Wednesday, November 25, 2009

25th November 2007 – Wake Up Call for the Nation

The Coalition of Malaysian Indian NGO’s (COMIN) had in December 2007 called on the Government to look into the issues raised by HINDRAF and resolve these issues through dialogue and peaceful negotiations rather than suppressing the grievances raised through measures that can only be considered as vengeful and hateful.
pic: human rights party
We had made our call subsequent to the peaceful mass rally on 25th November 2007 organised by HINDRAF which was brutally suppressed by the Federal Reserve Unit who shot water cannon with chemically laced water and tear gas at peaceful protestors. Five of the key organizers, Waythamoorthy, Uthayakumar, Manoharan, Ganabathy Rao, Vasanthakumar and Kengadharan were incarcerated in Kamunting under the Internal Security Act while Waythamoorthy is still living in exile continuing his struggle.

Many saw the Hindraf rally as a wake up call for Malaysian Indians, but in truth we now realise that 25th November 2007 was a wake up call for Malaysians of all races. About 3 months later, on 8th March 2008, Malaysia saw a peaceful transition of power in 4 state governments to the Pakatan Rakyat with the Barisan Nasional losing its two-thirds majority in Parliament for the first time in recent memory.

The results of the General Elections in 2008 exposed the strong feelings of discontent against corruption, discrimination, abuse of powers by law enforcement agencies, violent action taken against peaceful demonstrators, use of ISA against dissenters, mismanagement and maladministration in the public sector, and a severe lack of meaningful initiatives to alleviate the problems of both the urban and rural poor. For once it exposed the weakness in the communal politics and the failure of the national leadership and that of the minority community in realizing their constitutional rights.

It was only after the severe defeat at the General Elections 2008 and the several subsequent by-elections did the authorities show any sign of realisation as to the depth and severity of the issues affecting the Malaysian Indians specifically and majority Malaysians generally.
Though, we note that some initiatives are being implemented by the Federal Government and State Governments on a piecemeal basis, we have concerns as to whether such initiatives are real institutional changes that will offer change and restore confidence in the minds of people.

This land belongs to all. It is our primordial duty to see that no single citizen is made to feel as if he is not one among us. There is enough for all and everyone. For democracy to succeed it has to be a tool that ought to address the needs of the weak and the minority more than the majority. We agree that the nation must be centred on the Federal Constitution, rule of law and institutional reforms that guarantee the rights of every citizen, without dwelling on our communal differences.

Noting the prevailing socio-political situation, on this, the 2nd anniversary of the HINDRAF rally, COMIN makes the following proposals:-

1. We urge the Indian Community in Malaysia to engage with each other and be united in what should be a common aim of empowering impoverished Indians so they can be useful citizens of this country. Whilst differences can and should exist and be debated rationally and through the democratic process, we urge politicians, temple leaders and NGOs to put aside personality clashes and political differences when dealing with the plight of poor Indians and work together across party lines in this common aim. Thus, we call on all Indian Members of the Dewan Rakyat, Dewan Negara and the respective State legislative assemblies to form one cross party political caucus to address Indian issues, similar to what we see in the US Congress, where Black and Pacific Island caucuses exist consisting of members from both the Republican and Democratic parties.

2. We also urge the Federal Government and all State Governments, be they from the Barisan Nasional or the Pakatan Rakyat, to show their sincerity in improving the lot of the Indian Community. Concrete and tangible efforts must be made to improve educational opportunities, moral upliftment, the provision of living skills training and the creation of employment and small business opportunities. Efforts to improve national unity must be done in a transparent and genuine method. To that end, we reiterate our call for the creation of an independent non political Task Force to be a monitoring body comprised of representatives selected by NGOs themselves to oversee the implementation of the initiatives for reform that are so desperately needed.

The Government’s “1Malaysia” concept must be practised and implemented in a manner that gives every Malaysian the sense of pride that he is wanted, appreciated and recognised in the development and progress of our beloved country.

