Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hindraf joins forces with indigenous group in London

It was a historic first in London on Tuesday when Hindraf joined forces with an indigenous group from Sabah and Sarawak to lobby legislators on issues still lingering from the British colonial period in Malaysia.

Hindraf chair P Waythamoorthy and advisor N Ganesan made the case for their Hindu Rights Action Force at the House of Commons, while Sabah and Sarawak were represented by Common Interest Group Malaysia (Cigma) activists Daniel John Jambun and Nicholas Bawin Anggat.

Both Cigma and Hindraf reiterated the case that Britain had a lingering historical, legal and moral obligation towards its former subjects in its ex-colonies.

“We are only asking for our rights under the federal constitution,” stressed Hindraf advisor Ganesan in highlighting 15 areas of human rights violations by the Malaysian government. “We want our place in the Malaysian sun.”

hindraf indigenous groups uk 110310Ganesan (right standing) went on to allege that the Indian community, largely the descendants of indentured plantation labour brought in by the British from Tamil Nadu, were being systematically marginalised by the ruling BN government.

“The various issues causing marginalisation are not individual aberrations or decisions gone wrong but are systematic and repeated in many specific instances,” said Ganesan in summing up several case histories and studies.

“The problem with the Indian poor is multiplying and this has been illustrated with clear evidence.”

Ganesan is also advisor to the Human Rights Party, helmed by P Uthayakumar, the elder of the Hindraf brothers.

The special privileges for the Malays and natives, in its original form, covered only four areas - reasonable representation for the Malays and natives in the civil service; intake into government institutions of higher learning; government scholarships; and a share of government-created opportunities to do business.

However, Hindraf alleges that the government had unilaterally extended it to every facet of life in Malaysia.

KL not abiding to Malaysia Agreement

Meanwhile, Cigma senior activists Jambun from Sabah and Nicholas Bawin from Sarawak, made the case for Malaysian Borneo by urging the British government to return to a revived Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) on the Malaysia Agreement.

Other members of the IGC are the governments of Sabah, Sarawak, Malaysia and Singapore.

The IGC, pointed out both activists, was a permanent institution meant to monitor the Malaysian government's compliance with the 1963 Malaysia Agreement.

The Malaysian government, in the absence of the IGC, has been in non-compliance, according to both activists.

“Kuala Lumpur could easily impose proxies, stooges and traitors in Sabah and Sarawak and ignore the legitimate aspirations of the people.”

Jambun said that over the past 50 years “various modifications and adjustments” to the Malaysia Agreement have eroded the rights and privileges of Sabahans.

“Forty-six years after independence, Sabah is now the poorest state despite its abundant natural resources,” he lamented.

nicholas bawin pkr candidate for batang ai state seat 270209 01Bawin (left) gave a brief history of the Abdul Taib Mahmud government in Sarawak which, according to him, has been a proxy for the last 30 years for the ruling elite in Kuala Lumpur.

“Land, timber, oil and gas are all resources which are not benefitting the people of Sarawak,” said Nicholas.

Both Bawin and Jambun pointed out that Brunei stayed out from Malaysia at the 11th hour and Singapore left two years after.

The two countries, it was stressed, are light years ahead of Sabah and Sarawak “who were forced into a bad idea called Malaysia”. The statistics on poverty, it was pointed out, tell the whole story.

Sabah facing new threats

The Sabah activist, in his presentation on behalf of Cigma chair Jeffrey Kitingan, detailed the threats to the security and sovereignty of Sabah since Malaysia in 1963.

The thrust of his case was that the indigenous majority were being overwhelmed by hordes of illegal immigrants from neighbouring nations.

“We acknowledge that Sabah has labour needs and especially in an increasingly globalised economy,” said Jambun. “But what we cannot accept is illegal immigrants being issued with Malaysian personal documents via the back door and being placed on the electoral rolls.”

hindraf in london 110310 01The presence of illegal immigrants on the electoral rolls, especially in marginal seats, has been at the expense of the indigenous majority, stressed Jambun, “and compromised the security and sovereignty of Sabah”.

For the first time, a Sabah leader openly alleged that the state was now a safe haven for terrorists on the run, rebels and kidnappers. “JI or Jemaah Islamiyah, a terror network, has been identified as having its presence in Sabah,” disclosed Jambun. “So has Darul Islam Sabah.”

Hence, with the presence of “armed foreigners on our soil”, thundered Jambun, Sabah is no longer a secure state. “Where is the security promised us by the Federation of Malaysia in 1963?” he asked the British.

hindraf in london 110310 waythamoorthyHindraf chair Waythamoorthy in summing up for both his movement and Cigma alleged that Malaysia has been re-colonised by a ruling elite with the departure of the British.

“Independence has brought us a raw deal. The promises have not materialised whether for the indigenous people in Sabah and Sarawak or for the Indian community and others in Peninsular Malaysia,” said Waythamoorthy.

“The New Economic Policy was supposed to eradicate poverty irrespective of race. Instead, the benefits have gone to an elite minority.”

Statelessness, continued Waythamoorthy in elaborating on a point earlier raised by Ganesan, continues to plague not only the Indians but also the indigenous peoples in Sabah and Sarawak and others.

Labour MP chairs meeting

British Labour MP Virendra Sharma for Ealing Southall, a community known as 'Little India' in London, chaired the meeting.

Speaking on behalf of his peers, he expressed their dismay at the alleged serious violations of human rights by the Malaysian authorities detailed by Hindraf and Cigma.

“I will bring this up to my government,” he assured. “We will also initiate a committee at the parliamentary level to further deliberate on what we have heard here today for follow-up measures and action.

'We can certainly set up a group in Parliament to talk about the plight of marginalised Malaysians.”

He said that overseas Malaysians can lobby their local MPs to exert pressure on the Foreign Office in Malaysia.

Isabel Tay, a Malaysian who attended the briefing, said, “I'm now a lot more aware on how the minority communities view the situation in Malaysia.”

courtesy of Malaysiakini

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