Saturday, December 8, 2007

HINDRAF leader urges trade embargo by India on Malaysia

December 9, 2007
Vincent Thian, AP

Malaysia, December 09, 2007

Published:10:21 IST(9/12/2007)
Lawyers march with a banner during a rally in Kuala Lumpur, on Sunday, December 9, 2007. Malaysian police detained seven people on Sunday for taking part in an illegal human rights rally, lawyers said, criticising the arrest as an assault on people's right to peaceful assembly.

Malaysian lawyers and activists during a protest march through the downtown of Kuala Lumpur.

Hindraf leader urges India to impose trade embargo on Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP): An ethnic Indian leader is urging India to impose a trade embargo against Malaysia, saying pressure from ``our mother country'' is the best hope for local Indians who complain of being marginalized in this Muslim-majority country.

P. Uthayakumar, a leader of a new movement championing the cause of Malaysia's ethnic Indian minority, said they have exhausted all legal avenues to seek fair treatment and end ``racism'' by the Malay Muslim-dominated government.

``So we are left with no choice but to go international. Our first choice was our mother country,'' Uthayakumar told The Associated Press in an interview Friday.

``Where else do we go? What else do we do? We can't go to China. We can't go to Mongolia.''

Uthayakumar, a human rights lawyer, is one of the founders of the Hindu Rights Action Force, or Hindraf, which jolted the country by organizing an unprecedented protest rally by ethnic Indians on Nov. 25. A government minister said 20,000 ``thugs and ruffians'' participated, and a court has charged 31 of them with attempted murder for injuring a policeman.

Hindraf says 100,000 people took part to highlight what it says is 50 years of marginalization and unfair treatment by the government. ``Fifty years of oppression, suppression, racism and permanent colonization of Indians in Malaysia. I think the floodgates just broke,'' Uthayakumar said.

Most ethnic Indians are descendants of indentured laborers who were brought to Malaysia by British colonialists in the 19th century to work in rubber plantations. They now comprise 8 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people, and are at the bottom rung of the society, working mostly as menial laborers.

Malays, who are 60 percent of the population, control the government, while ethnic Chinese, who are 25 percent, dominate business.

Indians say they are not given opportunities in business, jobs and education, citing an affirmative action program that gives extensive privileges to Malays. The Indians also complain that their Hindu temples are demolished regularly and that their grievances are ignored.

The government denies it discriminates against Indians, and has accused Hindraf leaders of trying to create ethnic trouble. It says Hindraf is being investigated for possible terrorist links, and has threatened to jail Uthayakumar and his colleagues under a law that allows indefinite detention without trial.

Uthayakumar's brother, P. Wayatha Moorthy, is currently in India, where he received a sympathetic ear from many politicians, especially in Tamil Nadu where most Malaysian Indians trace their ancestry.

India is now an economic powerhouse, and Malaysia would be sensitive to New Delhi's ``pressure, query and scrutiny,'' Uthayakumar said.

However, India's central government, which is deepening economic ties with Malaysia, has stayed out of the controversy, except to say it is concerned about problems faced by ethnic Indians all over the world.

Uthayakumar said there are three ways India can pressure Malaysia: impose a trade embargo on Malaysia, cite Malaysia for crimes against ethnic Indians, and give Indian citizenship to Malaysian Indians.

He acknowledged that most Indians in India live in far greater poverty than Malaysian Indians.

The government says the average monthly household income of Indians is about 3,400 ringgit (US$1,000; euro675), slightly above the national average of 3,249 ringgit (US$978; euro666), and that about 2.9 percent of Indians live below the poverty line, compared to the national poverty rate of 5.7 percent.

The statistics are disputed by many private groups.

Indians in India ``may not be much better off but at least you live with some dignity,'' Uthayakumar said.

``I love Malaysia, but Malaysia does not want me. I want to be Malaysian but ... by way of their acts and their deeds, Malaysia does not want me.''

Jaishree Balasubramanian, Press Trust Of India
Kuala Lumpur, December 09, 2007
First Published: 10:16 IST(9/12/2007)
Last Updated: 12:23 IST(9/12/2007)
Hindraf appeals to India for help on row over IndiansHaving "exhausted" all legal avenues and other channels against alleged marginalisation, Hindraf, spearheading the protests by ethnic Indians in Malaysia, has appealed to New Delhi to stop the "ethnic cleansing" in the Muslim-dominated nation.

Hindraf had exhausted all legal avenues and all channels. "So we are going international. Now I want to go to mother country (Indian) to ask for help, what else can we do, where else do we go," P Uttayakumar, a founder member of the Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf), told PTI in an interview in Kuala Lumpur.

The lawyer-turned activist said ethnic Indians here were by and large "fear riddled, timid and scared", but the largest ever demonstration by the community last month showed that they wanted to be free from years of oppression and be heard.

"To me it is 50 years of marginalisation, suppression and oppression. It has been years of permanent colonisation of Indians in Malaysia. The floodgates just broke with the demonstration," Uttayakumar said.

Sitting behind a desk piled up with files and with the statuette of a blindfolded woman carrying scales of justice, Uttayakumar said the government was persecuting Hindraf for leading the protest. "That is why they are persecuting and prosecuting Hindraf supporters," the lawyer said as his phones continuously rang.

He defended his statement about "ethnic cleansing of Indians in Malaysia" which had sparked angry reaction from the ruling party saying the situation was worse than the one in Bosnia where members of a community were selectively killed.

"In ethnic cleansing 'a la Malaysia' it is worse because you are living and suffering," Uttayakumar said.

Uttayakumar alleged that Hindu temples were relocated near sewerage tanks and Indians were not given opportunities or had no upward mobility.

A police crackdown on at least 10,000 people during the November 25 protest against the alleged marginalisation of ethnic Indians had sparked uproar with India summoning the Malaysian envoy.

Malaysian government has vehemently rejected allegations of discrimination against the community with Minister of Works Samy Velu, himself an ethnic-Indian, saying that the unemployed members were either "lazy or choosy. He also alleged that were lured by money to join the anti-government protest.

Uttayakumar, however, denied that the large turnout at the rally could have been prompted by people's hopes of getting a million US dollars each.

"The November 25 rally caught the government by shock. I believe they would take stock but to what extent we have to wait and see," the Hindraf founder said, adding "we are asking for a change in mindset. We want to meet the prime minister."

"We will close down Hindraf if anyone can show that we promised them millions of dollars," he said.

He said that his brother Wyathamoorthy had in his speeches across the country to ethnic Indians talked about the four trillion dollar demand but not promised any money.

Uttayakumar said the 31 Indians arrested on charges of attempted murder after the protest near Batu caves "did not make any sense."

"These people were all inside the temple praying and 500 policemen were outside. How could 31 people attempt to murder one policeman," he asked.

The protesters wanted to march to the British High Commission to hand over a memorandum. The memorandum blamed the British for bringing Indians to Malaya 200 years ago as indentured labourers and exploiting them.

"The memorandum asked the British Government to give the ethnic Indians in Malaysia British citizenship or give four trillion US dollars in compensation," Uttayakumar said. This amounts to almost one million dollars per Indian in this country.

He felt India could help ethnic Indians secure seats in Medical and IT institutions there and offer scholarships to Malaysian Indians for IT training.

He felt that if India offered a dual citizenship with a repatriation clause "many lower rung Malaysian Indians may want to go back and live with dignity there."

He added that he was proud to be a Malaysian Indian.

1 comment:

nckeat88 said...

embargo against Malaysia? You must be joking! The India is not even willing to do this on Sri Lanka, totally wrong tactic by the hindraf. Doomed.