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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

HINDRAF gathering to hand in memorandum to Queen Elizabeth for help in appointing Queen Counsel to represent them in their class action suit


HINDRAF is short for "Hindu Rights Action Force" which is formed by 30 Hindu NGOs seeking to preserve the Hindu community rights and heritage in secular Malaysia. The group has tried to stop the numerous demolition of Hindu temples by the Malaysian government.

Lawyers from HINDRAF had on 30th August 2007, filed a class action on behalf of Malaysian Indians at The Royal Courts of Justice in London to sue the United Kingdom Government for US$4 trillion to compensate Indians in Malaysia, which if successful, will mean every Malaysian Indians will get US$1 million the the British role in bringing in Indians as indentured laborers into Malaya who were exploited for 150 years and when they could no longer keep then Malaya as a colony, abandoned them, leaving them with a Constitution which they claimed failed to protect the Malaysian minority Indians rights on granting of independence. They hope to present a petition with 100,000 signatures to be delivered to her Royal Highness the Queen of England requesting the Queen to appoint a Queen Counsel to represent them in the class action.

Gathering on Sunday, 25 November 2007

They had planned to organise a gathering to presented the petition to the British High Commission in Malaysia on Sunday. 25 November 2007. The police asked them to apply for a police permit, which was duly done, and which as expected, was rejected. They appealed and it was rejected again for the same reasons. This was despite the agreement of the British High Commission to have some representative to accept the petition.

However, despite the obstacles, HINDRAF was determined to continue with the rally.

Many days before the planned rally, the police set up road blocks to try to prevent participants from getting to the gathering, causing massive traffic jams. They legal Representatives were arrested even before the day of the gathering. On 23 November, 2007, three HINDRAF leaders, P. Uthayakumar, Waythamoorthy, and V.S. Ganapathi Rao, were arrested and charged under the Sedition Act.

Am unprecedented court order was obtained to prevent people to participate in the gathering. Police issued an order to arrest participants on sight.

Many Indians complained of racial profiling, claiming may Indians were stopped at road blocks, their cars searched. I heard an directive were even given to the hotels not to offer rooms to Indians, but cannot confirm if it is true or not. Some HINDRAF legal representatives, organizers were arrested even before the day of the rally

HINDRAF actual on Sunday 25 November 2007

Despite heavy handed actions to try to stop the gathering by the police, huge number of Indians started gathering at various parts of Kuala Lumpur early Sunday morning, way before the planned gathering planned to start at 8.00 am. Many participants gathered at Jalan Ampang and Jalan Tun Razak from as early as 6am Sunday. They were dispersed by the police and Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) who used water cannons laced with stinging chemical water and teargas to disperse the gathering at the Jalan Ampang and Jalan Tun Razak intersection by about 7.20am when warnings to disperse met with no resonse. According to Wikipedia, on the morning of the rally, more than five thousands people gathered near the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Riot police dispatched to the scene used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowds. The participants just regrouped in another placed and continued their protest.

Here is an on site report by Al Jazeera with a video uploaded to Youtube:

Another video:

After 7 hours and finally given permission for the organisers to hand in the petition, they already decided they no longer want to hand in the memorandum here in Malaysia (I assume as a sign of protest at the way the Malaysian government tried to stop them from presenting the memorandum. They decided to fly to London to hand it directly to the Queen. Hopefully, they will not be stopped at the airports)

There must be quite widespread dissatisfaction that despite the heavy action to try to stop the gathering, still so many managed to get through the cracks and stage the gathering. How many exactly depend on your source. I think it is sufficient just to say that HINDRAF had succeeded to getting their message heard.

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