Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Changing Malaysia: Hindraf leader reminisces

Changing Malaysia: Hindraf leader reminisces
SundayStar- Sunday August 31, 2008

Of hurdles and help

One man is driven to work for others in the Indian community because he has not forgotten his roots.
HE may be doing well these days but memories of the hardship faced as a child living in a oil palm estate in Teluk Intan still haunts R. Kannan.

“I grew up seeing my parents having to report for work at 5.30am daily.
“They worked seven days a week but their joint take-home pay never exceeded RM300 a month,” said the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) national events coordinator.

Today, the 37-year-old is a project manager with a multinational firm, living comfortably in Shah Alam with his parents, wife, two children and his sister.

Good memories: Kannan looking through some old photos of his school days. He wants to see Indian youths getting a solid education.

But Kannan reckons his own difficult formative years as well as the pain faced by other Indian families in the estate have led him to join the Hindraf struggle.
“I initially came to know of Hindraf from e-mails. Their activities and efforts to highlight the marginalisation of Indians in Malaysia attracted me as I have first-hand experience of what they were talking about.”

He believes the Government should give the welfare of the Indian community more priority and also feels Indians in the plantation sector have been victimised under the pretext of development.
Many have been thrown out of their homes in the plantations without being given alternative housing and have ended up collecting old planks to build shanty homes on the outskirts of towns.
“It's as if they've been pushed out from mainstream society to live as destitutes

Going back to his early days, Kannan says his parents, who had five children to feed, took on odd jobs after finishing their regular work at the estate.
He vividly remembers how he and his four sisters would be left at the estate crèche daily while their parents toiled to make ends meet.
“But during the school holidays, my elder sister and I would accompany them to earn a few extra ringgit,” he says.
Getting a decent education posed another challenge.
Since the estate was 2km from the main road and some 28km from Teluk Intan town, most of the children there attended the dilapidated Tamil primary school on site, as did his elder sister.

However, his parents decided to send him and his three younger sisters to a national school in the town so they could get the schooling needed to break free from the shackles of poverty.
“The journey to and from school took almost two hours each way and we had to wake up at 4.30am to get there on time,” Kannan recalls.
It was not easy but his parents persevered, even sending him to live with an aunt while he was in secondary school.
“When I managed to complete my Form Six and entered university, they tirelessly sourced for funds for my studies,” said the business management degree holder.
Having crossed his own hurdles, Kannan wants to ensure that his children and others will have a better life and more opportunities.

“And I know that I can achieve this by playing a role in Hindraf and propagating our 18-point memorandum, which addresses many issues faced by Indians and also suggests equitable solutions to their current plight,” he says.
Of the demands stated in the document, the two closest to his heart are the call for all Tamil schools to be fully aided and the request for business allocations for Indians.
“Education and business opportunities will play very positive roles in improving the lot of the Indian community,” he notes.

On whether he is afraid of being detained under the Internal Security Act for his Hindraf-linked activities, Kannan says: “Why should I be afraid when I am not doing anything wrong?”
Hindraf, he adds, is doing nothing more than highlighting the plight of the Indian community, which has long been neglected.

The public must understand that we are first and foremost Malaysians, and what we are doing is desperately fighting against sinking into oblivion and becoming the country’s weakest link.”

Also view the clip of interview from the Star Online tv at :-

Changing Malaysia: Hindraf leader reminisces
The Star's Merdeka Special focuses on Hindraf national event coordinator Kannan Ramasamy.
He recalls his childhood days of living in an oil palm estate.