Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hindraf chief in catch-22 situation over passport

Commentary by Joe Fernandez
INDIA-MALAYSIA/The apparent passport bungle-in-the-jungle involving Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf) Chief P. Waytha Moorthy,(pic) forced into exile in London since early last year, appears to have resulted in a clear stalemate. Not if viewed from the British and Malaysian Government positions, according to a senior Malaysian-Aussie lawyer in private practice in Brisbane .
“The onus, according to the Home Ministry’s thinking, is actually on Waytha Moorthy to collect his passport back from the Malaysian High Commission in London and move on,” noted senior lawyer Quintin Rozario, formerly from Klang, in an email exchange with Free Malaysia Today from Australia . “His family is waiting for him back home,” says the Malaysian Government.
In short, Waytha Moorthy should break the stalemate in the situation and hurry back as soon as possible, advocates Kuala Lumpur .
Rozario was giving his take on the confusing turn of events reported by the media on the handling of the Hindraf Chief’s passport issue by the Malaysian authorities.
The Malaysian’s Government’s position, an apparent half-truth, was that it was Waytha Moorthy’s lawyers who sent his passport to the Malaysian High Commission in London . That was in March this year.
“That’s not the whole story,” assured Waythamoorthy when contacted in London by telephone. “My lawyers sent back the passport which had earlier been put in an envelope by the Malaysian High Commission in London and sent to my solicitors at the end of February this year. I was lying in hospital at that time and it was in the news. There was no note or covering letter from the High Commission.”
Waythamoorthy stressed that the Malaysian High Commission in London returning his passport is not enough to end the stalemate. For starters, he wants an explanation from the Malaysian Government, through his lawyers, on why his passport was cancelled on March 14 last year by Kuala Lumpur .
Subsequently, Waytha Moorthy’s passport was reportedly seized by British Immigration at Gatwick Airport on April 19 last year upon his return from Geneva and never returned to him. Apparently, this action was taken on the grounds that a passport at all times belongs to the issuing authority and not to the holder.
“So, it’s a fairy tale that I returned my passport to the Malaysian High Commission in London . How can I return something that I didn’t have in the first place,” said Waythamoorthy. “I did not start the chain of events that has resulted in the present stalemate. It was Kuala Lumpur .”
Waytha Moorthy denies he’s spending his enforced exile in London “splitting hairs” over his passport while his family and loved ones are anxiously awaiting his return home.
Instead, he assures that he wants to move on as well with his life and is urgently seeking three remedies from the Malaysian Government viz.
(1) that what was taken from him dishonourably (his passport) be returned honourably;
(2) that a new passport be issued to him to replace his “cancelled” passport; and
(3) some form of suitable apology and related remedies that are seen to be mutually agreeable for the financial and material losses that he has incurred in the process and the damage to his reputation by IGP Musa Hassan linking him with the Tamil Tigers movement of Sri Lanka .
Waytha Moorthy stressed that he felt utterly humiliated and very small at Gatwick Airport when he was detained. He expressed disappointment that the word on protection that the Malaysian Government has guaranteed, on behalf of the King, in the very first page of passports issued by the country, were rendered meaningless at Gatwick Airport that day.
“It’s no use Home Minister Hishammudin (Tun Hussein), like his predecessor Syed Hamid Albar, mindlessly parroting that my passport has not been cancelled,” said Waytha Moorthy. “My passport has been entered in the computer system at British Immigration as cancelled. This follows the action initiated by the Malaysian authorities. Information on the cancellation has been duly communicated instantly across Europe to all the immigration systems and from there on to the Americas , Australia and New Zealand . In fact, the whole world.”
So, apparently, even if it’s returned to him, Waytha Moorthy’s existing passport is of no further use to him although it only expires on Oct 17 next year. However, the Home Minister has been quoted by local media as saying that “we can’t issue two passports to a person.”
