Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hindraf seeking more classified documents to sue Britain

Hindraf's lawyers in London say they need more documents on the colonial period in Malaysia to refile their suit against the British government
By Athi Sankar - FMT
GEORGE TOWN: Hindraf Makkal Sakti is set to refile its suit against the British government by the end of he year.

Hindraf chairman, P Waytha Moorthy, originally filed a class action suit on Aug 31, 2007, the 50th anniversary of Malaysia’s independence, against the United Kingdom London courts for US$4 trillion.

The suit was filed prior to Nov 25 historic Hindraf rally in Kuala Lumpur, to demand compensation for Indian Malaysians whose ancestors were brought in by the colonial government as indentured labour.

It claimed that, after granting independence to Malaya, the British had left the Indians without representation and at the mercy of the majority Malays.

However, the suit was stalled following the Malaysian government’s clampdown on Hindraf and arrest of several lawyers, including the movement legal adviser and Waytha Moorthy’s brother Uthayakumar under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA).

Hindraf’s lawyers in London say that to refile the suit they need relevant documents which is kept by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)

The lawyers have made a second request to the FCO to facilitate its impending million pounds suit against the former colonial master.

The movement’s legal counsel in London, Imran Khan (pix below) has made the second request on May 25 this year after the Hindraf’s first request on Jan 6 this year was refused by FCO.

The second request is made to seek access to all documents and information held or that which is within the knowledge of the FCO as well as any material held by any other governmental departments which have had access/dealings with Malaya between 1945 and 1957.

“In the event that the FCO refuses to provide us with the documents, we will then exhaust all internal review procedures to have access to the disclosure of these materials and documents.

“If this too failed, we will pursue other avenues such as a judicial review to force the FCO to release the documents necessary for the claim,” said solicitors Imran Khan & Partners in a statement to FMT.

More documents available

The statement said the FCO has turned down Hindraf’s first request citing that domestic records of colonial administrations did not form part of British official records and they were kept by the individual states created at independence.

It has now come to Hindraf’s knowledge that there were more classified documents held in undisclosed locations by the British government, as stated by Lord David Howell, Minister of State for FCO in the recent “Mau Mau uprising” case in London.

Lord Howell has also said that it was the general practice for the colonial administration to transfer to the United Kingdom, in accordance with Colonial Office instructions shortly before independence, selected documents held by the governor.

Lord Howell has said that these documents were deemed not appropriate to hand on to the successor governments.

FCO is said to hold about 8,800 files from 37 former British administrations, including Aden, Brunei, Cyprus, Fiji, Gambia, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaya, Malta, Mauritius, Nigeria, Northern Rhodesia, Palestine, Sarawak, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Swaziland, and Uganda.

The UK legal firm said it was first instructed by Waytha Moorthy in 2009 to look at the prospects of re-filing a legal action in the English courts for reparation against the UK government for failing to protect the legitimate interests of the minority ethnic Indian group under the Malaysian Federation Constitution when it was drafted in 1957.

Independently, Waytha Moorthy and a small team of volunteers of their own volition have unearthed nearly 35,000 “declassified” documents from various independent sources.

Hindraf’s solicitors were seeking more classified documents because the documents on hand clearly showed a huge lacuna (gap) in the information leading to Malaya’s independence.

Hindraf claimed that the Reid Commission was partly to blame for the government’s discriminatory policies as the commission did not provide for constitutional protection to the Indian community.