P Waytha Moorthy is happy to be back in Malaysia. “This is my country, I don’t know any other.” says the man whose name is synonymous with Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) in a recent interview with Citizen Journalists Malaysia (CJMY) at Crystal Crown Hotel at the “Hindraf’s contribution to just and social values in Malaysia” event.
He returned to Malaysia in August 2012 amidst some trepidation – that there would be some constitutional grounds to deny him entry after managing to obtain a new passport at the Malaysian Embassy in Singapore.
When asked what bound him to Malaysia, Waythamoorthy pauses before responding, “The people suffering.”
After two years in the United Kingdom, when the ISA detainees were released, he had asked his wife to join him there.
He obtained a certificate to practice and would have been able to work and support his family comfortably. He was given the opportunity to join a leading human rights firm.
“I’d earn well and live well, and I’d be able to give my daughter a good education.
“It would be a quality life but with all that, would I be at peace?
“The answer is no,” he said as he explained why he had to return.
Wathamoorthy was candid about his family life. “It’s not been rosy,” he says.
His relationship with his mother is strained; it is the same with his siblings too.
His passion to better the lives of the Indian poor has also affected the home scene.
He feels he has been less of a son to his mother, and readily admits he has not been around for his wife and child as well.
He fears he may eventually alienate his only daughter.
“I am a bit of a father to her now, because she’s young and innocent. Maybe when she grows up, she may begin to hate me, because I’m not there for her when she needs me”.
When asked about the recently revealed Hindraf Blueprint, Waythamoorthy firmly states, “This goes beyond politics.”
He claims that the blueprint developed by Hindraf provides a step by step plan to help alleviate the socio-economic issues the Indian poor face today.
One of the key issues that need resolution is that of approximately 800,000 former plantation workers and their descendents.
Rubber plantation workers became displaced following a change in the government’s priority from rubber to palm oil in the 1970s.
“Having lost their livelihoods, their homes and their social structure, these communities have been largely forgotten with time”.
The Hindraf leader wants a sea change. He wants the languorous problems faced by the Indian poor be resolved.
He believes the blueprint will be able to right the many wrongs that marginalised Indians in Malaysia have endured.
For this to happen, the ruling government needs to endorse it. People are tired of a ‘wait and see’ attitude. Concrete steps need to be taken to address the problems and it can only be done by the government.
He believed the elections would provide some leverage for the government to implement the blueprint which lays out a comprehensive and practical proposal to tackle the problems of poor and marginalized Indians in Malaysia.
He has been asked by many if he supported Barisan Nasional or Parti Keadilan Rakyat. His response has been the same – he would support the party that made a commitment and endorsed their plan.
He stresses that the Hindraf blueprint is not political and the government willing to endorse and implement it, will be the one Hindraf supports.
Even so, he recognises the dilemma they now faced, being the group that first emerged on the opposing side of the government in 2007. By providing a platform for the grassroots Indians to be heard at that time, Hindraf still holds their support.
Waythamoorthy has been on more than 50 roadshows since his return and approximately 80,000 people have attended their forums. “This is the only strength we have now – the people”.
He refuses to take sides. In the end, he would like the ruling government to use their blueprint as a practical guide to propel the marginalised Indians back to a life with dignity.
For the man who has paid a huge personal price, Waythamoorthy has a clear vision, one clearly defined in his own words as “an ideal Malaysia would be one with equality for all Malaysians……we deserve to live in dignity.”