From the British Government’s legal standpoint, its actions followed a sequence of events reportedly initiated by Malaysia. It began with someone in the Malaysian Government informing the British High Commission by letter on March 14 last year that Waythamoorthy’s passport had been cancelled. That’s according to a letter Ref: FOI 10154 from the UK Border Agency of the Home Office to Waythamoorthy’s lawyers in London , Imran Khan & Partners Solicitors, dated Sept 23 last year.
Who in the Malaysian Government communicated the cancellation to the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur was not disclosed by the UK Border Agency.
Notwithstanding the Freedom of Information Act 2000, it pleaded exemption under Section 27 (2) of the same Act on the grounds that “such disclosure would jeopardise ties between the United Kingdom and Malaysia .”
The UK Border Agency told Waythamoorthy’s lawyers that based on the reason given by the Malaysian authorities for the cancellation of the passport, “The Malaysian authorities were seeking your client’s arrest to face criminal charges”.
(On Nov 26, 2007, Waythamoorthy was given a discharge, not amounting to an acquittal, on a sedition charge. This was a day after an estimated 100,000 Hindraf supporters took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur after not being allowed to converge at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur to present a letter to the Queen of England .)
(On July 15 last year, then Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar told the media in the lobby of Parliament House that an arrest warrant under the ISA (Internal Security Act) was issued for Waythamoorthy before he became Home Minister. Syed did not disclose any further details.)
On July 2, 2008, according to the UK Border Agency’s Sept 23 letter, the Malaysian authorities requested for the return of Waythamoorthy’s passport “without any reason given why they wanted the passport returned to them.”
Despite informing the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur that the Malaysian Government was seeking Waythamoorthy’s arrest to face criminal charges, London granted him political asylum in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They also provided him with travel papers under the Geneva Convention on Sept 9 last year. These papers, which expire on Sept 8, 2013, entitle him to visit all countries except Malaysia .
Waythamoorthy’s political asylum status in the United Kingdom is for an indefinite period. Still, when the ruling party in Malaysia is ousted from the Federal Government, the British Home Minister would write to Waythamoorthy on the status of the current threat to him in Malaysia . Should the Hindraf Chief inform the British Home Office that he would feel perfectly safe in Malaysia under the new Government, “he would be advised to return home.” However, threat or no threat, the British Government cannot force him to return home to Malaysia .
Political asylum was not something that he voluntarily sought, clarified Waytha Moorthy.
“After my passport was seized by British Immigration on April 19 last year at Gatwick Airport , I was detained for six hours and interrogated and my luggage turned upside down,” said Waytha Moorthy. “In the end, I was issued with a detained person advice and a temporary admission pass and advised to return two days later i.e. on a Monday.”
On April 21, 2008, Waytha Moorthy’s temporary admission was further renewed for a further three weeks. He was asked to report to the British Home Office in Croydon, London at the end of the three weeks.
In Croydon, he was told that he would have to be deported to Geneva , his last port of call before entering the UK . . . “unless he had other options in mind.” Waytha Moorthy knew that in Geneva , he would be deported back to the UK since he had no travel papers.
What the British Home Office was implying under other options was clear. Waytha Moorthy could either go to court and fight it out or apply for political asylum. “I chose political asylum only very reluctantly,” confessed Waytha Moorthy. “I had no choice under the circumstances. Little did I dream that I would become a political refugee.”
So, will the Malaysian Government issue the Hindraf Chief with a new passport to allow him to come home to his wife and seven-year-old daughter? Or will he be forced to stay in exile as a political refugee? The ball, it seems, is on the Home Ministry’s court!
Waytha Moorthy declines to say what his options would be in the event the Home Ministry refuses to issue him with a new passport. Rozario, meanwhile, says he can easily hazard a guess. However, he would prefer to do some solid legal research before sharing his findings with FreeMalaysiaToday.

