The regime must be vanquished

In an interview with FMT, P Uthayakumar states that the Umno regime which has been in power for too long should be ousted.

Asked why Pakatan leaders are giving Hindraf and HRP the cold shoulder, he replied: “We cannot be controlled unlike the Indian mandores in DAP and PKR. Similar to the Indian parties in or linked to BN, they can be controlled by Umno. But we speak our minds without fear or favour. We take a principled position. The bottom line is we want equality and equal opportunities for the Indians.”

RK Anand, Free Malaysia Today

The tinted glass door, which conceals the operations within from the outside world, slides open and a beaming P Uthayakumar emerges to welcome FMT into his lair. Nestled in a shop-lot in Bangsar Utama here, this is the nerve centre of both Hindraf and its political offspring, the Human Rights Party (HRP).

Outside, sits an antiquated Volvo, which the 50-year-old lawyer purchased in 1993. “It’s my first car,” he said, conceding that the road he has chosen is anything but profitable.

Inside, the former Internal Security Act detainee has created a replica of his cell at the Kamunting Detention Centre, which includes a figurine of himself.

Sporting a blown-up image of Uthayakumar with long beard and unkempt hair, the figurine, clutching a food tray, is dressed in the same tattered clothes which he wore during his detention.

The enclosure is littered with the books he had read during his incarceration and other items, including the toothbrush and toothpaste he used.

“You see, there is no brand,” he said, picking up the plain white toothpaste tube. “I believe it comes from China and when you use it for a long period, your teeth actually fall off,” he added, laughing.

The walls of the cell are plastered with photographs depicting Hindraf’s struggle throughout the years.

In his private chambers, a computer screen wired to the CCTV, allows Uthayakumar to keep a vigilant eye on the front door just in case the police come knocking.

Racist, extremist, threat or hero?

Mention the Hindraf leader’s name and it is bound to draw mixed reactions.

To some, he is a threat, racist and extremist. The harsher critics believe he has lost his marbles or is nothing more than an Indian clone of Perkasa’s Ibrahim Ali. But to some, he is a hero who has suffered for the betterment of the Indian community in Malaysia.

In his defence, Uthayakumar said Hindraf and HRP voice the truth; and the truth knows not political correctness. As a result of this, the feathers of those on both sides of the political divide are ruffled.

“Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat want the Indian votes but not their problems,” he added.

Bouquets and brickbats aside, the irrefutable fact is that Hindraf forced the government to take notice of the Indian community’s plight and caused a vote swing in the last general election.

Within a few hours on that epochal November morning four years ago, Hindraf managed to do something which MIC was unable to do for decades. Even the once-critical MIC leaders acknowledged this.

There are also those who claim that Uthayakumar has transformed into a BN operative based on his scathing criticisms against the opposition.

‘Ultimate struggle is to end Umno’s rule’

But the Hindraf leader makes it crystal clear that his beef with Umno is greater and therefore the movement is willing to extend a conditional olive branch to Pakatan in order to vanquish a common foe.

“Our ultimate political struggle is to end Umno’s rule in Putrajaya. It is one of the last few remaining regimes in the world which has ruled this nation for 54 years. We want an end to Umno’s rule and there are no two ways about it,” he stressed.

Underscoring the importance of dismantling governments that remain in power for a protracted period, he said: “The problem of the Indian poor is due to Umno’s rule. So we feel that at any cost, the rule must end. When there is a change of regime… like in India, BJP came in and after that, when Congress returned to power, it became a better government.”

However, Uthayakumar said this does not mean Hindraf will give Pakatan a blank cheque.

“We want to be the internal check and balance vis-à-vis Indian issues but they (Pakatan) don’t like this idea. We have seen their dismal performance in the states they control with regard to this issue.

“The argument is that ‘we only control the states’. Fair enough, but licences, land for schools and Yayasan Selangor scholarships are within the respective state’s jurisdiction.

“The other excuse is that they have only been in power for three years. But my question is simple, do you need 50 years to make changes? To give land to all Tamil schools in Selangor does not need years, just a few minutes to sign the required paperwork is sufficient,” he added.