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Jan 22, 2008

'Mr PM, take my roses'

A Hindraf Valentine: 'Mr PM, take my roses'

Click the image on your right to view full sized image.

Dressed in a frilly dark-red dress and wearing pom-poms in her hair, five-year-old Vwaishhnnavi was all decked out to deliver a letter to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. What she wanted was a 'date' for Valentine's Day.

Her letter, submitted through the premier's aide at his office in Putrajaya this morning, invited him to accept roses from her and hundreds of other children on Feb 16 (Valentine’s Day is observed on Feb 14, traditionally with gifts like flowers).

But this was no ordinary child and not your typical expression of love from yet another star-struck admirer of the prime minister.

Vwaishhnnavi is the only child of Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) chairperson and lawyer P Waythamoorthy, who is currently in self-imposed exile in London.

Her uncle, Uthayakumar, the movement’s legal adviser, has been detained with four others for two years under the Internal Security Act.

The planned parade of flower-bearing children and their parents to Parliament House next month is to petition Abdullah for the release of the Hindraf leaders who were detained on his orders, on Dec 13 last year.

In a three-page handwritten letter, Vwaishhnnavi also asked that the gathering of supporters be protected from any untoward incident.

“I am doing this for the rights of Indians in our country and for my five uncles whom you have put them [sic] in prison,” reads the letter.

“Please protect me and others coming to Parliament from the brutal attack of police who may use tear gas and chemical (-laced) water. Mr PM, I am coming because I want to give you beautiful flowers... You must wait for me at Parliament to take my roses.”

Other than the flowers, the group hopes to hand over to Abdullah an 18-point memorandum on the needs of the Indian Malaysian community.

Most of the talking this morning was done by Hindraf national coordinator RS Thanendran and its spokesperson S Manickavasagam.

Vwaishhnnavi was quiet throughout. She knew, though, how to smile sweetly as photographers and television crew focused their lenses on her.

Hindraf’s influence ‘evident’

Asked what they had in mind if denied a police permit to assemble outside Parliament, Manickivasagam said the peaceful gathering would go on even if a permit is not issued. An application will be submitted tomorrow to the police.

“We are not bringing weapons or anything (like that). These are flowers that we are bringing to the prime minister,” said Manickavasagam, who is also a member of the PKR supreme council.

Echoing this, Thanendran said the premier should set an example to the children by allowing the peaceful gathering.

“We will apply for the permit, (so) grant us the permit. We will abide by all the laws and regulations. We’ll never break any laws. We’re only worried that they (the police) will set a bad example,” he said.

To a suggestion that the group would be using children to further its goals, he said the gathering on Feb 16 is to educate the younger generation and impress on them the need to struggle for their rights.

“We are taking them (along) with the consent of their parents. We are doing this for their future,” he said.

The first gathering by Hindraf on Nov 25 last year saw a gathering of about 30,000 Indians suppressed by riot police.

Despite the government’s reluctance to accord legitimacy to Hindraf, said Thanendran, it was evident that it has succeeded in forcing recognition that the Indian community has legitimate grievances.

He cited Abdullah’s announcement on Sunday declaring a public holiday for Thaipusam - a move sought by community leaders for at least 20 years.

Abdullah also announced the creation of a special cabinet committee to look into eradication of poverty, as well the establishment of a task force under the home ministry to look into the plight of an estimated 400,000 Indians who are without identification documents.

“After Hindraf’s (Nov 25 demonstration of) people power, (many things) came into (play),” said Thandendran.

He also described Hindraf as a “non-political” group that supports any party struggling for the rights of Indian Malaysians.

However, he said actions against Hindraf could well influence the voting choices of Indians in the upcoming general election.

“We are a NGO asking for basic human rights which (Indians) have been deprived (of) and (we have been) discriminated against for the past 50 years,” he added.

“If the five (Hindraf leaders) are still detained in Kamunting (camp in Perak) and (elections are called), it will affect (choices made by voters).”


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