Latest interview with Uthayakumar

November 15th, 2011 by poobalan | View blog reactions Leave a reply »
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He answers some questions and creates more as well. Enjoy interpreting!


The tinted glass door, which conceals the operations within from the outside world, slides open and a beaming P Uthayakumar emerges to welcome FMT into his lair. Nestled in a shop-lot in Bangsar Utama here, this is the nerve centre of both Hindraf and its political offspring, the Human Rights Party (HRP).

Outside, sits an antiquated Volvo, which the 50-year-old lawyer purchased in 1993. “It’s my first car,” he said, conceding that the road he has chosen is anything but profitable.

Inside, the former Internal Security Act detainee has created a replica of his cell at the Kamunting Detention Centre, which includes a figurine of himself.

Sporting a blown-up image of Uthayakumar with long beard and unkempt hair, the figurine, clutching a food tray, is dressed in the same tattered clothes which he wore during his detention.

The enclosure is littered with the books he had read during his incarceration and other items, including the toothbrush and toothpaste he used.

“You see, there is no brand,” he said, picking up the plain white toothpaste tube. “I believe it comes from China and when you use it for a long period, your teeth actually fall off,” he added, laughing.

The walls of the cell are plastered with photographs depicting Hindraf’s struggle throughout the years.

In his private chambers, a computer screen wired to the CCTV, allows Uthayakumar to keep a vigilant eye on the front door just in case the police come knocking.

Racist, extremist, threat or hero?

Mention the Hindraf leader’s name and it is bound to draw mixed reactions.

To some, he is a threat, racist and extremist. The harsher critics believe he has lost his marbles or is nothing more than an Indian clone of Perkasa’s Ibrahim Ali. But to some, he is a hero who has suffered for the betterment of the Indian community in Malaysia.

In his defence, Uthayakumar said Hindraf and HRP voice the truth; and the truth knows not political correctness. As a result of this, the feathers of those on both sides of the political divide are ruffled.

“Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat want the Indian votes but not their problems,” he added.

Bouquets and brickbats aside, the irrefutable fact is that Hindraf forced the government to take notice of the Indian community’s plight and caused a vote swing in the last general election.

Within a few hours on that epochal November morning four years ago, Hindraf managed to do something which MIC was unable to do for decades. Even the once-critical MIC leaders acknowledged this.

There are also those who claim that Uthayakumar has transformed into a BN operative based on his scathing criticisms against the opposition.

‘Ultimate struggle is to end Umno’s rule’

But the Hindraf leader makes it crystal clear that his beef with Umno is greater and therefore the movement is willing to extend a conditional olive branch to Pakatan in order to vanquish a common foe.

“Our ultimate political struggle is to end Umno’s rule in Putrajaya. It is one of the last few remaining regimes in the world which has ruled this nation for 54 years. We want an end to Umno’s rule and there are no two ways about it,” he stressed.

Underscoring the importance of dismantling governments that remain in power for a protracted period, he said: “The problem of the Indian poor is due to Umno’s rule. So we feel that at any cost, the rule must end. When there is a change of regime… like in India, BJP came in and after that, when Congress returned to power, it became a better government.”

However, Uthayakumar said this does not mean Hindraf will give Pakatan a blank cheque.

“We want to be the internal check and balance vis-à-vis Indian issues but they (Pakatan) don’t like this idea. We have seen their dismal performance in the states they control with regard to this issue.

“The argument is that ‘we only control the states’. Fair enough, but licences, land for schools and Yayasan Selangor scholarships are within the respective state’s jurisdiction.

“The other excuse is that they have only been in power for three years. But my question is simple, do you need 50 years to make changes? To give land to all Tamil schools in Selangor does not need years, just a few minutes to sign the required paperwork is sufficient,” he added.

‘MIC trapped in a paralysing system’

Uthayakumar also dismissed Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s efforts to woo the hearts and minds of the Indian electorate as cosmetic and lacking in substance.

He is also certain that MIC’s new president G Palanivel will not be able to reverse the fortunes of the Indians because the latter operates in a paralysing political structure.

The president himself, he said, is not empowered within the Barisan Nasional framework, so how will he empower the community which he represents?

“The system is such that these leaders are used as ‘mandores’ by Umno to shortchange the Indian poor. I have an old newspaper cutting of (Palanivel’s predecessor) S Samy Vellu becoming MIC president in 1979. He had said then, ‘give me six months and I will transform the Indian community’.

“Three decades later, there has been zero movement. To me, Palanivel coming to power makes no difference. I wouldn’t even say ‘little’, it just makes no difference,” he added.

But to be fair to Palanivel and Samy Vellu, Uthayakumar said, even if he becomes the MIC president, he will not be able to deliver.

