The Hindraf leader says he wants to contest both Kota Raja parliamentary and Sri Andalas state seats as 'we have no choice but to stand as independents now'.
The seats are Kota Raja parliamentary seat and Sri Andalas state seat, currently held by Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud from PAS and PKR’s Dr Xavier Jeyakumar, respectively.
“We have no choice but to stand as independents now. We are going in as the first Hindraf activists. Three years after our release from ISA detention, none of Hindraf leaders have taken up any government positions in the Pakatan states. That’s because we want to champion the Indian cause without fear or favour,” Uthayakumar told a crowd of about 400 at Padang Chetty at Tengku Kelana in Klang.
“They [Pakatan Rakyat] only want the Indian votes, not solve the Indian problems,” he said, expressing clear disappointment that his invitation to the opposition to state its 100-day plan to address Indian issues has been “rejected” twice.
However, Uthayakumar stressed that Barisan Nasional (BN) was still its main enemy and it “wants Pakatan to go to Putrajaya, but to bring along seven Hindraf MPs and 14 state assemblymen as check and balance”.
“Our political position is firstly: Don’t vote for BN. We’ve have had enough – 50 years of Umno racism.”
“But Anwar [Ibrahim] is not here today,” said Uthayakumar, referring to his open offer to Pakatan, demanding that its leaders – PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim, PAS’ Hadi Awang and DAP’s Lim Kit Siang – publicly state their plans for the Indian community if they come to power.
Throughout the event today, Hindraf/HRP supporters, clothed in their usual orange uniforms, shouted “Long live Hindraf!” and “We want rights, not nambikei (trust)!” They marched alongside “urumee” drummers to the field where Hindraf leaders gave their speeches.
The spectacle also attracted a few hundred curious onlookers and also well-wishers.
Uthayakumar, the 51-year-old former Internal Security Act detainee, later spoke to reporters about his decision to contest in a general election for the first time since he began his activism in the 1980s.
‘My credential speak for itself’
“I am a lawyer of 22 years’ standing but now I am a full-time activist. I feel shy calling myself a ‘politician’ because popularity or scoring points is not my ultimate objective. It is the cause of the Indian poor, where there are no takers,” said Uthayakumar.
“If only the Chinese and Malay political leaders have spoken up, Hindraf would not have existed, and 100,000 would not have gone to the streets in 2007. But sadly now we (Hindraf) are labelled as racists.”
“My credential speak for itself. I was detained for one-and-a-half years for Hindraf, and I was never in BN, compared to many in Pakatan who are former Umno or MIC people. My links to the opposition go way back to 1978 when I first read a book Lim Kit Siang wrote and later 1998 when Anwar was sacked.
“Those two were my mentors, but today, if they have done something unjust I have to speak up.”
Asked to clarify the confusion between the Hindraf movement and HRP as a political party, Uthayakumar explained that he was still the Hindraf de facto leader and HRP pro tem secretary-general.
“I have always been the Hindraf de facto leader, there is no doubt about that. We run the headquarters of both Hindraf and HRP, I gave the orders for the Nov 25, 2007 Hindraf rally. So there is no confusion This is a small issue, it doesn’t matter,” he said, adding that he was unaware of reports that Hindraf had “severed ties” with him.
He said that a Hindraf supreme council meeting had decided that he should be the first candidate to announce his candidacy.
On whether he has a manifesto, Uthayakumar said one of Hindraf’s main agendas is to fight for the end of racist policies.
“Our main thrust is to end racism on both sides of the political spectrum. We want Malaysians born after 1957 to be Bumiputeras. We should have equal rights for all,” he said.
An uphill battle
“The Indians, on a needs basis, need help the most; any reasonable Malay and Chinese would know that. In western societies, they bend backwards to help the minorities. But sadly in Malaysia, our politicians mainly play to the majority – Malay and Chinese – gallery. It is an uphill battle, but we still have to fight.”
“People ask me: What can I deliver? I can fight at the highest political level – at the State Legislative Assembly and Parliament, that is my promise. Not just at the streets now where I fight a case-by-case basis.”
Other than Kota Raja and Sri Andalas, Hindraf plans to contest in Kuala Selangor and Kelana Jaya parliamentary seats; and Sri Andalas, Ijok, Bukit Melawati, and Seri Setia state assembly seats.
“These are seats with 28% to 33% Indian voters. We’ll be announcing other candidates soon,” he said.
On why why he chose Kota Raja and Sri Andalas, Uthayakumar said: “Kota Raja has the highest Indian concentration at 29%, with Malays at 46%, Chinese (23%). We’ve the best chance here to reach Parliament. Hindraf has decided it has to be me. Sri Andalas has about 23% Indian voters so the situation is similar.”
Another factor in his favour, said Uthayakumar, is the absence of Orang Asli and military votes in the areas.
Uthayakumar said that Pakatan has tried to help the Indians in these constituencies but he said the current leaders lacked “permanent solutions”.
Uthayakumar said another big issue Hindraf is fighting for is the stateless Indians.
“Some 450,000 Indians have no documents. The government has documented thousands of foreigners but what about our own people, the Indians?”
On the possibility of Hindraf staying out of the general election entirely, Uthayakumar said it was still on the cards.
“Yes, we’ll stay out if Pakatan can give us a written guarantee that they will look into our 18-point demand and give us a timeline to fulfil them. We’re not here for money or politics, we just want
results,” he said.
Uthayakumar also said that another point Hindraf is putting out is that “not voting is an option”.
“It’s up to you, but just do not vote for BN. When it comes between Pakatan and Hindraf, please vote for us. We’ve asked Pakatan to make way. But if comes to a three-cornered fight, so be it, we have no other choice. It’s our last resort because we’ve sought to join forces many times, but they’ve ignored us.”
Malaysians of Indian origin account for about 1.9 million (7.3%) of the country’s 28 million population. Analysts have noted the impact the 2007 Hindraf rally had on the Indian voter trend, though it now remains to be seen if the same result can be achieved in the 13th general election, and whether Hindraf could still play as pivotal a role as it did in 2008.