Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hindraf's Waytha seeks debate with Perkasa

By Joe Fernandez

KOTA KINABALU: Hindraf Makkal Sakthi will invite Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali and his most prominent supporter, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, to a conference on Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, which it plans to hold in the British Parliament.

“This will be a chance for the duo to flog their racist cause before the world once and for all,” said Kelantan-born Hindraf chief Waythamoorthy Ponnusamy, who is in exile in Britain.

Speaking to FMT by telephone from Singapore, he said the proposed conference would also prove de facto Law Minister Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz wrong about Article 153.

Nazri recently said the article could not be questioned and that it was because Waythamoorthy had broken this taboo that he could not be allowed back in the country.

“I did not merely question Article 153,” said Waythamoorthy. “I have repeatedly called for it to be scrapped.”

He said the proposed conference will see “a distinguished gathering of Queen’s counsel” debating Article 153 within the full scope of the Federal Constitution and declassified documents pertaining to the Merdeka talks.

“Hindraf will be holding talks with two QCs from the Doughty Street Chamber on April 6 in London in preparation for the conference,” he said.

“We have not finalised whether the conference will be in the House of Commons or the House of Lords, but most probably the latter.”

The conference will discuss at least four topics:

* Special Malay privileges is a myth created by Umno’s propaganda machine and does not exist in Article 153;

* Article 153 also covers the legitimate aspirations of the non-Malay communities besides mentioning the natives of Sabah and Sarawak and the Malays;

* The powers of the King over Article 153 have been systematically usurped by Umno as a party and government since independence in 1957 and this must be viewed as treason; and

* Article 153 was supposed to be scrapped 15 years after independence.

Declassified papers

Waythamoorthy said he would also invite the Attorrney-General “to state the Malaysian government’s position before the international community”.

He rejected a comparison between Hindraf and Perkasa and the allegation that both are racist organisations.

“It doesn’t mean that we are racist just because we talk about the plight of the Indians all the time,” he said. “We are only seeking our rights under the Federal Constitution which have been denied us. We are not out to deprive anyone of his place in the sun, unlike Perkasa, although they will deny it like all racists.”

He does not rule out participation in the London conference by apolitical groups like the Common Interest Group Malaysia (CigMa) headed by Jeffrey Kitingan and various Orang Asli associations who were involved in a rare demonstration recently in Putrajaya.

However, he said, he saw little point in Umno taking part in the conference since the party, he alleged, had out-sourced its racist ideology to Perkasa in order to stay relevant in the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

“We are going to prove through the conference that Umno has been misleading everybody on Article 153 and taking them for a ride,” he said. “We will easily establish this. We are backed by the Federal Constitution, including Article 153, and the declassified papers on the Merdeka talks.”

He pointed out that the declassified papers, although still considered official secrets in Malaysia, were no longer so in Britain.

The bottomline is that Hindraf wants Article 153 scrapped but would consider supporting a new article guaranteeing protection for the underprivileged of all races.

“The weakness of the present Article 153 is that it has been ignored and the legitimate aspirations of the non-Malay communities have been legislated against subsequently by Umno and institutionalised in various forms to discriminate against them,” fumed Waythamoorthy.

He conceded that the Malays, as well as the natives of Sabah and Sarawak, were still claiming that they were backward and needed affirmative action by the state.

“Over one trillion ringgit was poured into the Malay economy alone under the New Economic Policy,” he said. “It’s time that the Malays stood up as a community and asked their leaders what happened to the money. Why isn’t it in their pockets?”