Malaysia makes small step towards reform, but long road ahead
Earlier this month, the Malaysian government made a small step towards reform by lifting their ban on the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF), a human rights group that began protesting, in 2007, decades of systemic discrimination against Malaysian Indians and Hindus. Since 2007, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has reported on the various forms of disenfranchisement suffered by the 2 million Hindus in Malaysia including repression of political expression, economic and professional subjugation, temple destruction, and encroachment of property rights. Moreover, approximately 200,000 ethnic Indians have been denied citizenship.
Two of Malaysia’s largest political parties, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), both promote Malay nationalistic agendas, the most famous being Bumiputra or “Sons of the Soil.” Lifting the ban on HINDRAF has been construed by some as a vote bank tactic for the upcoming election, no later than June of this year.
HINDRAF leader Waytha Moorthy had been living in exile in London for 5 years. On August 1, 2012, Moorthy safely re-entered Malaysia, rejoining HINDRAF leaders in their struggle for constitutional reform, some of whom are still detained in prison. Despite lifting the ban on HINDRAF, the Malaysian government still has a long road ahead to justify its claim as a democracy and as a member of the UN Human Rights Council.