Friday, April 17, 2009

Plan to re-brand outlawed Hindraf

Malaysiakini- Athi Veeranggan Apr 17, 09 4:08pm

The move by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) chairperson P Waythamoorthy to dismantle its 10-member coordination committee is a strategy to re-brand the movement as both a human rights activist group and a political party.Refuting claims that trouble was brewing within the Hindraf ranks, the movement's outgoing national coordinator RS Thanenthiran said the new plan was to strengthen Hindraf position in the political mainstream.He said he and London-based Waythamoorthy had deliberated and discussed lengthily over the plan when both met in Tamil Nadu, India in January this year."The new plan is being carried out by our leader Waythamoorthy in full knowledge of all local leaders."We were not dropped from Hindraf leadership, nor the movement is breaking up," he said, while rubbishing claims of fallout between local coordinators and Waythamoorthy.

He said Hindraf had originally intended to activate its new plan early this year but shelved it due to unfolding political events, such as the recent by-elections in Bukit Selambau, Bukit Gantang and Batang Ai and the transition of power in Putrajaya political corridor."It's common to hear speculations that trouble was brewing in Hindraf for some people always wanted to destroy the movement, which had emerged as an Achilles' heel to the ruling Barisan Nasional," Thanenthiran told Malaysiakini.Since the government crackdown on Hindraf in December 2007, following a mammoth rally in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 25 the same year, Waythamoorthy has been operating Hindraf in exile from United Kingdom with help of local leaders such Thanenthiran.

‘We need a lawful avenue'

Hindraf was instrumental in inspiring the political thunderbolt that change the country's political landscape in last year's general election, in which the opposition Pakatan Rakyat achieved unprecedented electoral gains.However, Hindraf activists felt their wings have been clipped when the Home Ministry banned the unregistered human rights movement in October last year."The ban has become a hindrance to our struggle for peace, justice, freedom and equality."We need a lawful avenue now to continue our struggle for the betterment of the Indian community and other underprivileged people in the country."We also need a political platform to strengthen our bargaining power with other political parties."Thus, we want to rebrand Hindraf the movement with perhaps another inspirational name and form an Indian-based multi-racial political party interlinked with each other," said Thanenthiran.He explained the movement top leaders were keen to change its name to stop several quarters from misusing and abusing the term ‘Hindraf' and its other common name, ‘Makkal Sakti' (people's power)."It has become a fashion now for many irresponsible characters to claiming as leaders of Hindraf or Makkal Sakti."We want to resolve this once for all to ensure that Hindraf stand as one for all," said the Butterworth-based Thanenthiran.

The Indian experience

Hindraf's political party and human rights movement linkage will be in the similar mould like India's Barathiya Janata Party (BJP), Rashtriya Sivam Sewak (RSS) and Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP).Most BJP political leaders are derived from the ranks of RSS and VHP leaders.With RSS and VHP as pressure groups, BJP has emerged as a disciplined, strong, dynamic and progressive political force in India.Indeed, BJP is the favourite to re-capture the federal government in on-going Indian general election.Thanenthiran said Hindraf had hatched the new plan after listening various views and opinions from politicians, social reformists and human rights activists at home and abroad.Claiming that Hindraf has some 100,000 staunch activists, he said Hindraf would hold a series of meetings with the movement grassroots leaders and supporters to explain the new plan."I would like to appeal to all Hindraf leaders and supporters to remain calm and patient, and not listen to rumours and speculations."They should only listen and act on Waythamoorthy official statements on the issue," said Thanenthiran.

Earlier today, Waythamoorthy suspended the movement's 10 state and national coordinators with immediate effect and replaced them with a three-man interim committee.Among those dropped from the line-up included Thanenthiran who had been helming the group locally while Waythamoorthy was leading from London. Waythamoorthy has also put a gag order on the dropped coordinators.

Anguished mom knocks on PM's door for answers

S Pathmawathy Apr 17, 09 2:09pm

Her three young children were forcefully converted to Islam by her estranged husband. And M Indira Ghandi is taking her plight straight to the doorstep of Sri Perdana.

Calling on newly minted Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to explain the matter, the 35-year-old kindergarten teacher said: "He talks about an united Malaysia. But what does this mean when only the Muslims have rights." "I am not anti-Islam and I am not saying that they (Muslims) are doing wrong things but why do non-Muslims have to suffer like this?" she asked as tears welled up in her eyes.Indira's marriage is now is a limbo as her husband K Patmanathan, 40, had converted without her knowledge on March 11.

