Harapan should also collaborate with Uthayakumar - By Commander (Rtd) S THAYAPARAN Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, August 21, 2017
Malaysiakini : “I served the highest prison sentence in this country for a
sedition charge, at two and a half years and later reduced to two years
by the Court of Appeal, for highlighting the plight of the most
vulnerable and most racially, religiously and economically victimised
Indian poor by the supremacist Umno regime. I stand by what I said and
did. I have no regrets.”- P Uthayakumar
COMMENT | Former prime minister
and de facto opposition leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad is right when he said
that Indian representation in Pakatan Harapan is inadequate. He is also
correct when he claimed in the nomenclature of that specific class
(read this as the hypocritical ruling elite class (establishment and
opposition), that Hindraf in its various incarnations represents the
marginalised Indian communities rather than the urban professional
opposition-leaning class of the Indian Malaysian polity.
As for Umno vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein’s contention that
Mahathir’s alleged unilateral decision to meet Persatuan Hindraf
Malaysia (PHM) chief P Waythamoorthy as indicative of the lack of “team
spirit” within Harapan, I would like to remind the minister that pacts
amongst kleptocrats and their enablers does not qualify as “team
Meanwhile, MIC Youth chief R Sivarraajh is in dreamland if he thinks
that the Indian community has lost faith in Hindraf. The marginalised
Indian community has lost faith in politics, period, and there is an
overt distrust of the thuggish behaviour of the MIC, and more
importantly the establishment, when it comes to religious matters that
concern the Indian community. Waythamoorthy openly challenging Zakir
Naik plays better with them than a minister who makes excuses as to the
delay of a bill which corrects unilateral conversion. Chew on that for a
It is great to see that DAP would keep an open mind on this matter,
because really, when you are collaborating with a right-wing “Malay
only” political party, what are you going to say about Hindraf or any
politician who “champions” Indian rights? That we are not a race-based
coalition? Seriously, get over yourselves.
However, Harapan should also collaborate with P Uthayakumar. Hindraf
partisans should not take this to mean that I favour one brother over
the other, but rather, that both working with the opposition should be
able to galvanise the Indian community, which is apparently needed to
“save Malaysia”. In fact, Harapan should give Uthayakumar a place at the Harapan table
by allocating a seat for him in whatever constituency they think he
will be most effective. If anyone is a credible candidate for
galvanising marginalised communities, it is P Uthayakumar.
Not only has he on-the-ground knowledge of working class issues, he
has spoken truth to power to the Umno establishment and the opposition.
He has been jailed by the regime and instead of being chastised, he has
taken up prison reform as a means to combat social injustice.
You can read my most recent interviews with him here
about his incarceration and his efforts in prison reform – “As it
stands, I see a lack of political will because the Indian poor draw no
or very little political mileage in Malaysia. If we are serious about
bringing down the crime rate, then we must discard the race, colour,
creed and religious considerations.”
On a collision course
Uthayakumar’s politics have always been confrontational but not in
the mainstream sense, which is blame everything on Umno. He mixes
politically incorrect rhetoric with deeper societal truths that have
never gone done well with mainstream political activists and politicians
drunk on the Bangsa Malaysia kool aid.
In a series of interviews after I was declared Hindraf’s public enemy number one, which you can read here,
it was apparent that Uthayakumar was on a collision course with not
only the Umno regime but also with the then Pakatan Rakyat.
“The Hindraf struggle is about permanent and wholesome solutions from
Umno and Pakatan state governments as granted to the bi-racial
1Malaysian Malay and Chinese communities and not the temporary piecemeal
solutions for the Indian poor like dishing out hampers, rice bags, ang
pows, mock cheques and other handouts.
“Hindraf supports regime change and wishes Pakatan all the best, but
it does not want the federal government to be replaced by an Umno clone.
Nevertheless, on a people-to-people basis, the Indians have no or very
little problems with the Malay or Chinese communities at the ground
level.” Talking to Uthayakumar these days, his views may have been tempered
but he still has a deep level of cynicism towards the political elites
of this country. No doubt this new alliance with former Umno
powerbrokers may not sit well with him, which is why Harapan should
consider having someone like him, who has no trouble speaking to power
if only to establish a rapport with communities outside the oppositional
Mind you, this article was not written on the request of Uthayakumar.
I have no idea if he would be interested in collaborating with Harapan
or even if he is interested in getting back into politics. Here is a man
who because of his “race” has felt what most other oppositional
politicians who have fared similarly with the Umno have not.
That is by virtue of his marginalisation – granted, his polemics did
not help – was maliciously treated by the state as a criminal instead of
a political prisoner. This, of course, was a mistake since for someone
like Uthayakumar it merely meant that he focused on a cause that most
people had no interest in – prison reform.
What have we seen in the past few weeks? We have seen the sordid
state of our prison system. We have seen how the system inflicts abuse,
disregard rights, in many cases actually sanction the murder of
prisoners by action or negligence.
These are problems which have an overt effect on society and while
there are many committed activists who seek solutions to these problems,
having Uthayakumar as a spokesperson for this issue and his history
with advocating for the marginalised of the Indian community would be
something more than mere tokenism for Harapan.
I have no idea if anyone from Harapan has reached out to Uthayakumar
or if he is even interested in this possible gig, but I do think that
this is a good opportunity for Harapan to attract votes from the
marginalised community by having Waythamoorthy and Uthayakumar on board
the Harapan Express. Lastly, I would like to thank Centre for Policy Initiatives director
Lim Teck Ghee for this article and contextualising how and why
Uthayakumar would be an asset to Harapan.