"Pit race against race, religion against religion, prejudice against prejudice. Divide and conquer! We must not let that happen here." - Eleanor Roosevelt

COMMENT As someone who is despised by Hindraf supporters or rather their online cultists (Pakatan Rakyat too have their kool aid drinkers), it's uncanny how I have the ability to articulate the general drift of Hindraf's various attempts at dealing with those who have power and those who want to claim it.

Hindraf leader P Waythamoorthy's strategy (which seems to be in direct opposition of elder brother Uthayakumar's) of dealing with BN and Pakatan for the betterment of a certain class of Indian Malaysians, is something I have written about in my various Hindraf pieces.

I wrote that one possible strategy for Hindraf was to discover which coalition gave them the best deal when it came to the voting block they claimed to represent.

At first glance, this seems like running with the hare and hunting with the hounds and no doubt the extreme mercenary nature of this proposition puts whichever class Hindraf claims to represent as being either racists opportunist or shiftless wastrels always on the lookout for handouts from groups in power.

But as I argued in countless other pieces, we are still playing a race game and the only difference between Hindraf and the other players is that Hindraf is displaying their race cards for all to see.

So, while the comment section of Malaysiakini is littered with Pakatan partisans who have no problem with the championing of Chinese rights (sic) with regards to education and the systemic discrimination the (Chinese) community faces, all done under the guise of multiculturalism, these same defenders of ‘human rights' bristle at the gumption of Hindraf for doing the same for the Indian poor.

NONEOf course, Hindraf does itself no favours. Visit the Human Rights Party website and you'll discover everyone except Indians are racists. Indians who do not agree with them are ‘mandores' or ‘mandorinis'. All this is beside the point and I'm just going over old ground.

Waythamoorthy's (right) drama-filled return and subsequent refinement of strategy has earned him the scorn of some within Hindraf who see him as a pretender to the throne, and of course some Pakatan supporters who see him as some sort of Umno stooge.

Just like when Uthayakumar declared he would stand for election against Pakatan, there was the usual deluge of rumours that he was bought over by Umno.
Unbridled partisanship

What I find hilarious is that the idea of non-partisanship seems anathema to certain Pakatan supporters.

If an organisation is willing to work with the federal government, then the said organisations are Umno stooges. Don't get me wrong, I am aware that Malaysia is filled with proxy Umno NGOs that are there as the unofficial voices of Umno or BN but who claim non-partisanship.

However, just as there are many groups which claim non-partisanship thar are aligned with Umno-BN, there are many groups claiming the same but aligned with Pakatan.

I'm of the opinion that a group like Hindraf works best as an advocacy group instead of a political party. When you are focusing on communal issue affecting a particular racial group, you cannot attempt the moral high ground and claim that you are fighting for the rights of all Malaysians regardless of race or that getting what your community wants will benefit the all Malaysians.

This is the problem with a political entity like the Human Rights Party. Nobody takes its or Hindraf's claims that it is fighting for the rights of all Malaysians seriously. Nothing in its rhetoric suggests this.

NONEHowever, when it comes to Waythamoorthy's plan of dealing with BN or Pakatan, each comes with its own specific set of problems. Waythamoorthy's belief that PM Najib Razak regime's handing out of goodies to Indians is indicative of the administration's acknowledgment of the problems facing the Indian community is rather bizarre.

Firstly, the regime has been handing out goodies to all and sundry in a desperate attempt to garner votes. The whole 1Malaysia scheme in its various guises is merely state sanctioned bribery which the average citizen laps up, but which would not make a difference to hardcore Pakatan supporters. Take the money (goody) and vote Pakatan, as they say.

Secondly, what exactly has Umno-BN done with regards to the issues raised by Hindraf to demonstrate that they are acting in good faith?

The plight of marginalised communities, be they Indians, Orang Asli, Malays or Chinese, is the last item on the reform agenda. Specific voting blocks are targeted, Felda settlers, civil/military personnel, the urban poor, etc, in the hopes of bolstering ground-level support but the reality is the large masses of economically deprived, no matter which race, are left out of the equation.

Hindraf's reversal of fortune

Is Pakatan any better? Waythamoorthy asks Pakatan to engage in a little introspection. I suggest the same to Hindraf. If 50 percent of the Indian vote has shifted back to BN as Waythamoorthy suggests, the question I think should be asked by Hindraf is, is this a good thing?

Was Pakatan so derelict in its duties that the Indian votes would be better spent in BN, who have been derelict in their obligations for the past 50 years? In other words, has the BN changed so drastically in the past four years that it would be better for Indians to vote BN?

Waythaymoorthy says that it's not his duty to "control people's minds" but he had no problem during the last elections asking people to vote Pakatan and now asking them to vote for either alliance if they help solve the "problems of the poor and underclass".

It's all a bit strange. Either concede that solving the problem of the Indian poor means influencing the Indian vote or take the stance of total non-participation in the voting process as far as Hindraf is concerned and remain true to its non-partisan ethos.

But the most important questions, Hindraf need to ask itself, is why its fortunes has changed so much since the 2008 tsunami? Where once Hindraf was held in high esteem by most Malaysians and by a large section of the Indian voting public, it is now a fringe group involved in its own petty infighting. What happened?

Is its reversal of fortune because Malaysians are racists? Are all the Indians who don't support Hindraf ‘mandores' or ‘mandorinis'? Is everyone wrong and against human rights except Hindraf?

If the various race-based political parties that make up Pakatan can ride the multiracial winds to satisfy their agendas, why can't Hindraf, which claims to represent all Malaysians?

No-win situation

At the end of the day, playing the race card is a no-win situation. Even if Hindraf get everything it wants from whoever is in power it would be based on a race criteria and would be wholly dependent on the whims of the ruling parties.

In effect, what Hindraf or any race-based party which advocates any kind of racialism would create is a permanent mandore-class subservient to whatever racial formula which is in play at the moment.

This, of course, does not mean that I think there is no place for advocacy groups highlighting the grievances of particular communities but rather I believe that there must be a point where race-based considerations are absorbed into a wider class-based approach. For all my criticism of Pakatan, I believe that they at least are attempting something like this.

As it is, the Indian community is far too small to make grand sweeping changes to the political reality of Malaysia but what it is in a position to do (if the community is united) is to tip the scales in way that makes it possible for those grand changes to be made on the communities' behalf which would benefit every Malaysian.

Never mind the revisionist history of some Pakatan bigots that belittle the contribution of Hindraf to the 2008 tsunami, what right-thinking Malaysians must be cognisant of is that there has never been such a radical mainstream movement like Hindraf capable of influencing the future of this country.
What it needs to do now is get its act together.
Writer’s note: Ranjit Singh correctly draws attention to the fact that in all my articles about Hindraf, I have not directed readers to Hindraf.org, which is the party website. Anyone interested in getting a better understanding of Hindraf should also visit that website. I'll end with this rejoinder from Albert Camus whom we are both obviously familiar with: “If absolute truth belongs to anyone in this world, it certainly does not belong to the man or party that claims to possess it.” 

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (rtd) in the Royal Malaysian Navy.