She claimed that her husband, who has since assumed the name Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah, had also converted their children, aged one to 12, on April 12 without their presence and using only their birth certificates."He took my baby (their youngest child) from me and ran away... I have not seen her ever since and I don't know how she's doing," lamented Indira.

As for her marriage, the teacher, who also claimed to have been physically abused, said the couple were married for 16 years and had been facing problems for a long time. "It started so many years back that I can no longer keep track of when it started." "Recently he asked for a divorce and I thought to myself that since that was what he wanted I consented but he did not want to start the process and demanded that I do so. "So I went to a marriage tribunal and filed for counselling in Ipoh but he never attended any of the counselling sessions," she said.Indira claimed that after one particular explosive argument, which also involved her mother and sisters, her husband had fled with their youngest daughter Prasana Diksa."When we went to the police station and lodged a report, no immediate action was taken by the police although my baby was still very young and needed to be breast-fed," she said.

Since that incident, Indira has filed six police reports, with one alleging that she feared for her life because her husband had threatened her.Indira said the police managed to locate her husband later but only to discover that he had converted the children.'I don't know what to do'The couple's two other children Tevi Darsiny, 12 and Karan Dinesh, 11 are currently living with Indira, who has taken refuge with a relative fearing that Islamic officials would take the kids away."I was neither told nor asked about it (the conversion)... I don't know what to do," she lamented.According to Indira, her husband had called her last Wednesday and promised to return her youngest child."He asked me to come to the Islamic Department (Jais) in Ipoh and take my baby because he could not care for her but he didn't show up. "Instead there was a man waiting there to serve me papers from the Syariah Court granting custody of my other children to him," she said.However, she refused to accept the papers as she believed that Syariah laws had no jurisdiction over her.

As for her husband's conversion, Indira said he had spoken about his interest in Islam but she claimed this was related to monetary gains."I have no idea what his intentions are... but he mentioned once before that we will get RM5,000 each if we 'nikah' (marry according to Islamic rights) and money would also be given on a monthly basis to each of our children for education purposes."Over the past couple of days he keeps calling me and asks me to convert to Islam. He tells me that I should convert first and then we, as in the whole family, can opt out later back into Hinduism," she said, adding that she wanted to remain a Hindu.'I love my wife very much'Contacted later, her husband dismissed Indira's allegations as absurd, saying he converted because he was passionate about Islam which he had discovered during his business trips.

Denying that he had physically abused her, Mohd Ridzuan said: "I don't want to say anything but I love my wife very much... right now I only want her back."Asked why he had converted the children without informing his wife, he replied: "You see all the children must follow the father's religion no matter whether he is a Hindu, Christian or Muslim.""This is not a political issues, this is my family matter and I don't want to shame my wife," said the businessman who has filed for custody of the children with the Syariah Court.

Meanwhile, Indira has sought the help of several legal adviders, non-Muslim organisations and the public."This is not only my case, many people are suffering because of this. We are filing for the custody of my children because they don't want to go to their father, and they (the other party) are totally rejecting this."But the question is even if I can get back my children, will they be Hindu again? Why does it only take a day to convert my children but it is so difficult to return to their old religion?" she asked."Don't I have say in it, when I was the one who carried them for nine months... aren't they my children too?

So what is my right and my children's rights?"The government say this is a country where it is free to practice your own religion but what is the right of a non-Muslim in this situation?" she added.


Waytha suspends Hindraf's coordinators

K Kabilan Apr 17, 09 11:06am

Hindraf's London-based leader P Waythamoorthy has suspended the movement's 10-member coordinators with immediate effect and replaced them with a three-man interim committee.

Among those dropped from the line-up included the movement's national coordinator RS Thanendran who was helming the show for Hindraf locally while Waythamoorthy was leading from London.Waythamoorthy has also put a gag order on these dropped coordinators."All Hindraf coordinators are to refrain from issuing statements in the name of Hindraf though they are free to express their personal opinions on any matters they choose," he said.

He also said that the reason for the change was to allow the movement to move forward with its original cause and aims.The 10-member coordinators were appointed at the end of 2007 after Waythamoorthy had left the country to seek international lobby in the face of government arrests.

The movement's public face P Uthayakumar was detained under the Internal Security Act along with four other Hindraf leaders on December of 2007.Since then Thanendran (photo) and the other nine coordinators have been keeping the Hindraf movement alive and relevant, including successfully turning the Indian voters to support the opposition in the 2008 general election.

