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Malaysian Indian ethnic minority demand a UN Special Rapporteur for their issue

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Human rights defenders from the Malaysian Indian ethnic minority have taken their issues to the United Nations. They have requested that a Special Rapporteur look into their human rights violations. The UN has assured them of getting an explanation from the government. 

Activists  working on Malaysian ethnic Indian minority rights have stepped up their campaign at the international level by seeking redress and solutions from the United Nations (UN).

The group, who call themselves the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF), has urged the UN to appoint a Special Rapporteur to specifically look into the plight of the Indian community in Malaysia.

In a letter written to the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights based in Geneva, Switzerland, on 17 April, HINDRAF chairperson P Waythamoorthy said: “On behalf of all those oppressed, suppressed and marginalised ethnic Indian community, I formally request that you exercise all powers conferred upon you to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Affecting the community.”

In his letter, he gave examples of various issues in which the members of the community were sidelined as a result of government policies.

“The majority Indian community who belonged to the plantation sectors become internally displaced persons when their traditional plantation land is acquired by the government for purposes of development and their very social living lifestyle is disrupted. 

“They are not provided adequate compensation for their contributions to the country’s economy over the last 200 years, not provided new job opportunities and training programs. No permanent alternative is given to resolve their housing problems, and ultimately they end up as squatters in urban areas and remain poor, underclass and neglected.”

Excerpts of the letter were published in Malaysiakini on 22 April 2008. Waythamoorthy is currently in London following a government crackdown on HINDRAF leaders – five of them are serving two-year jail sentences in a Malaysian detention camp under the Internal Security Act, a law that allows for detention without trial.

Meanwhile, Waythamoorthy had also made a presentation on the conditions of the Malaysian Indians at the Commission in Geneva on 17 April. He said the meeting served as an eye opener to the United Nations Human Rights council as it was the first time serious human rights violations on Malaysia were presented.

He added that he was given an assurance by the world body that it would seek an explanation from the Malaysian government. They also said they would request an invitation from Malaysia to visit for purposes of fact-finding on the issues raised.

HINDRAF became prominent after raising various issues pertaining to the Indian community in Malaysia. On 25 November last year, it organised a mass rally in Kuala Lumpur in which about 30,000 people took part to show their anger against the government for failing to uplift the community.

Following that, five top HINDRAF leaders were detained under the Internal Security Act for two years for allegedly being a national threat.