There will, however, be one significant difference between the two MIC presidents and him. “I would have resigned,” the Hindraf leader pointed out.

“If only these Indian leaders had quit because they were not being able to deliver, I think Umno would have got the message a long time ago,” he said.

“Even with Pakatan, that is what we are asking for. We want to be empowered. If they are going to use us as mere show pieces, then we don’t want the job. Then just let me live and die as a small timer. Let the record show that I didn’t make it, didn’t go places or achieve anything, so be it,” he added.

Asked if HRP candidates will contest against MIC in the coming general election, Uthayakumar reiterated that the battle is with Umno and not its minions.

However, he does not rule out this possibility. “If the situation is such that we have to prove that we are not planted by BN, then we may do so but there is no final decision on this yet,” he said.

‘We cannot be controlled like the rest’

Responding to a question, Uthayakumar expressed disappointment with the Pakatan top leadership for not engaging Hindraf and HRP.

“What is upsetting is that we went to jail for 514 days and upon our release, they could have asked us ‘you went to jail for a cause, so what are your problems? How can we help you in Kedah, Selangor and Penang?’ No such overtures were made,” he said.

Uthayakumar revealed that HRP met PAS leaders, including its president Abdul Hadi Awang, on Oct 4 but the end result is not something to shout about.

Asked why Pakatan leaders are giving Hindraf and HRP the cold shoulder, he replied: “We cannot be controlled unlike the Indian mandores in DAP and PKR.”

“Similar to the Indian parties in or linked to BN, they can be controlled by Umno. But we speak our minds without fear or favour. We take a principled position. The bottom line is we want equality and equal opportunities for the Indians.

“We don’t want temporary or ad hoc solutions for the Indian woes. We want a wholesome solution and not have Pakatan playing the same Umno game,” he added.

Part 2:

In an interview with FMT, Hindraf and HRP leader P Uthayakumar discusses the predicament of whom the Indians should support in the next general election.

Below are excerpts from the interview:

Is the 15/38 (to contest 15 parliament and 38 state seats) plan still on?

The original plan was 15/38. But we are not ready for it although it remains our ultimate and optimum political strategy. What we decided after that was 7/14 – seven parliament and 14 state seats – in the frontline Indian states such as Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Pahang and Johor. It will be the parliament seats, and the state seats which fall under the parliamentary constituency. We are a small party, so we are looking at things realistically for an effective use of our limited resources.

But if the olive branch (extended to Pakatan Rakyat) fails, then we may have to proceed with Plan B, or rather Plan C, which is putting our 7/14 plan to effect in Selangor. With our limited resources, we will pull our chiefs from the other states and we will work out the logistics and train our crosshair on Selangor. Assuming that we are stonewalled by Pakatan, this will be our last resort, when we are left with no other alternative.

But in reality, it will only have a minimal impact on Pakatan, and it will not disrupt the coalition’s plan to seize federal power. We are not coming in their way as far as Putrajaya is concerned. But they risk losing Selangor, so it is up to them. We want to negotiate, but they don’t.

We are also in a dilemma. Assuming that we give political directions like in 2008 for the Indians to vote Pakatan… assuming Pakatan comes to power in Putrajaya and if they don’t deliver. We have seen the initial signs of this in their states, non-delivery or perhaps a marginal difference with BN but the core problems of the Indians remain unresolved. If this happens, the Indians are going to come back to us and ask “look you told us to vote for Pakatan, what now?” So we are also in a dilemma.

Perhaps Pakatan feels that Hindraf no longer commands the support of the Indians and therefore sees no reason to engage it.

Of course if you compare with 2007, the answer is ‘yes’ (support having dwindled)… It will appear as such for the naked eye. In 2007, that was the peak and nothing can remain at the peak forever. But it will be wrong to say that we don’t have grassroots support at all… crowds still throng our functions, perhaps not in large numbers as before, but we don’t give hampers and rice packets (to lure them).

And if we don’t have the support and if we don’t matter, why are the police still afraid of us in terms of approving permits for our events and so forth? There is something we have, something is on our side… someone told me that perhaps because we speak the truth, we are feared.

Pakatan’s emphasis is multiracial politics and you are considered ethno-centric…

If Pakatan leaders are truly multi-racial and look into the problems of the Indian poor, there will be no need for Hindraf. We don’t want to exist, there will be no necessity for us. But the situation is such that Pakatan won’t touch it (the Indian poor issue), BN won’t touch it, but when we touch it, we are accused of being ethno-centric… I think this is just a clever strategy to avoid the issues by branding us as being ethnocentric.

But how different is Hindraf from Perkasa, and you from Ibrahim Ali?

