Media Conference Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on Tuesday, 2nd December 2008: 

Test whether Najib will be PM for all Malaysians - immediate and unconditional ISA release of Hindraf 5 

I was interviewed by Australian Broadcasting Corporation this morning on the recent BBC interview of Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak who said that he will do more to address the grievances of minority groups when he becomes Prime Minister in March.

Najib acknowledged that Malaysian voters would want to see changes when he took office and that he needed to regain the trust of non-Malays in particular.
He promised “further measures to tackle the problems of the ethnic Indian minority” but “warned that the Hindu activist network, Hindraf, which has organised large public protests, has complicated attempts to tackle the problems of ethnic Indians”.

Najib said:

"I would like to separate the genuine concerns and the concerns exploited by Hindraf, because some of their demands are totally unrealistic.

"We cannot pander to those kind of demands, but if they are legitimate grievances we will take steps to address them."

If Najib wants to be a Prime Minister for all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or region, he must admit that while the Hindraf allegations of “ethnic cleansing” or genocide are excessive, irresponsible and unfounded – and I had made this stand openly in Parliament – the 30,000 Malaysian Indians from all over the country who rallied peacefully to the Hindraf demonstration in Kuala Lumpur on Nov. 25 last year were making a valid, justified and legitimate “cry of desperation” for an end to the long-standing marginalization of the Malaysian Indians into a new underclass in the country.

Regrettably, the Barisan Nasional government refused to heed the “cry of desperation” of the Malaysian Indian community.

Instead of thanking Hindraf for the “wake-up” call to the Barisan Nasional leadership to stop its marginalisation of the Malaysian Indians, the five Hindraf leaders, P. Uthayakumar, now DAP Selangor State Assemblyman for Kota Alam Shah M. Manoharan, V. Ganabatirau, R. Kenghadharan and T. Vasantha Kumar were detained without trial under the infamous Internal Security Act (ISA) – egged on by MIC President Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu and the MIC leadership!
If Najib is now prepared to concede the legitimacy of the grievances of the Malaysian Indians at their political, economic, educational and social marginalisation in Malaysia, then the first thing that must be done is the immediate and unconditional ISA releas of the Hindraf 5 from the Kamunting Detention Centre and the immediate abandonment of the mindset regarding the 30,000 people who supported the Hindraf demonstration on November 25, 2007 as trouble-makers or even terrorists.

The Hindraf 5 would be reaching the full year of ISA detention on December 13.

There is no reason why the Hindraf 5 should mark their full year of ISA detention in Kamunting and cannot be released before it.

Is Najib prepared to secure the release of the Hindraf 5 before December 13 or is all his talk in the BBC interview just sweet but empty words and he is not prepared to “walk the talk” of taking the first step to reach out to the marginalized Malaysian Indians followed by a comprehensive programme to re-integrate them into the mainstream of national development?

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor