On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Mission impossible

IT’S mission impossible – to seek RM14tril from Britain for bringing indentured labourers to this country and exploiting them for the last 150 years. 

And there is the promise that every Indian in Malaysia will get RM1mil through this class action suit filed by the lawyers of Hindraf, the Hindu Rights Action Force. 

Logic tells us that this is unlikely to work out but the organisers probably assume that this is an ingenious way of attracting attention. 

More interestingly, or outrageously, they want to gather at the British High Commission to seek the Queen’s help to engage a counsel to defeat her own government in the courts. 

Until last week, when the key players of the planned illegal gathering were arrested, most Malaysians had not heard of this group. 

But they have been working up the crowd for months, especially in the rubber and oil palm estates in Selangor. 

On Friday, lawyers P. Waythamoorthy, his brother Uthayakumar, and V.S. Ganapathi Rao were charged with uttering seditious words in Tamil at a gathering in Batang Berjuntai, Kuala Selangor, on Nov 16. 

The police have also served on Hindraf a court order against holding or taking part in the rally. 

Close watch 

The Special Branch has obviously been watching the group’s movements while the lawyers seemed prepared for the consequences. 

Hindraf has its own website and the staff posted pictures of a smiling Uthayakumar being handcuffed at his office to the media within hours of the arrest. The lawyer’s staff also handled questions from reporters on the arrest efficiently and politely. 

Uthayakumar has always enjoyed living up to the image of fighting for the downtrodden and at one point reportedly claimed he had to go into “hiding” in the United Kingdom – the country which he claims has given the Indians a raw deal – because his life was purportedly in danger. 

On the flipside, Putrajaya is obviously losing its patience on organised demonstrations following the illegal gathering by Bersih in Kuala Lumpur recently. 

The police have said it involved 4,000 people while the organisers have put it at 40,000, although it was touted at 100,000 initially. But the protest was essentially a PAS show, although there were non-governmental groups, and no one can deny that it was predominantly Malay. 

While there are many who insist that such gatherings can be peaceful and should be allowed, there are probably a larger number who are feeling uneasy with such street politics. 

Some have called for tougher actions, even the use of the Internal Security Act, against the organisers, but the leadership seems to have exercised restraint. Still, the warnings have been made. 

Business groups are obviously disturbed that millions of ringgit would be lost because of these protests. With the holiday season now on, traders are not in the mood for anything that drives away business. 

The Government is understandably unhappy with Hindraf but it should listen to the calls of the Indian community. 

The majority of Indian voters, although their size is shrinking, have been loyal supporters of the Barisan Nasional.  

A hand in progress 

Malaysia would not be where it is today if it was not for their contributions to the rubber boom and the civil service. 

Today, many have their quarrels with the MIC but, like most Malaysians, they prefer the status quo for political and economic stability. 

Still, there is this sense of alienation and of being marginalised even as Malaysia prospers. Issues such as poverty, lack of educational opportunities and temple demolitions have serious impact on the community. 

There are serious social problems affecting Indians – they make up a large number of the inmates in our prisons and detention centres. 

Gangsterism has become a major concern, and it’s not just the influence of Tamil movies. Some would say it is a question of being disenfranchised. 

Poverty affects all communities – from the rural Malays to the Chinese in urban and new village areas and Indians in the estates. 

But the leadership, it should be stressed, has always been committed to power sharing among the various ethnic groups. 

The Indians do not have a single predominantly Indian state or parliamentary seat in Malaysia. But some seats, where Malays make up over 80% of the electorate, have been given to the MIC. 

Those who advocate street protests in the name of freedom of expression may wish to ponder how we should react if every community decides to take burning issues to the streets. 

The mission to help Malaysians, regardless of their race, should be on that which is possible to achieve.