British Conservative party's Shadow Minister for Education and a member of the House of Lords Baroness Verma of Leicester today (Dec 8, 2008) hosted a briefing on the plight of minority Indian rights of Malaysia.
The briefing was held at the House of Lords on behalf of the Friends of Minority Communities in Malaysia.
The purpose of the briefing was for members of the House of Lords and House of Commons to obtain a true picture on the plights of the ethnic minority Indian community in Malaysia.
Baroness Verma had extended invitation to key personalities from Malaysian as well as from the USA.
The speakers were the Director of Public Policy of the Hindu American Foundation Ishani Chowdhury, the Director of Centre for Public Policy Studies (Malaysia) Tricia Yeoh, Human Rights Advocate (Malaysia) P Waythamoorthy and the editor of Malaysiakini.com K Kabilan.
"This is an important event that emphasizes the need to sustain focus on a nation that continues to discriminate against the minority Hindu population by judicial onslaughts, educational impediments and temple destruction," Ms Chowdhury told the briefing.
"The Malaysian government needs to work with its peaceful and productive minority community and address these legitimate grievances. Only then can it ensure true upliftment of its people and progress as a multi-ethnic nation," she added.
Ms Yeoh said that Indians in Malaysia were excluded from the mainstream, were mismanaged, and was a misunderstood community.
She said that there were an estimated 40,000 unregistered Indian children nationwide and as a result they were excluded from examinations, university, scholarships, access to healthcare, business and employment.
"The Indian participation in the civil sector has also dwindled in recent years. Their representation in civil service stood at 7.2% in 2006 and now it is on 2.8%," she said.
Ms Yeoh also touched on the various Malaysian government measures and efforts to solve the Indian problems.
Kabilan spoke about the plight of the plantation workers in Malaysia, stating that their condition had largely remained unchanged since independence in 1957.
"Issues such as wages, housing rights, education and healthcare are still there," he said.
"In 1941 and then in 1946, there were reports published which stated that these plantation workers wanted a better wage structure, an improvement of living quarters, a proper healthcare and a proper education.
"Malaysiakini did a story on bonded laborers’ two years ago and we found out that these workers were still in want of the same things which were originally sought in 1941," he added.
He also said that the measures implemented by the government had been insufficient in addressing the problems faced by these plantation workers.
Waythamoorthy, who is also the chairperson of the Hindraf, spoke on the marginalisation of the Indian community for the past 50 years.
"And for speaking up these issues, five Hindraf leaders have been detained under the draconian Internal Security Act which provided for detention without trial," he said.
He urged the Baroness to look into the sorry situation of the Indian community in Malaysia and to influence British politicians to raise their concerns to the Malaysian government.
"We will continue in highlighting the grievances of this community in the international arena as the local government is not keen to meet us and address the issues," he said in the briefing.
Representatives of Civil societies within the UK also attended the briefing which included Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, European Centre for Human Rights Studies, The Law Society of England and Wales. Community leaders of the local Hindu/Indian community pledged their support and agreed to take up the matter further with the European Parliament members.