September 09 2007 AFP
Washington - A Malaysian human rights lawyer has filed a four trillion dollar lawsuit against Britain for alleged atrocities suffered by Indians whose forefathers were brought as indentured labourers to Malaysia during colonial rule.
Seeking one million pounds (about R14,5-million) compensation for each of the currently estimated two million Indian Malaysians, the suit was filed in London last week, Ponnusamy Waytha Moorthy told reporters in Washington on a trip to brief the US Congress and rights groups on the issue.
"The colossal suit reflects the years of pain, suffering, humiliation, discrimination and continuous colonisation under the current Malaysian government," he said.
"It is also to highlight the negligence and failure of the British in not entrenching the rights of the minority Indians in the constitution when they granted Malaysia independence," he said.
Many Indians were brought to Malaysia from southern India as indentured labour by the British, but their future generations "were left high and dry" when the colonial power left the country, Waytha Moorthy said.
"There has been segregation, discrimination, marginalisation and other abuses of Indian Malaysians," he said.
Ethnic Indians and Chinese are minority groups in Malaysia, whose 26 million population is predominantly Malay.
The resource-rich country, which won independence in 1957 from Britain, has blossomed into one of Southeast Asia's top economies.
But Waytha Moorthy said 70 percent of Indian Malaysians were poor, with many in the middle and upper classes of the community migrating overseas.
"The future is bleak and we took this action because we have been pushed to the wall," he said.
Waytha Moorthy is also asking British courts to declare the Malaysian constitution null and void.
He said he had three months to serve notice of the court action on the named defendant, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, and added that at least one British law firm was considering handling his case on a pro bono basis.
T Kumar, Amnesty International's Washington-based Asia-Pacific advocacy director, refused to comment on the legal suit but noted that the British colonial power had taken tens of thousands of Indians as indentured labourers to various parts of the globe.
Among them were South Africa, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji and Mauritius, he said.