22 November, 2007

Malaysia boleh, Malaysian sues Britain over ethnic Indians' woes

An ethnic Indian in Malaysia is using an audacious strategy to highlight the plight of his mostly impoverished community by suing Britain, the country's former colonial ruler, for $4 trillion.

The Malaysian government dismisses the case as baseless, but lawyer Waytha Moorthy is determined to pursue it, even vowing to appeal to Britain's Queen Elizabeth to appoint lawyers for the Indian community, which he says is too poor to find its own.
Moorthy wants Britain to pay damages of 1 million sterling ($2.06 million) to each of Malaysia's 2 million ethnic Indians for rights abuses he traces to colonial-era labor schemes that brought their ancestors to Malaysia as indentured workers.

"We are seeking compensation because we were permanently colonized during British rule, and now, under the government of the ethnic Malays," Moorthy told Reuters.

"We have lost touch with our roots and have been suppressed so far," said Moorthy, who accuses British officials of failing to honor their responsibility to protect ethnic Indians when they granted independence to Malaysia in 1957.

In colonial times, many impoverished Indians and Chinese flocked to work and settle in Malaysia, drawn by government schemes meant to attract cheap labor for the country's then lucrative rubber estates and tin mines, he added.

RUN FOR HIS MONEY

Some might feel that Moorthy, who paid court fees of more than 2,000 pounds to file his case in London's Royal Courts of Justice, has already got a run for his money from the Malaysian newspaper headlines that have trumpeted his story.

But the episode highlights a very real dilemma: after 50 years of independence, ethnic Indians, most of whom are Hindu, own just 1.5 percent of the country's national wealth.

The group, which forms about eight percent of Malaysia's 26 million people, says a decades-old affirmative action plan for the country's Malay Muslim majority has deprived it of opportunities, and the government has done little to improve living standards.

The affirmative action plan, adopted after deadly race riots in 1969, favors politically dominant Malays in housing, education, businesses, jobs and state contracts. Ethnic Indians say the policy is discriminatory.

Poor education further cripples their chances of upward social mobility, forcing them to continue being laborers, although some are now losing out to cheaper foreign workers.

"Indians have suffered under the Muslim-majority Malay government and also during British government rule for the past 200 years," said Moorthy.

His suit also asks the British courts to declare the Malaysian constitution void for not safeguarding the rights of ethnic Indians, and seeks British citizenship for the group.

Moorthy said he was gathering 100,000 signatures for a petition to Queen Elizabeth to appoint lawyers to represent the Indian community, which was too poor to pay its own legal costs, which he estimated would reach a million pounds.

"We only want justice in the United Kingdom courts," he added. "Whatever justice is given to us we will accept."

(taken from Yahoo! news - Oddly Enough News)




Malaysia and the Myth of ‘Tanah Melayu’ (Part I)

Yet the editorials in the vernacular press are baying for blood and Meng Chee, they insist, must be brought to book. Amidst this furore of chest-thumping theatrics and protestations of communal insult and outrage, we hear the communitarians among us blare out again and again: ‘Jangan tunduk’, ‘Defend our pride’, ‘kurang ajar’ and so forth. No, reason and rational debate are no longer welcomed in Malaysia that is ‘truly Asia’, and this homeland for some will demand its pound of flesh from others. Meng Chee is not the first and certainly will not be the last to suffer from the slighted sensitivities of those whose comfort zones and essentialised identities are sacrosanct and inviolable. Previously others have also been brought to the village tribunal of the mob for allegedly insulting race and religion as well. (Here I write from bitter experience myself.)


We are sustained by myths only as long as they are empowering, inspiring, instrumental and serve our interests; yet when those very same myths provide us with little else than the false comfort of an unreconstructed nostalgia for a past that never existed, then they turn into cages that imprison us for life. The myth of a unique European ‘civilisational genius’ has only helped to parochialise Europe even more; the staid discourse of ‘Asian values’ merely denies the fact that Asian civilisations would not have developed as they did without contact with the outside world; and the myth of a pure and uninterrupted development of Indo-Aryan culture has only opened the way for the rise of right-wing Hindutva Fascists in the Indian subcontinent. Notwithstanding their claims to standing proud and tall, the demagogues who utter such pedestrian nonsense remain stunted, as their logic, on the stage of global history: testimony to the claim that those whose confidence is founded in stilts can only remain handicapped for life…....


The skin of the demagogue is ever so sensitive, so fragile, in the face of the sound argument. As soon as the mention of a contrary idea is made, it bristles and reacts; the hand reaches for the keris; the foot steps on the soap-box; the mouth opens to utter the word ‘May’ to be followed by the cryptic number thirteen…


Read more from The other Malaysia, Written by Farish A. Noor here.

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