Malaysia

As polls loom, Putrajaya lifts Hindraf ban

The letter to Hindraf chief P Waythamoorthy. The letter to Hindraf chief P Waythamoorthy.

In a letter addressed to Hindraf chief P Waythamoorthy yesterday, the Registrar of Societies (RoS) informed the organisation that it was the Home Minister who had made the decision, after reconsidering the its appeal.

"Please be informed that the Home Minister, after reconsidering your appeal, has agreed to rescind the Section 5 order under the Societies Act 1966 issued on October 14, 2008, which had gazetted the Hindu Rights Action Force as an illegal organisation," said the letter which was signed by one Dasmond Das Michael Das of the RoS.

Waythamoorthy, who is believed to be abroad at the moment, forwarded a scanned copy of the letter and emailed it to several media organisations this evening.

The lifting of the ban comes at a most strategic time; on the eve of Thaipusam, a very significant festival to the the Hindus who form the majority of the country's Indian community; and even more notable is that in just months, the country will head for federal polls, which is seen as likely to be the most toughest electoral battle yet for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN).

It has been over five years since the group of nearly 30,000 Indians led by Hindraf marched into the capital city to protest what they had claimed were "unfair" policies of the BN government.

But since then, many political leaders and observers have said that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, his repeated attempts to appear more inclusive and his administration's purportedly conciliatory policies appear to be recapturing the support of the country's minority group.

BN has also regained Indian votes in several of the 16 by-elections since Election 2008 where the country's estimated three million Indians form a sizeable minority.

Since Election 2008, the then outlawed Hindraf movement that organised the November 25, 2007 march has also split up, with some leaders favouring the BN government while others either continue with Pakatan Rakyat (PR) parties or have grown disenchanted with both coalitions.

It was also Najib who had strategically agreed to free a few of the "Hindraf Five" who were taken in by the authorities under the now-repealed Internal Security Act (ISA).

In fact, several Indian leaders in BN's MIC believe that in the party's tussle for the Indian vote in the coming polls, the most important element to recapture lost support from the community would be Najib himself.

The Indian vote is seen as crucial to determine BN's future in the country as the next general election is expected to be a neck-and-neck race between the ruling coalition and the fledgling PR pact.

Observers have claimed that Najib and BN leaders have lost confidence in the MIC's ability to score the Indian vote, resulting in efforts by the prime minister to engage directly with the community, who form nearly 1.8 million out of the 28 million population in Malaysia. Some 800,000 are registered voters.

Just recently, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz announced in Parliament that Najib was ready to hold a dialogue with Hindraf to discuss the community's key concerns.

But in an interview with The Malaysian Insider in December last year, MIC secretary-general Datuk S. Murugesan noted there was nothing wrong with relying on the "Najib factor" to boost Indian support, adding that humility has been important in wooing support back into BN's fold

"We have a good PM (prime minister)... what's wrong with that?" he said.

"It is only to be expected. All this while, people have been saying - why hasn't the government done this or done that... and the face of the government is the PM.

"So if they think we have a good leader with good heart, good ears and a sound mind at the helm, they will support us.

"So... yes, Najib is an important factor and I've got no issues with that," he added.

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