Baradan Kuppusamy’s truth on Indian youths excluded from business, job opportunities, skills training etc. (The Star 18/11/2009 at page N23)

UMNO cannot plan to have them in Malaysia “as factory workers, lorry driver, security guards – jobs that require few skills”.

“ Hope and upwardly mobile opportunities and a believe that they too can have a meaningful career….” is the way forward which has to be implemented seriously by UMNO. Not mere “wayang kulit” through the print and electronic media as has been the case for the last 52 years.

P. Uthayakumar.


First2 minutes of Seetha's death 18Nov Suicide police shot dead

Sad road to Seetha’s suicide

I wrote the article below before news broke of Seetha’s passing. May she rest in peace. My prayers for her.

Words cannot hope to convey the plight of R Seetha (photo) who is in critical condition after her suicide bid.

NONEMine are hopelessly inadequate and I can only offer them in sympathy hearing that Seetha might die. Ingesting paraquat like she did causes liver, lung, heart or kidney failure within several days that can result in death.

In 2006, another young Indian woman M Sanggita took her four children to Sungei Gadut near Seremban to wait for the train to Singapore. The family was not going for a holiday but to their deaths.

Can you imagine such a state of mind where having the train run over you seems better than living? Sanggita, 30, and two of her children were killed that July day lying across the railway tracks.

“There is no use for all of us to live. I pity my kids. They have no future here. Let us be with God,” pleaded Sanggita in her suicide note.

She lamented that she could find no solace. “If given the opportunity, we would all come back as angels to help those in need,” the note ended. Like Sanggita, Seetha lived also in Negri Sembilan and perhaps angels did watch over her four children. Thankfully, they will – we’re hopeful – pull through after sipping the weed killer given by their mother.

Some people have called for Seetha to be charged with attempted murder.

It’s been reported that Seetha promised her children that if they drank the poison, they could meet their youngest uncle again who had been gunned down by police. I don’t think Seetha had it in mind to brutally kill her children – certainly not in the same way that police had done her brother Surendran.

Doubtless, I cannot claim to fathom what was going through her mind that tipped her over the edge. But neither can those condemning her imagine what Seetha has had to endure in her short life thus far. From the story fragments that have come to public knowledge, we can at best speculate.

A closed Tamil society

Seetha’s husband M Manimaran said his wife had told him that she wanted to see the departed Surendran and be with him.

rampathy police report_seetha dad_ 15112009Her father R Rampathy (far left) in his police report had said: “Seetha terlalu sayang kepada Surendran. Dia selalu nangis di hadapan gambar Surendran yang meninggal.”

The picture they paint is one of a woman consumed by inconsolable grief. For most of us, we lose our loved ones to old age or they succumb to natural causes. For the Tamil underclass like Seetha, death can visit a male sibling in a hail of bullets or occurring in the police lock-up. This comes about due to the chronic socio-economic deprivation of the community.

So, no, those comfortable armchair critics of Seetha can’t even begin to comprehend her anguish and the perennial dark cloud hanging when one is mired in poverty. Her father is a security guard; her husband a lorry driver. Both are low status and low pay jobs.

Seetha is a housewife; her mother is a housewife. A feminine shroud encloses homemakers in the still highly patriarchal Tamil society. The women’s limited life experience may not have allowed them to acquire the coping mechanisms that our ’survival of the fittest’ advocates, preaching fortitude, would like to think everyone else should possess.

The defeatist proletariat, denied access to empowering education, does not enjoy the buffer zone that better-off Malaysians have when it comes to confronting adversity and despair. Not just the shock of violent, sudden death but the depression that daily dampens their dispiriting environment.

Worlds apart, chasm between

A poor family earns a combined income of under RM1,092 monthly. This amount is all that a household – usually calculated as a unit comprising five members – has at their disposal to cover all expenditure including housing, utilities, food, schooling expenses and transport.

On the other hand, an affluent young couple may spend more than a thousand ringgit a month on milk powder alone for two young children, what with the price of things skyrocketing nowadays.

I’ve given the example above of two sets of people whose finances are at opposite ends. Wouldn’t their thinking norms be very different too? Seetha’s critics simply have no inkling of the facets of her world.

