Friday, October 17, 2008

Hindraf's exiled leader suspends all activities
Oct 16, 08 3:24pm
Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leader P Waythamoorthy today said that he was suspending all activities of the movement as a result of the ban by the government.

"I have instructed our coordinators to suspend all activities. I am also urging all our sympathisers and supporters not to take part in activities that is claimed to be organised by Hindraf from today onwards," he told Malaysiakini.

He urged them to await further instructions from him on the movement's next course of action.

"We are presently taking legal advice on this matter as well," he said.

Waythamoorthy also urged supporters to wear orange-coloured t-shirts over the weekends to show their support for Hindraf

Earlier in a statement, Waythamoorthy described the government's decision to ban the movement as a cowardly act.

“It is meant to suppress and oppress the minority Indian (Malaysian) community and the prime minister should step in and revoke the decision,” he said in a statement from his London base.

“Hindraf represents a very deep feeling experienced in the hearts and souls of millions of Indians both locally and internationally,” he added.

Waythamoorthy said the action proves that the government is running out of ideas in dealing with Hindraf and it underscores the notion that Malaysia is a police state.

The self-exiled leader said Hindraf’s struggle is to highlight the plight of Indian Malaysians who have been systematically marginalised, adding that the government does not understand this.

“Hindraf represents the Indian commoner, the hardworking oily-faced man who is made fun of in the streets, the man whom people step on, the man who walks past you, yet you notice him not.

“They all do not wither away with this illegal declaration. The government obviously has a primitive understanding of the situation. They cannot see a genuine problem within a significant section of Malaysian society."

ROS investigated Hindraf

The lawyer compared the movement with the French and American civil revolutions and, more pertinently, with the abolition of apartheid in South Africa.

He claimed that Hindraf’s struggle had raised the self-worth of all Malaysians.

“We demand dignity and equality for each and every Malaysian, which cannot be abandoned and diluted for the glory of the Umno-led government intent on stirring racial tension and maintaining the status quo,” Waythamoorthy added.

The government, however, has rejected claims that the ban is about the ethnicity or the faith of Hindraf followers.

“The government denies racial or religious bias in banning Hindraf. It is up to the police to decide what action to take against those associated with the movement,” English-language daily Star today quoted Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar as saying.

Announcing the ban yesterday, the minister explained that the decision was made after the Registrar of Societies investigated the movement, and his ministry found that “Hindraf had (been) and was being used for unlawful purposes and posed a threat to public order and morality".

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, president of the national human rights society Hakam, said the ban was unnecessary and showed a lack of sensitivity to the minority community which shunned the government in March elections.

"Hindraf is more a wave of consciousness than an organisation and in declaring it illegal the government has possibly alienated the Indian community even more," he told AFP.

Koh: Listen to their woes

In a related development, Gerakan president Koh Tsu Koon expressed hope that despite the ban on Hindraf, the cause of the movement will be given due attention by the authorities.

"The issues affecting the Indian community brought up by Hindraf and other NGOs should be quickly and properly addressed," he told a press conference at Parliament House today.

He said a cabinet committee on the Indian Malaysian community chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has already implemented a few policies, although the outcome will take time to be seen.

"We hope this (ban) will not stifle the freedom of expression by individuals, groups and legally registered organisations. It is an important hallmark for the society to allow for freedom of expression and association" stressed Koh.

He was met by reporters after attending a BN management committee meeting chaired by Najib. The deputy premier and other BN leaders left without speaking to reporters.

The meeting had discussed the rebranding of BN among other aspects, but Koh declined to reveal details