Monday, August 8, 2011

UK lawyers to meet clients for Hindraf suit

The movement's London-based lawyers will be down to meet potential clients for the class action suit against the British government.
By Athi Sankar - FMT,

GEORGE TOWN: Hindraf Makkal Sakti’s London-based lawyers, who will be here starting Thursday, want to meet potential co-clients for the class action suit against the British government.

In a statement to FMT, Hindraf counsel Imran Khan said he would be in Malaysia for several days to accept instructions from ethnic Indians as their legal representative in order to consider including them as co-claimants in the suit.

The two-man delegation would also engage in a fact-finding mission to obtain first-hand information on the perceived injustices meted out on ethnic Indians.
Hindraf would be organising a public forum on this at the Hokkien Hall in Klang on Aug 14.
Imran said the suit was initiated by Hindraf chairman P Waythamoorthy due to the former colonial master’s failure to protect the ethnic Indian community’s rights, interests and benefits under the Malaya Federal Constitution.
He said his client saw the legal action as a class action on behalf of current ethnic Malaysian Indians, whose forefathers were transported as labourers under the indentured labour system.
He pointed out that Waythmoorthy’s own great grandfather was forcibly abducted and transported to Malaya as a labourer.

The indentured labour system was devised by the British colonial office to address the acute labour shortage in Malaya. Most ethnic Indians were brought in to work in rubber plantations.

Waythamoorthy’s research of British records on Malaya revealed that rubber export was undisputedly the number one revenue earner for the country for decades, even after independence.

He originally filed the class action suit on Aug 31, 2007, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Malaysia’s independence, in London seeking US$4 trillion as compensation for Indian Malaysians.

However, the suit was stalled following the Malaysian government’s clampdown on Hindraf and arrest of several lawyers, including Waythamoorthy’s brother and the movement’s legal adviser P Uthayakumar, under the Internal Security Act.

Among others, the suit claimed that after granting independence to Malaya, the British had left the Indians without representation and at the mercy of Malay extremism practiced by the Umno government.

Suit to be re-filed

Following Waythamoorthy’s instruction in 2009 to re-file the stalled class action, Imran had the opportunity to consider several documents pertaining to the independence of Malaya.

After a perusal of the documents, Imran and Waythamoorthy had a conference on issues of relevance with a senior Queen’s Counsel in June, 2010.

“Due to client confidentiality, I am not able to reveal the outcome of the conference,” said Imran.
Acting on the QC’s advice, Imran wrote to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London to request the release of all documents pertaining to Malaya’s independence.

The documents kept under the British Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2000 were mostly from the period between 1945 and1957.

Imran said FCO recently confirmed that some documents in its possession remained classified.
Access to those documents would not be possible until FCO consulted relevant departments before deciding on whether to declassify the documents.

As of now, the FCO had used its discretionary powers vested under the FoI to deny Hindraf access to the documents.

Following this, Imran took legal steps under the recommended appeal procedure to challenge the FCO decision.