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COMMENTARY, Nov 19 — If ever there is proof that the internet never forgets, it is the video of Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) chairman P. Waytha Moorthy speaking to a Dutch TV station that went viral recently almost a decade after its broadcast.
Of course, Waytha is now the minister of national unity and social wellbeing, and his previous fiery remarks do not sit well with the majority of Malays in this country.
An online petition was launched by the Islamist lobby calling for Waytha to resign. It has received close to 20,000 signatures at the time of writing.
Umno Youth has also latched on to the controversy, with its chief Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki joining the chorus of critics calling for Waytha’s resignation. Earlier today in Parliament, PAS and Umno MPs went on the onslaught, chanting “racist” at Waytha.
The main argument seems to be that Waytha is a “radical” and had committed “treason” by badmouthing the country when he was abroad, and therefore, is unfit to be a minister now.
But let us look at the context of his remarks.
The video was recorded circa 2011 when Waytha was tabling his presentation of the plight of the Indian community to the Netherlands Parliament.
“The policies by the then Umno government had immensely prevented the majority of the Indian community to be included in the mainstream development of the nation,” Waytha clarified in a statement yesterday.
He explained that his comments were on the back of a Hindraf rally in 2007, when he said police had fired tear gas at the crowd, while some protesters were charged with murder just for injuring a police officer.
Waytha himself was arrested, jailed, and according to him, tortured. He then went on self-imposed exile to the United Kingdom as his passport was revoked.
His statement also highlighted the fact that despite his public and global activism, Barisan Nasional (BN) and Umno extended an olive branch to him in order to court the ethnic Indian community.
In fact, Waytha was even appointed deputy minister in 2013 by the same BN administration.
But he quit barely a year in, citing dissatisfaction with the pace of government action (or lack of) on the rights of the Indian community.
Therefore, it is baffling that Umno Youth is now trying to convince the public that Waytha should not be part of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, when he was obviously frustrated with BN.
Waytha too may have some explaining to do. He should reveal the instances when Putrajaya allegedly coerced Hindus to convert to Islam so they could join the civil service, the purported forced destruction of 10,000 temples, and when ethnic Indians were sidelined when it came to education opportunities.
But where is the lie when Waytha complained that Indians are regarded as second-class citizens, and billions of ringgit of taxpayers’ money is being spent mostly on the majority Malay-Muslims?
Yayasan Pemulihan Sosial, the social welfare arm of BN component MIC itself, has conceded that a substantial 40 per cent of the 2.6 million Indians in the country are languishing at the bottom rung of the income ladder.
If anything, Waytha seems to be satisfied with how the PH government is taking him seriously, and he has worked within the system since his appointment, a far cry from the “radical” he is accused of being.
He has announced a RM4 billion allocation for the Indians in the next 10 years, is working on the National Unity Plan and the plight of stateless Indians, and proposed that 10 per cent of government contracts be reserved for the community.
He even dissociated himself from the so-called Hindraf 2.0 that demanded Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) be opened to non-Bumiputera students.
Perhaps Umno, PAS and the Islamist lobby should just come clean that the reason behind the demonisation of Waytha is simple and too transparent: To paint him as the figurehead for the ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), and thus, the perfect reason to block the move.