Sunday, January 23, 2011

Marginalised minorities to form power bloc

(Malaysiakini) Smarting under the yoke of what they claimed to be the 53-year tyranny of BN's "majority rule" and whetted by the tsunami of 2008, minority groups have banded together, hoping to create a new power bloc in Malaysian politics.

hindraf makkal sakthi human rights conference 230111 speakers panelWhat they are trying to recreate, though on a much grander scale, is the flashpoint ignited by Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) and the free and fair elections advocacy group Bersih, which many believed swayed the last general election.

Both NGOs were responsible for galvanising the groundswell of public support that was said to have helped reverse BN's once hegemonic hold on the two-thirds majority in Parliament and as well as wrest control of five states.

The 2008 experience has proven that small dedicated groups of minorities can cause a lot of waves if they work together.

It is towards this government-influencing, if not government changing critical mass that a collage of self-described "marginalised minorities" has decided to embark upon.

N Ganesan, HRP advisor June 4"We have suffered from the centrifugal force which continues to victimise us. We need a change," said moderator N Ganesan (left) at the National Human Rights Conference on The Future of Marginalised Communities in Malaysia at the KL-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall today.

Hailing from the length and breadth of the Borneo isle and the peninsula, the panel for today's discussion included representatives of groups contending that they have been disenfranchised - the Indians, Dayaks, Orang Aslis and the disabled.

However, this time, they have decided not to peg their hopes on any political party but will look more to their own interests, aiming to hold whoever is contesting at ransom, their votes for solutions to their concerns.

'We need change'
"After 2008, we were hoping that Pakatan would improve things for us. But to be honest, Pakatan did nothing for the disabled. We need change, we need good leaders who can deliver," lamented Independent Living Training Center coordinator Francis Siva in his speech to the 150-strong audience.

His main grouse, something which he said is shared by the disabled community, is the indifference with which the authorities, even in Pakatan states, treat their requests and concerns.

On the other hand are there are the Dayaks and the Orang Asli whose main grouses are centred on their relationship with their customs, the land and surrounding forest.

They claim this is being denied to them by a federal government keen on developing and extracting natural resources, so much so that it saw no wrong in stealing land owned by the Orang Asli and Dayaks.

"Timber is extracted and nature's treasures destroyed," accused Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia Pahang chapter chairperson Yusri Jahut.

The government's hunger for land and resources, they said, is threatening their livelihood, and poised to sever the ties to those things they hold so dear.

"We are being treated like the Red Indians of America, about a hundred years ago," lamented John Ryan Anthony of the Sarawak Dayak National Union.

He was joined by Hindraf national coordinator W Sambulingan who criticised government policies of the NEP and 'ketuanan Melayu' which he said continue to cow the Indians, warning against a possible 'Tunisia' style popular uprising.

Memo to PM

The conference came up with a list of resolutions which they will compile into a memorandum that will be sent to the PM in a month's time.

The memorandum is but a starting point as the groups all agree to move forward into a collective response to encroachments into their basic rights.

NONE"If you tell me to go to war, then we go to war. We just lack expertise, if you provide the expertise, we will provide the muscle," said Anthony displaying his commitment to the new alliance.

Former Sabah PKR leader Jeffrey Kitingan (right) joined the panel though he did not gave a speech. He was joined by another former PKR leader Zaid Ibrahim who made a cameo appearance, but just sat quietly in the audience.

"I am here just to listen," said Zaid when asked to join the panel.

The conference was organised by the Hindraf, jointly with Human Rights Foundation, Borneo Resource Institute (BRI), Common Interest Group of Sabah and Sarawak (Cigma), Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) and several other NGOs.

Hindraf shocks Sabah, S’wak reps

KUALA LUMPUR: Indigenous delegates from Sabah and Sarawak attending the National Human Rights Conference on the Future of Marginalised and Minority Communities in Malaysia were stunned when told of the conditions of the majority of Indians in Peninsular Malaysia.

Reacting to a paper presented by Hindraf national coordinator, W Sambulingam, one delegate from Sabah who declined to be named, told FMT: “I almost forget about my our own crippling conditions in Sabah.”

In his presentation, Sambulingam had described in detail, along with facts and figures, the striking conditions of the Indians in Malaysia.

He revealed that so depressed were their lives that suicide rates among the Indians were the highest at 21.1 suicides in every 100,000 Indians.

He also said that more than 30% of Indians do not own a house, compared to 25% Malays and 18% Chinese.

“Because of extremely depressed conditions, the suicide rate among Indians is also very high, that is 21.1 suicides in every 100,000 Indians, compared to 8.6 per 100,000 Chinese and 2.6 per 100,000 Malays.

“There are many Indians who live in destitution in urban squatter colonies. There are thousands of stateless Indian children and adults. We have a very low performance in life due to the systematic denial of opportunities in the areas of education, employment and business,” he said.

Indian youths in crime

But most worrying, he pointed out, was the fact that 40% of the Indian youths are involved in crime and more than 60% of inmates in detentions camps are Indians.

In addition, more than 95% of police custodial deaths are also Indians, he said.

“This is a burgeoning problem… Indians today are stereotyped and vulnerable to be linked to crimes. They are being relegated to all the low end jobs in society, very small involvement in development programmes in the country.

“Complete landlessness is overwhelming the community. The entire Tamil School primary system needs to be revamped. Land for Tamil schools, Hindu temples, and burial grounds need to be addressed but who is listening to our plight?” he asked.

He said the government must provide equal opportunities based on merit and reaffirm Article 153 and Article 8 of the Federal Constitution that guarantees equal rights for all.

Among those in attendance at the one-day conference here were Kita party pesident, Zaid Ibrahim, CigMa chief Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, well known Sabah social activist Patrick Sindu, and scores of social justice advocates. Also attending were 200 participants from various communities.