However there have been complaints recently that the movement and some of its coordinators have become politically ambitious.The final fallout was apparently the showdown the movement had with PKR's leader Anwar Ibrahim after he decided to pick someone from outside of Hindraf to contest for the Bukit Selambau state by-election early this month.Hindraf supporters had originally proposed that Thanendran was given that seat.

Thanendran accepts decision

The matter came to a close only after a phone call from Anwar to Waythamoorthy, who then instructed his coordinators to stand down and throw their support behind PKR, which eventually won the by-election.At the same time, there were other coordinators who had started acting on their own and without any coordination with the Hindraf leadership.

Waythamoorthy told Malaysiakini today that he had to make the startling changes in order to keep Hindraf in the mainstay of fighting for the community's rights."Hindraf's struggle has entered a new phase where the situation in the country has qualitatively changed since our mass protest on Nov 25, 2007," he said.He said that the needs, expectations, desire and the aspiration of the Indian community from Hindraf has developed beyond the initial demands and seeking the release of its leaders currently held under the ISA."In light of these developments and the need to restructure the working groups, Hindraf with immediate effect suspends its 10-member coordinators team including its national coordinator, event coordinator and publicity coordinators and all state and district coordinators," he added in a statement.

He also said that a new committee of volunteers and working groups would be set up nationwide to meet the need of the Indian community.He said this would be done after consultations with the grassroots supporters of Hindraf/Makkal Sakthi.

When contacted Thanendran said he accepted Waythamoorthy' decision and that he will continue to fight for Hindraf's struggles."I will continue to back the movement. This is a good strategy to ensure that Hindraf remains apolitical in its struggles," he added.


Hindraf leaders' bid for freedom rejected

Hafiz Yatim Apr 16, 09 7:22pm

Hindraf legal advisor P Uthayakumar today failed in his two separate bids to seek a release from the ISA detention in Kamuning detention centre.

In the morning, the Federal Court struck out an appeal by Uthayakumar and two other Hindraf leaders to be released from detention.And later in the day, the Kuala Lumpur High Court similarly rejected his habeas corpus application to be released from the detention-without-trial.Uthayakumar and four others - M Manoharan, K Vasantha Kumar, R Kengadharan and V Ganabatirau - were all detained on Dec 13, 2007 for their role in Hindraf in mobilising the Indian community to protest against the government over their plight.Kengadharan and Ganabatirau were however released along with 13 other ISA detainees on April 5 as part of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak first gesture after becoming the premier.

The matter in the Federal Court was an appeal against an earlier High Court decision in rejecting the application of all five to be released.At the start of the hearing this morning, the lawyer for the Hindraf detainees Karpal Singh applied for the freed duo to be removed from the appeal, which the apex court allowed.After that judges Nik Hashim Nik Ab Rahman, S Augustine Paul and Hashim Yusoff heard the appeal and dismissed it unanimously.The judges said they would be delivering their grounds of judgment at a later date, much to the disappointment of Karpal.

This appeal at the Federal Court was against a decision by the Ipoh High Court on May 30 last year to reject their leave for freedom.Their application was based in their challenge against the validity of the king's order confirming the recommendation of the ISA advisory board for extension of their detention on and after March 26 last year.

Karpal told reporters outside the court that he would file for a review of today's decision."I did not come here just to hear the appeal being dismissed and that grounds would be given later," he said."I have to apologise to the family members and Hindraf supporters who are here today to listen to the grounds but none given," he added.He said the court should have delivered the grounds of judgment today as it had ample time to prepare the judgment as the last proceedings were on March 11.

Health grounds unaccepted

Later in the afternoon, Uthayakumar's sole application to be released on the grounds of his health was similarly rejected.His application was on the grounds that he needed medical treatment for his fractured toe which he had suffered since January.Judicial Commissioner Azman Abdullah made the decision in allowing the preliminary objection made by deputy public prosecutor Najib ZakariaNajib's objection was based on the principles of res judicata (a matter already decided) as one of Uthayakumar's earlier habeas corpus applications was also rejected based on the lawyer's medical condition of being a diabetic.

Azman also accepted the second ground of preliminary objection that a person could not apply for a release from detention based on medical grounds."I allow the preliminary objection and hence dismiss the application," he said.Uthayakumar was represented by counsel N Surendran.

The 47-year-old Uthayakumar had filed his habeas corpus application due to the fractured toe which he has been suffering since January, made worse by his diabetes.Surendran said he would seek further instructions but is likely to file an appeal over the decision.All three detainees were not present in court today.