KUALA LUMPUR: A human rights advocate has expressed “surprise” that former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad used the “K” word, instead of saying Tamil, when falling back on the word “podah” (Tamil for ‘get lost’) in reference to the global financial scandals.
It’s doubly surprising, said Hindraf Makkal Sakthi supremo P. Waythamoorthy, “because Mahathir himself is of Indian origin, his family hailing from Kerala, southwest India. “Mahathir’s family tree is in his official biography, ‘Profiles in Courage’, by J V. Morais.”
Mahathir, perhaps, wanted to stress a point when he fell back on the “podah” word to argue that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has no credibility,” ventured Waytha in a telephone interview.
The Hindraf Chief, a senior lawyer in private practice, stressed the former Prime Minister should not have used a derogatory term for Indians, Tamils in particular. “He could have said, ‘as the Tamils would say . . . podah’ . . .”
Instead of focussing on the scandals and the Najib Administration, public attention has shifted at least for the next few days to Mahathir using a derogatory term, lamented Waytha. “I don’t think that he will apologise.”
“At least Najib had the decency to apologise in 2013 for the wrongs done to Indians, especially pronounced during Mahathir’s 22 years as Prime Minister.”
In any case, he would not waste time demanding an apology. “Mahathir is recalcitrant as described once by an Australian Prime Minister.”
Mahathir, he reminded, has not been caught apologising for anything in his past.
The people in Sabah, said Waytha in citing another example, “caught Mahathir with his pants down, padding their electoral rolls with illegal immigrants armed with MyKads”.
The Hindraf Chief recalled the former Prime Minister even went to the extent of defending “being party to illegality” in Sabah. “His pathetic excuse was that Tunku Abdul Rahman issued citizenships to two million Chinese who, according to him, were not eligible.”
“He ignored the fact the Chinese involved were not illegal immigrants.”
Given Mahathir’s “less than perfect record on apologies”, said Waytha, he has to seriously mull over whether it was worthwhile lodging a police report against Mahathir for “upsetting and insulting others”. “It’s defamatory to refer to all Tamils and/or Indians as convicts or of convict origin, by the ‘K’ word.”
“Keling”, pointed out Waytha, is a local corruption of the English “cling”. “Cling cling was the noise made by the ankle chains attached to the convicts brought to Penang by the British from Tamil Nadu.”
In those days, said Waytha, the British looked for any excuse to ship labour to their colonies. “In Britain, they caught people for even minor offences, and shipped them off to Australia as convicts, to be used as labour, and to populate the continent.”