Tamils in Malaysia also articulate the Eelam cause and vow to strive for it
M Kulasegaran is an ethnic Tamil politician of Malaysia and is the National Vice Chairman of the Democratic Action Party. A practicing lawyer running his own law firm, Kula and Associated in Ipoh City, he is the face of the new generation politicians of the Opposition who are determined to end the rule of the BarisanNasional coalition (formerly Alliance party) which has ruled Malaysia since its independence in 1957.
Educated in England, he is married to Jeya, and the couple has two children. Rising from a humble background - his parents were rubber tappers - Kulasegaran is a three time Member of Parliament, presently representing Ipoh Barat Parliamentary constituency.
Kulasegaran wants to work for the betterment of all ethnic races in Malaysia
In an interview to The Weekend Leader, he tells Paul Newman that his dream is to create a just and fair economic and political system in Malaysia, while expressing concern about the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka and pledging his support for their liberation struggle. Excerpts from the interview:
As a Tamil can you narrate the difficulties you had faced while climbing the political ladder?
Malaysia is a multi racial country with Indians constituting just about 8 percent of the total population. Of this 8 percent, nearly 80 percent are Tamils. There are 222 Parliamentary constituencies and of this not a single constituency has a Tamil/ Indian majority.
Thus there is a great need to work with other races namely the Malays, Chinese and other minorities in order to win elections. In my own constituency there are less than 25 percent Indians.
The present coalition has ruled the country since its independence. It’s difficult to remain in politics especially in the opposition, but things have changed for the better in the last few years.
You have championed the cause of the minority Tamils in Malaysia. Can you tell us some of the pressing difficulties faced by them?
Although Tamils are doing well in many professions like medicine and law, yet the vast majority of Tamils are in the lowest income bracket. Tamils are finding it difficult to get gainful employment. Although well qualified academically, yet many Tamils students are unable to enter local universities due to discriminatory policies against the minorities.
Malaysia has been a pro Sri Lankan state. But you have spoken for the Tamils in Parliament…
Malaysia has good relations with Sri Lanka which is due to business reasons. I have over the last 10 years raised the deplorable human right abuses and the scant respect for the Tamil race in Sri Lanka. I have been a vocal advocate of the Tamil refugee issue. Tamil refugees here need protection and we need to relocate them overseas as early as possible so that they can lead a better life.
Members of your party went on a delegation to Sri Lanka to get a first hand feel of the situation there. Can you describe the situation there based on their finding?
Three MP’s, Manogaran, Johari, and Ramakrishnan, visited Sri Lanka last year and they reported that over 300,000 thousand people are displaced and live in the most inhumane and deplorable condition in and around Vavuniya. They were appalled by their condition. The Tamil areas are nothing but an open prison where life is dictated by the oppressive state forces. This is not an ideal condition to live in, especially in a country which claims to be a democracy.
What are your election promises for the Tamils in Malaysia? How do you plan to push the Eelam issue forward?
We promise the upliftment and empowerment of the Tamils economically, socially and politically. We will continue to articulate for Eelam but it would be better if we are able to form the Federal Government.
Sinhalisation of Tamil land continues unabated. What is your opinion?
After the victory of Sinhala army against the Tamils, the process of Sinhalisation has been speeded up. The world community and India need to stir up their conscience to stop this viscous and racist march of the Sinhala community, especially their ruling class.
There is no justification to the large scale presence of the military in the Tamil land in a post war situation as it is a great hindrance to the return of normalcy and reconciliation. The Tamil provinces are ruled by Sinhala Governors who happen to be retired military officers. The land colonization in the name of High Security Zones and preventing Tamil fishermen from fishing are high handed acts of Sinhalising.
The growing number of Sinhala business establishments coming up in the Tamil areas is a step towards destroying the Tamil economy and making them dependent on the Sinhalese.
Your thoughts on the UN Panel of Experts report, the LLRC report and the UN Resolution passed in March 2012 against Sri Lanka.
The report by the UN panel of experts is so independently done and its findings are generally well received and accepted. The LLRC is a mere eye wash done by the Sinhala Government to appease the world. The passing of the UN Resolution in March 2012 is a reminder to Sri Lanka that the world is watching their inhumane and cruel acts against the Tamils.
The process of accountability needs to start in due course. Those innocent who suffered must get justice and it becomes the duty of the UN and the international community to work for peace and justice of the Tamils.
Do you support an independent Tamil Eelam? Will it be a reality?
Historically the Tamils and the Sinhala were two distant states in the Island. This is an undisputed fact. The British merged the entire island into one administrative unit. After independence in 1948, the Tamils were forced to accept the Sinhala dominated Ceylon - later renamed Sri Lanka - as their country.
It was a forced marriage, without the consent of the Tamils. Thus Tamil Eelam needs to be an independent country as desired by the Tamils. The recent break up of Sudan was encouraged to avoid further human fatalities. The same reasoning applies to Tamil Eelam becoming an independent country.
With wife Jeya
There is a demand for International Investigations into war crimes in Sri Lanka. What is the stand of your party on this?
The media has exposed the gory way the Sri Lankan state ended this war. It was a war not against the LTTE alone, it was a war on the innocent Tamils. There is no justification for the bombings and aerial attacks on the no-fire zones, where the Government had ordered people to move in and made them easy targets. The deliberate use of food, medicine, and water as weapons of war amounts to crimes against humanity and war crimes. There is no second thought about demanding for international investigations. The party too is of the same view, as it is a human issue and not just a Tamil issue.
If your coalition is voted to power will you demand an international trial of Rajapaksa on war crime charges?
Rajapaksa must face investigation by an international war crimes tribunal. Ethnic cleansing, genocide, and war crimes have taken place during the civil war in Sri Lanka in Rajapaksa’s tenure.
Those who play with the lives of the innocent civilians must also pay for it. Hence it becomes important that not only Rajapaksa but the entire regime should be held accountable. Only then it would serve as a lesson to others around the world not to venture into such misadventures at the expense of the voiceless civilians.
Paul Newman holds a Doctorate of Philosophy on ‘Internal Displacement and Human Rights situation in Northern Sri Lanka from Bangalore University. He was one of the four public speakers at the Permanent People’s Tribunal on War Crimes against Sri Lanka.