Pray, tell us one instance where we have claimed supremacy. If you can point out one instance, then I concede, we are perhaps the Indian Perkasa. On the contrary, we are saying that we want equal rights and opportunities as enshrined under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution. All we are asking for is to be above the water level, so that we can survive and not drown. Branding us as the Indian Perkasa is another tactic to divert attention from the critical needs of the Indians.

By calling itself the Hindu Rights Action Force, does this mean Hindraf is only interested in issues concerning the Hindus and not the woes of Indians of other faiths or those of other races?

Hindraf was formed by accident due to the religious conversion issue, in particular to a case where the remains of an army corporal was seized and given a Muslim burial. Even his wife had not known that he converted. So Hindraf arose from that, when several Hindu organisations came together and there was a proposal for a strong name, so the Hindu Rights Action Force was born. It started off on that basis, but nobody foresaw Hindraf taking this dimension.

Throughout our struggle, we have not discriminated. Our focus is on the Indian poor, whatever your religion is… we have also taken up cases of those of other races. So not only Indians, we have also handled cases involving the Chinese and even Malays. In practice, it does not matter to us if you are a non-Hindu or even non-Indian. But we focus on Indian issues because the government takes care of the Malays and natives. The Chinese control some 70% of the economy and are self-sustaining. They also have Chinese new villages nationwide, so even if you are a poor Chinese, you have a social safety net. But do Indians have this… is there one Indian new village? Estates are temporary.

So from the word ‘go’, for the Indians, there have only been temporary and ad hoc solutions. If you are in difficulty, they will give you packets of rice and groceries, shake hands, and the cameras go ‘click’, ‘click’, ‘click’. The Indian poor are even worse off than the foreign workers here, whose welfare is looked after by foreign-funded NGOs. But nobody wants to touch the Indian poor, so we took up the job.

So there is no possibility of Hindraf backing BN?

No! There is no way… we have no confidence (in them) at all. Our real enemy is Umno, not the other BN component parties. This is why we don’t attack MIC, because we consider them as nobody; to us, they are ‘persona non-grata’.

Ideally, we want to have a working relationship with Pakatan. But like I said before, we will not be a part of Pakatan as mandores or show pieces. But if they are genuine… (Pakatan supremo) Anwar (Ibrahim) had recently said that ‘Malaysians must be treated as children and not slaves’. As it stands now, we are treated as slaves in a way, not as children because children get equal treatment. Politicians can say all sorts of things, but do they mean it?

Why isn’t P Waythamoorthy coming back to Malaysia?

I told him not to come back because we need a representative overseas. If you remove Waythamoorthy, we will be doomed outside of Malaysia. There will be nobody to do the international lobby… during our Interlok protest, after the police nabbed the core group, it was Waythamoorthy who was giving instructions from London to those in the second and third tiers of command. If  Waythamoorthy did not make the tactical move to leave the country at that time, I will probably still be under ISA detention because there will be nobody to do the international lobby… we also enjoy a certain degree of latitude to operate now because Waythamoorthy is overseas. When we are ‘bullied’ by the authorities, Pakatan, the NGOs or the Bar Council won’t come to our aid. But the authorities know that Waythamoorthy will press the ‘international button’ and pile up the pressure.

(Uthayakumar’s brother, Waythamoorthy left for London just ahead of the police’s crackdown on Hindraf in December 2007. He has not returned since).

Some feel that the tens of thousands who turned up for the rally in 2007 were actually lured by the promise of receiving RM1 million per person via the class action suit you planned to file against the British government.

We have a recording of Waythamoorthy stating at all the nationwide forums in the prelude to the Nov 25 rally that ‘we do not promise you one cent, but what we promise you is our whole-hearted effort (on the civil suit)’… the original purpose of gathering outside the British High Commission was to ask the Queen to appoint her barristers and solicitors (to represent us), that was the strategy, hoping that something will happen because we didn’t have the money. The filing fee for the case itself came up to around RM22,000, what more the legal fee. Honestly, we never expected Nov 25 to happen (in terms of the crowd)… but I can tell you one thing, such a thing of that scale will not happen again in my lifetime… tsumanis and cyclones don’t happen everyday. That was the peak.

What is the status of the suit?

The lawyers (from Britain) came here and one of them, Imran Khan, was denied entry. We are now collecting data on matters like Indian taxi drivers and businessmen being denied licences, students denied scholarships and so forth. We are now appealing for legal aid to move the civil suit

Have you identified the candidates for the election?

We have a list, but we have not made it public… it’s a tentative list.

Are you contesting?

Yes I am… I have to.

Which seat are you planing to contest?

Let’s not reveal that for the moment.




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