Hindraf leaders, ethnic Indians in Malaysian poll fray

February 24th, 2008 - 4:28 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, Feb 24 (IANS) M. Manoharan, the jailed leader of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), is contesting the March 8 elections in Malaysia with the nomination of the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP). Manorahan, a lawyer, will contest from Kota Alam Shah parliamentary constituency.

He has been one of the five Hindraf leaders sentenced for two years under the stringent Internal Security Act (ISA) for organizing a protest rally Nov 15 that was declared illegal and forcibly dispersed.

The Hindraf claims to speak for the Tamil Hindus who form majority of the two million-plus ethnic Indians who came to Malaysia during the British era.

However, the government has disapproved of Hindraf’s actions as aimed at destabilizing the delicate ethnic balance in the country.

Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), the party that has traditionally represented the Indian interests in the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, has been openly critical of the Hindraf.

However, the poll nominations do not reflect a large-scale confrontation between the two at least in terms of candidates being fielded.

Despite speculation, there is no Hindraf nominee against MIC president S. Samy Vellu in Sungkai Siput parliamentary constituency. Works Minister Vellu is contesting for a ninth term as nominee of the MIC and the Barisan.

However, Hindraf lawyer-member A. Sivanesan is contesting the Sungkai state legislature seat against MIC vice-president S. Veerasingam.

Along with Manoharan, Sivanesan is among 11 lawyers contesting for the DAP in Perak state. Perak has six ethnic Indian candidates in the fray.

Headed by ethnic Indian Karpal Singh, a lawyer-lawmaker, the DAP, having members of all the three major ethnic groups - Malays, Chinese and Indians - is a major opposition party contesting in seven parliamentary and 18 state seats.

Its candidates are defending three parliamentary seats and seven state seats.

DAP Vice Chairman M. Kulasegaran is seeking re-election from Ipoh Barat parliamentary seat.

DAP Chief Karpal Singh appeared to have altered his strategy yet again, fielding not two but one of his sons, and that too for the state legislature.

Son Govind Singh Deo, 35, will contest from Puchong, New Straits Times said Sunday.

Gobind had earlier been speculated to be contesting in various parliamentary and state seats.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohammed Saturday told the media that he had blessed his son Mukhriz Mahathir’s candidature, but would not campaign for him.

Mukhriz Mahathir has been nominated as the Barisan Nasional candidate for the Jerlun parliamentary seat in Kedah.

“My advice to him is to be serious and work hard,” Mahathir said after launching the National Educational Guide for Youth Seminar 2008 at the International Islamic University in Gombak.

“If the people want to choose him, then they will choose him. I have no say on his nomination. It is up to the party leadership to decide,” he said, adding that the BN would win the general election.

“I am not sure if the BN (Barisan Nasional) will win with a big or small majority. But win, that’s for sure,” Mahathir was quoted as saying in The New Straits Times.

Mahathir, 82, who ruled uninterrupted for 22 years, made way for the Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2003. But the longest serving PM has since been critical of Badawi’s government from time to time.

Among the ethnic Indian candidates contesting on behalf of the ruling coalition is S.K. Devamany. The teacher-turned lawmaker is seeking re-election in Cameron Highlands.

Asked about his standing among the Indian community after his outburst in parliament last year following the Hindraf demonstration, Devamany said the Indian community in his constituency knew him better.

Devamany landed in hot water last year when he claimed that more than 50,000 people showed up at the Nov 25 Hindraf protests, which showed the government had failed to look into the plight of the Indian community in the country.

That statement resulted in him having to explain himself to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak.

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