As we were bringing down the shutters at our Kota Raja Bilik Gerakan after losing even our deposit at P111 Kota Raja and N49 Seri Andalas in the 13th General Elections, right before my very eyes stood Mariammah (19) one of our supporters, a fourth generation Malaysian born 5 feet 10 pretty young lady but denied even her very birth certificate.
Mariammah was denied even primary school education or a sweeper’s job in a factory because she is stateless. During our campaign we took note that the SJK(T) Batu Ampat Tamil school at Kota Raja explicitly put up a notice at their main gate stating that (under the UMNO government institutional racist policies) Indian poor children without (read denied) Birth Certificates will not be admitted. The same policy applies in all the 523 Tamil schools nationwide. What more in all national schools nationwide. The irony is that even the Myanmar Muslim Rohingya refugee children get to attend school in Malaysia. (See New Straits Times 7/5/13 at page 5)
Mariammah is not alone. Our estim ate based on reported cases is that there are about 450,000 stateless Indian poor like her in Malaysia. My crushing defeat and losing my deposit is one thing. But my bigger concern is who seriously champions Mariammah and the 450,000 stateless Indian poor cause in Parliament? Siti Mariah? Anwar Ibrahim? Lim Kit Siang? Hadi Awang? Karpal Singh? Sivarasa Rasiah? Charles Santiago? Kulasegaran? Of course Prime Minister Najib Razak and the 133 UMNO/BN MPs being a foregone conclusion.
Institutionalised racism targetting especially the Indian poor by both sides of the political spectrum appears to be the order of the day (visit www.humanrightspartymalaysia.com for daily reporting on this racism). Unless and until Pakatan adopts policies to outlaw and criminalise all forms of institutional racism, whether Rama or Ravana rules, it is going to make no or very little difference to the Indian poor.
Based on similar fact cases, not being able to legally get married, we can foresee Mariammah getting pregnant out of wedlock in a few years or so, having 2 or 3 children by the time she is 25. By which time her man may have dumped her for another lady. And all Mariammah’s children would also became stateless. Poverty breeds poverty. Mariammah’s misery would continue for the next 50 years or so or until she earlier ends her life, by committing suicide after giving poison to all her children like in the case of Seetha from Klang. (Note: The suicide rate among the Indian poor is 600% higher than in the Malay community).
These were my thoughts as we were leaving our Kota Raja Bilik Gerakan after the 15 days of intense campaigning. With a heavy heart, my wife Indra and I drove back to our home at Pantai Hill Park. As I was walking into my room cum study my daughter Puvanees remarked that I am “back to my cacoon.” After a shower and having settled down and while having my dinner leisurely, one Pushpagantah’s (61) neighbour Rani frantically telephones to inform me that Pushpagantah’s son Kanapathy (19) was murdered, believed to be by an Ah Long. Rani’s husband himself is in jail together with four other Indian youths for allegedly burning alive an Indian youth in his car (Rani has four children to feed). The two race policy 1 Malaysia denying the Indian poor equal rights and equal opportunities is the main cause for this new emerging Indian criminal trend.
I could hear Pushpagantah’s family members wailing in the background during the phone call. Rani, Pushpagantah’s and Mariammah’s plight is the latest classic, critical and chronic tip of the iceberg plight of the Indian poor in Malaysia. Why didn’t they call Siti Mariah or Pakatan of MIC?
Third generation Malaysian born Pushpagantah is plagued with multiple problems. She was denied citizenship and denied even a cleaner’s job in a factory as all her life as she has been denied citizenship and issued with only a red identity card. Because of diabetes, Pushpagantah is fast losing her eyesight and is short of hearing. Plagued by poverty and in a not so caring and civil society, her husband had became a mental patient. The three month rentals for her two bedroom low cost flat is not paid. Her electricity and water supply has been disconnected as she could not afford to pay her bills. Her son Samy is in jail for alleged gangsterism. Her pretty young daughter Mala (16) left home in her school uniform, eloped, got pregnant and returned home with a baby boy. When asked for her mobile phone number Pushpagantah showed us her little phone book which happened to have an Ah Long’s (Loan Shark) phone number. When I asked Pushpagantah, she said that she had taken a loan from the Ah Long to start off her door to door Indian joss stick sales. (Note: The billions & millions of ringgit loans disbursed by AIM, TEKUN, MARA, PNS, Yayasan, etc by both the UMNO/Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat state governments that does not flow down to Pushpagantah and hundreds of thousands of Indian poor even though they fall within the ambit “needs based policy” of at least the Pakatan Rakyat state government policy and the 1 Malay-sia UMNO /BN government policy. for persons like Puspaganthah the institution they turn to are the Ah Longs!
Like most Indian poor Pushpagantah is handworking. They do not expect anything for free. On a weekday last month at about 10.30 pm, we had actually bumped into Pushpagantah in Sentul just after her door to door sales. We are yet to see one poor Malay, Orang Asli, Kadazan, Iban or Chinese forced to work like Pushpagantah in order to put food on the table even at the advanced age of 61 years. Pushpagantah has no village safety net to go back to or to fall back on unlike almost all the poor Malays, Orang Asli, Kadazan, Iban and the odd Chinese poor.
Even at 61, Pushpagantah asks our help to get her a FELDA like land for her to get her family, children and grandchildren out and above the waters. We have no answers for her. Had Pushpagantah been Aminah, we could have easily picked up the phone, spoken to the Director General and secured her a plot in one of the 1,021,346 places of ten acre land ownership scheme in FELDA, FELCRA and RISDA alone.
After five minutes on the same nite, another frantic call comes in that there is a fight going on between the deceased’s relatives and the deceased’s friends about the murder. Helpless, we could only tell them to call the police at 911.
The next morning before even I walked into my office, Pushpagantah, her daughter in law and Chitra the widow of murdered victim Kanapathy who became a mother at 17 and now a widow by 19 were already waiting and sitting at our doorsteps.
Pushpagantah needed a shoulder to cry on. We let her cry and shared her grief. She cried uncontrollably. We called up the Investigating officer ASP Muthu of the Selayang IPD who assured us that three (3) suspects had already been arrested and that they would be prosecuted within fourteen days. I felt helpless as there was nothing I could do.
Even as I had lost the last chance to raise, champion and possibly even resolve to some extent these chronic Indian poor problems at the highest political level, ie at Parliament, some 92% of the Indian voters in Kota Raja did not vote for us. The wave of Malaysian voters hungry for change, were voting for the party and not the individual candidate.
Also thanks to traitor and sacked former Hindraf leader Waytha Moorthy joining Barisan Nasional on the “eve” of the General Elections. Be that as it may ab initio the Hindraf struggle was a principled struggle against institutionalised racism by both UMNO/BN and also Pakatan even if we have to lose in the elections. We knew what we were getting into. Having to fight the uphill battle with two giants and one traitor at the same time, irrespective we had to do it. We had no choice. Neither do we regret the same now. It was all in the name of the original Hindraf struggle. We accept the verdict of the Kota Raja voters, and the Hindraf struggle will continue as long as the institutionalised racist policies by UMNO/BN and Pakatan continues and the genuine greivences of the Indian poor remaining unresolved.