P Wathya Moorthy, who is also Hindu Action Rights Force chairperson, filed the suit against the UK secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs last Thursday at the Royal Court of Justice in London.
The suit captures the lingering resentment of the Indian Malaysian community over 50 years of independence with the claim for compensation based on their “pain, suffering, humiliation, discrimination and continuous colonialisation”.
In his statement of claim, Wathya Moorthy also sought declarations that:
- Colonial Britain was responsible for the exportation of labour from India to Malaysia;
- The Reid Commission Report dated Feb 11, 1957 and the Malayan Federal Constitution prepared on the respondent's defendant be declared null and void;
- The Reid Commission Report had failed to incorporate the rights of the Indian community;
- There has been gross violation, segregation, discrimination, marginalisation and apartheid of Indian Malaysians; and
- Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, which provides for Malay special privileges, is in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation legislation with regard to racial discrimination.
In a press statement issued yesterday, Wathya Moorthy explained that the suit is necessary to let the international community know how Indian Malaysians have been affected.
“The UK now cannot detach itself permanently or partially from colonial problems,” he said.
“It had a moral, legal, social and political responsibility to ensure there existed fair governance throughout her colonies and any violation of rights must be attended to immediately before it becomes a menace causing (an) international crisis.”
Wathya Moorthy said it is an undisputable fact that the respondent was principally responsible for “illegitimate” export of human resources from British colonial India to serve their interests in Malaya.
“Before independence was declared to Malaya, the peculiar position of the Indians was assured to be protected by the British government. But this assurance was never translated into action by the British in the creation of the Federal Constitution,” he said.
“They have grossly neglected to discharge their legal and moral duties... The framework provided by the British government to Malaya resulted in severe imbalance and prejudice which are presently irreversible and beyond correction.
“As a direct consequence the Indians today have effectively become the underclass citizens of Malaysia and remain colonialised forever. Moreover, there exist no mechanisms under the present governance to remedy the gross imbalance.”
Wathya Moorthy said Indian Malaysians are now suffering as a result of being “colonised” by the current government with little chance of upward mobility.
“(The Indian Malaysians have formed a) new underclass... and (are) under-privileged citizens of Malaysia and remain permanently colonialised by the ruling Muslim-majority government led by Umno,” he said in his statement of claim.
He listed the government policies allegedly utilised against the community, including:
- Bumiputera special privileges
- Not fully aiding the 523 Tamil schools
- No affirmative action policies for poor Indians vis-a-vis similar policies for bumiputeras
- Denying Indians top- and mid-level postings in the civil service
- Demolition of Hindu temples
- Victimisation by enforcement authorities
He argued that these problems are a direct result of the failure of the Reid Commission to safeguard the community’s interests.
“(The colonial government) gave in to the Malays as a quick-fix solution to wash their hands off Malaya after having successfully used the Indians for their financial gains for 200 years,” he alleged.
The Reid Commission was an independent body formed to draft the Federal Constitution - the team of foreigners received 131 memoranda from organisations and individuals.
In February 1957, it submitted its working draft which was scrutinised by a committee comprising four representatives of the Malay rulers and four representatives of the Alliance government.
The Alliance coalition - comprising Umno, MCA and MIC - was the predecessor of the present ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.