Thank you.
Datuk A. Vaithilingam
Coalition of Malaysian Indian NGO’s (COMIN)
24th November 2009
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A sea of aggrieved humanity descended to the center of KL on that historic day the 25th of Nov 2007, and there that day was born Hindraf . Even though it had existed as a loose grouping of just over 30 NGOs, the Hindraf we all recognize today was indeed born then.

It was more of a phenomenon than an organization even on that day.

Many of us were swept along into that phenomenon because of what it meant to all of us. What happened that day was a crystallization of something that had been brewing for a very long time in the minds of the Indians in the country. It includes emotions of seething anger, disgust, bitterness, alienation and helplessness. All these deriving from a lifelong experience of being put aside, being put down, being treated with indignity, being
sidelined, being discarded, being treated like subhumans in situations, being denied the most basic of rights, being denied equal opportunities, being given reasons and excuses which we felt totally helpless to do anything about.

Now after two long years of struggle as an organization we have found a clear direction and a firm basis by which to engage in what will be a prolonged struggle – for the inertia of status quo is very strong.

Hindraf Finds Itself

We have removed the chaff from the wheat. Most of those who do not belong, have found their way out. We have cleared ourselves of many wishful thoughts. We have a better understanding of reality. We know what the real issues are, who our true friends are and who fair-weather friends are and who our enemies are. Two years have given us much opportunity to engage with the issues and to learn from the various struggles. We can see our mission clearer now for all that.

And it is a historic mission.

Hindraf is a working class movement and the HRP is a working class party.
Hindraf and HRP lead the Indian poor and marginalized . This is where we originated from – fight against a convergence of racism by the UMNO regime and economic exploitation by the power elite of the country.
Hindraf and HRP will lead the Indian poor and marginalized today to realize a new life for them.

This is our mission

The Indian marginalized and poor are factory workers, service workers,
manual workers, often contract workers, they are drivers, they are
security guards, they are the cleaners, they are the gardeners, they are the helpers, they are washerwoman in restaurants, they are criminals in prison, they are the dreg of Malaysian society. They form the majority of the Indians in the country. What characterizes the Indian society at large in Malaysia today is a constant struggle only for the basics of life. Compare with the other segments of society and you see a rams for them and this
basic struggle for the Indians.

The Indians are also the dispossessed in our society. They have no kampungs to go back to. They have no ancestral structures to fall back on. They only have their working power to live their lives by. And that, is being blocked in so many ways by the working of this racist system.
And to top this all, the poor and marginalized Indians have been kept in a state of ignorance for as long as they have existed in this country.
This makes them a group that is most desirous of change, most in need of change.

To bring about change is their historic role.

But they do not yet recognize this role. Hindraf and HRP now have set themselves the agenda of creating this recognition and in the process, uniting this group under one umbrella and forcing change in the system.
Forcing change through empowered participation in the political
processes in Government. The Indian poor and marginalized have the most to gain from a change to the system and they have the least to lose by any change. Thus they have the potential for leading change in this country like no other single group.

Hindraf has evolved over these two years to become that organization that discovered this historic mission for itself and this historic role for the Indian poor and marginalized. This role requires political clout – something which cannot be realized through any existing arrangement. The needs of the Indian working poor can only be met by a re-engineering of the basic grouping within Government, by restructuring the constitution of those holding the reins of power.

HRP, the political wing of Hindraf has taken on as its objective to
participate at levels of government that empowers them to bring about the change to the basic policies. This will mean a change for all the poor and marginalized, not just for the Indians. But the Indian working poor organized well and led well have the potential for leading the charge and creating change for all the working poor and marginalized in the country.

The work for the HRP has just begun. Hindraf forms the mass base and HRP becomes the wing that will take the agenda onto the struggle for national policy change.

This is so clear now after two years of struggle.

A journey of a thousand miles starts but with a single step.