Barely 48 hours after suspending all Hindraf coordinators, the outlawed movement’s exiled leader P Waythamoorthy has now been forced to defend his decision.
His move to clarify the suspension came about following a deepening rift between London-based Waythamoorthy and the movement’s grassroots leaders and supporters who were fighting for the cause here.
It is also learnt that Waythamoorthy’s clarification was as much as to assuage the bruised egos of the suspended coordinators, which included some opposition parliamentarians and well-known rights activists.
“A complete revamp and restructure is needed to face the new challenges (for Hindraf),” Waythamoorthy told Malaysiakini today in explaining his decision to suspend the coordinators.
He said that his original intention to suspend the coordinators has been “misinterpreted and misunderstood by certain segment of the public”.
“They read it as though we are replacing our coordinators. This is not the case as it is merely a restructuring exercise,” he added.
And he went on to further explain the need for such an exercise.
Changes needed to remain relevant
He said that the original 10-member committee was set up towards the end of 2007 to oversee the movement’s campaign in fighting for the rights of the Indian community and to demand for the release of Hindraf leaders held under the Internal Security Act in December 2007.
By then Waythamoorthy had also left the country to spearhead the movement from London.
However, he added, those appointed to the position of coordinators have now moved on to undertake other key responsibilities which were far more challenging with the increased needs of the society.
He gave the examples of M Manoharan (Teluk Intan) and S Manikavasagam (Kapar) (right) who have since become parliamentarians for the opposition.
He said that another coordinator N Surendran had been forced to take up all legal matters involving Hindraf as all other Hindraf legal advisors were under the ISA detention.
And as for the movement’s national coordinator RS Thanenthiran, Waythamoorthy said the former has since indicated that he was serious about forming his own political party.
“As chairperson of Hindraf, I can state that the valuable and sound advice, support and contribution from the aforesaid politicians, members of parliament and legal advisor have been vital in spearheading our struggle.
“The continuous support from them would only strengthen the movement’s direction in fulfilling the demands of the Indian community,” he added.
However, he said that the expectations and aspirations of the Indian community were beyond the original demands and Hindraf needed to keep up with the needs and changes to be relevant.
“In these circumstances, a complete revamp and restructuring is needed to face the new challenges. The new structure would be announced in the next few days,” he said.
Grumble in the ground
On Friday, Waythamoorthy dropped a bombshell by announcing the suspension of the movement’s 10 state and national coordinators with immediate effect. He replaced them with a three-person interim committee.
Among those dropped from the line-up included the movement’s top coordinator Thanenthiran (left) who had been helming the group locally while Waythamoorthy was in self-imposed exile.
Waythamoorthy also placed a gag order on the dropped coordinators.
The coordinators, while publicly have stated that they accepted Waythamoorthy’s decision, have privately expressed their disappointment with the move.
It is learnt that some of them were caught unaware by their suspension, leaving them embarrassed in having to explain the situation to their supporters.
These coordinators have played a pivotal role in keeping the Hindraf movement alive and relevant, including successfully turning the Indian voters to support the opposition in the 2008 general election.
However, there have been complaints recently that the movement and some of its coordinators have become politically ambitious.
Who is Waythamoorthy?
Waythamoorthy’s decision to suspend the coordinators also did not go down well with some Hindraf supporters who had turned against the movement’s leader by questioning his judgement.
And highlighting the widening rift in the movement, leading Tamil daily Malaysia Nanban today carried a headline which asked ‘Who is Waythamoorthy?’
The daily quoted some grassroots supporters questioning Waythamoorthy’s decision to remain overseas while faulting the local coordinators.
“He should have been here fighting with us for our cause rather than issuing statements from overseas,” they said.