Monday, August 4, 2008

Report on HINDRAF'S first annual Jalur Gemilang launching ceremony in Brickfields

Hindraf waits on Pakatan promises but still backs itSambulingam wants more done by Pakatan Rakyat for Tamil schools.
By Shannon Teoh, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 3 — The Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), frustrated at the slow pace of Pakatan Rakyat's promises to help poor Indians, hopes the federal opposition would do more to fulfill its election manifesto.
Interim leaders, speaking at its first annual Jalur Gemilang launching ceremony here today, urged Malaysian Indians to continue the struggle for equality despite the loss of its top leadership and lack of tangible change after helping to wrest four states from the Barisan Nasional.
"BN has denied our rights, that's why we support the opposition. But even they don't move in the exact direction we want. At the stroke of a pen, Pakatan-led governments can give us fully-aided Tamil schools,” ideological coordinator W. Sambulingam said in his speech.
"Right now, it's only one here and one there. Tell us what the plan is and how it will be executed. If you can allocate 130 hectares for pig farms in Selangor, I am sure something can be done for Tamil schools."
Pakatan controls Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor, as well as Pas's long-held Kelantan.
Hindraf chairman P. Waytha Moorthy, currently in exile in the United Kingdom, had last month sent a letter to the Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim concerning Tamil schools and also land for Hindu temples, crematoriums and burial sites.
Five Hindraf leaders are currently in detention under the ISA.
Surendran believes a Pakatan government will champion changes for minorities.Gobalakrishnan insisted that BN was blocking efforts to improve Tamil schools.Its legal advisor N. Surendran said the struggle was not about grabbing positions but to bring about change in the country.
"We are not supporting Pakatan Rakyat to gain political positions but because they have promised a free society and we have faith in their promise.
"We recognise that any government needs to be pressured and lobbied to give the people what they want and this can only be effective when society and media is free and oppressive laws are abolished," he told The Malaysian Insider after his speech.
Waytha had also addressed the gathering at the Federal Territory Girl Guides' Hall in Brickfields via a teleconference call in which he called for Hindraf to continue the struggle for their own betterment and not for the sake of the plight of individual leaders.
"Don't forget that the idea of Hindraf is for your rights," he said.
He also called for this year's Deepavali celebrations to be done low-key as a show of solidarity for the Hindraf 5 who would not be able to participate in festivities.
Also present at the gathering was PKR's Padang Serai MP N. Gobalakrishnan, who replied on behalf of Pakatan, that it was the federal government that blocked plans to improve Tamil schools.
"Tamil school headmasters have refused to meet with opposition figures and cited an Education Ministry order. I personally had to leave a parent-teacher association meeting in Kulim before the headmaster would attend."
Legal advisor Surendran rejected any reconciliation with MIC chief Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu to resolve the problems of the Indian community.
"Samy's attempt to mediate for the release of the Hindraf 5 is a direct contradiction to what he said prior to the elections when he supported the arrests.
"As far as Hindraf is concerned, we have no faith in MIC's race-based struggle and we don't take Samy seriously. We ourselves are an offshoot of Police Watch and we were formed to fill the void because no one was fighting for Indians," said Surendran who is also legal advisor for the NGO monitoring the police.
Today's event was organised to dispel the notion that the group was not patriotic.
"We are not against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the country. We are simply against the government that denies us our rights. So with Merdeka coming soon, we want to launch our own campaign," Sambulingam explained.
Earlier, national events coordinator R. Kannan had recapped the group's activities since its inception last year and claimed that 69 per cent of Indians voted for the opposition in the March 8 polls and three states with 20 per cent Indian population made the difference in handing Pakatan Rakyat power.

"This proves that despite being a minority community, Indians can still be kingmakers," he said.