Do you know how many percent of Indians earn only around a thousand ringgit? The answer is 108,000 households … five years ago (certainly more poor people today). These 540,000 souls make up the bottom 30% of the 1.8 million total Indian population, according to the Social Strategic Foundation report of April 2005.

More data: From the Household Income Survey 2004 by the Economic Planning Unit and Department of Statistics. On the incidence of urban poverty, Bumiputera register 4.1%, Chinese 0.4% and Indian 2.4%.


Now compare with their respective population ratio that same year: Bumiputera was 61%, Chinese 24% and Indian 7% out of 25.6 million Malaysians. Indians who comprised a mere 7% of this country in 2004 showed a disproportionately high poverty rate in stark contrast to Chinese and Malays.

“You are on your own. Don’t hold out your hand because nothing will fall into it.” This quote is attributed to long overstaying MIC president Samy Vellu in the book ‘The Malaysian Indians’ by Muzafar Desmond Tate.

Heck, not only are the poor Indians refused help, even what little they had was taken away from them.

Rendered jobless and homeless

In 1980, plantation workers still accounted for over half of the entire Indian community, wrote Muzafar. What has been happening since then is that the plantations have been fragmented and their workers evicted from the labourer quarters.

The Putrajaya mega-project dislodged estate workers too (Golden Hope plantations among them) and in Mahathirville’s 4,580 hectares, there is no room for the Indians; you don’t see them in this shiny new administrative capital.

estate worker suhakam chairman resignation 080207 workersRubber estates like Golden Hope, Guthrie, Sime Darby and Boustead had been colonial enterprises.

Then, government agencies like Pemodalan Nasional Berhad took over Sime Darby (today merged with Guthrie and Golden Hope) while Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera acquired a controlling equity interest in Boustead. Now owned by government-linked Malays and managed by Malays, these corporations are developing the previously plantation land into lucrative real estate properties and new townships.

Oh well, too bad for the hapless Indians. Its displaced young generation drift to urban settlements and create slums.

As mentioned earlier, about 7% of the Malaysian general population is Indian but in their making up 16.1% of squatters, the ratio is double, not proportional. It’s hardly surprising that the Indian quota for low-cost rented accommodation with KL City Hall is always exhausted.

Meanwhile in Penang, a report submitted to the state government by the Socio-economic and Environmental Research Institute (Seri) in November 1998 revealed deplorable housing conditions.

Five percent of the survey respondents lived in containers while in Sungai Tiram, the majority of respondents lived in shacks which used to provide shelter for animals before. Ten years down the road, Penang kindly gave Indians the Kg Buah Pala saga.

The poverty trap led Surendran to his fateful meeting with destiny and trigger-happy cops. Seetha is the collateral damage. Can’t their circumstances and they too be considered hostage to the Indian condition?

NONEHuman Rights Party pro-tem secretary-general P Uthayakumar has intimated that should she die, he will bring her body to Parliament to drive home the point that police shootings of racially profiled and so-called ’suspects’ must stop.

Uthaya’s threat recalls the self-immolation or suicide by fire, of Buddhist monks to protest the Vietnamese regime in the 1960s.

Perhaps it will take a drastic measure like a frail, pretty corpse brought outside Parliament under the glare of international media attention to finally open Malaysia’s eyes. A deliberately neglected community is at the end of its tether, if only you knew.

hindraf british petition rally 251107Do you remember the unforgettable Hindraf rally images of Indians passively allowing themselves be drenched by chemical-laced water fired by the FRU cannons? How would an ordinary robust individual react in the same circumstances? You’d run.

So how did a swathe of marginalized Malaysians come to such pass that they squat wet in the street like martyrs with nothing else to lose?

Some have slammed Seetha for attempting to take her own life. Can these censorious people please try to plumb the question that plagued one who deserves only our compassion: ‘What’s there to live for?’

HELEN ANG is a Malaysiakini columnist.