commonwealth to expel Fiji a few years ago.

“We in Malaysia were thrilled over it,” he said.

Waythamoorthy was speaking to Prof V Suryanarayan from India-based South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG) during a special interview recently.

Excerpts of the interview were published on SAAG’s website on Saturday.

According to Waythamoorthy, if India, especially Tamil Nadu, expressed solidarity with Malaysian Indians, it would inspire and intensify Hindraf’s struggle.

He also called on all political parties, academic community, civil society groups and media in India to show greater sensitivity to Malaysian Indian problems.

London-based Waythamoorthy, who is now attached to an international lobby in India, suggested that the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs should take the lead to champion Hindraf’s cause.

He told SAAG that Hindraf’s struggle had been based on the principles of the late Indian independence hero Mohandas Karamchand “Mahatma” Gandhi.

He said through Gandhian principles, Hindraf was able to convince the Malaysian Indian community to discard their fear of the government’s brute force and come to the streets to voice against injustice.

“Gandhian non-violent means have inspired us to mobilise national and international support to our struggle,” said Waythamoorthy.

Neglected community

SAAG is a non-profit think tank conducting public interest and advocacy work. The group consists of Indian academics and former government officials.

Its objectives are advancing strategic analysis, promoting public understanding and contributing to the expansion of knowledge of security internationally.

The group also seeks to address the decision-makers, strategic planners, academics and the media in South Asia and the world at large.

SAAG’s scope of work covers from Iraq to China.

On the fate of the Malaysian Indians, Waythamoorthy said like Barisan Nasional, Pakatan Rakyat state governments have also neglected and sidelined the community.

He said Malaysian Indians had high hopes when Pakatan swept to power in several states, largely due to Hindraf-inspired political protests.

“Pakatan has equally let down the Indian community,” he added.

He said Pakatan’s excuse that it can only deliver to the Indians after capturing the federal government was unacceptable.

“State governments have absolute control over land matters, business opportunities and awarding of state scholarships.

“Yet they too have marginalised Malaysian Indians,” said Waythamoorthy.

Pakatan uncomfortable with Hindraf

He said Hindraf had made repeated requests for meetings with the Pakatan state governments to find a common solution to the manifold problems facing the Indian community.

But, he said, Pakatan leaders had refused to entertain all the overtures perhaps “because the state governments were uncomfortable with Hindraf”.

He feels that Pakatan could be uneasy with Hindraf’s struggle which emphasises on basic human rights, equality and putting the Indian community in the mainstream economic development.

“Pakatan appears preferring to deal with politically weak ethnic Indian politicians, who will play second fiddle to them,” he said.

He said that given the current political reality that the Indian votes may tilt the balance in many constituencies, Hindraf may field its own candidates in the next general election through the Human Rights Party.

“We will use this card to our advantage.

“I am sanguine that in the next election, we will have more Indian state and parliamentary representatives,” he said.

Britain is accountable

On the impending British suit, he said the former colonial government shall be held accountable for its wrongdoings and exploitation of ethnic Indians for some 200 years.

He said Indian rights as British subjects, minority citizens and human beings were disregarded in the new Malaya Federal Constitution.

He noted that racist provisions favouring Malay-Muslims were enacted that would be used to oppress, suppress and marginalise the minority Indian community.

Monetary compensation aside, he said the litigation was mainly to make the world aware that the colonial government has failed in its international obligations to treat all men as equals.

“It will set a precedent to other struggling people across the world and can open up avenues for international law,” Waythamoorthy said.

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