A colonial law invoked against Hindraf

A minority ethnic community claiming to be victims of the state's affirmative action policy for the ethnic majority with political patronage files a class-action suit. This was not in their own land, where they allege abuse and discrimination, but in Great Britain against the colonial powers which transported them here 150 years ago for indentured labour to lay the foundations of infrastructure and plantation economy upon which the present trumpeted progress and development is based.

They contend that they have been alienated, sidelined and generally left to their own devices in their long houses, slums, squatter colonies and teaching houses that pass off as schools. The small temples in these areas are not on their own land because poverty prevents private ownership. Why do they not seek redress in their own land? Because they have no confidence in the apparatus of the state, which they contend, has contaminated every institution that makes up a democracy; the police, the Attorney-General's Chambers, the civil service and even the courts.

So they plan to make a public statement by means of a peaceful assembly outside the gates of the British High Commission to petition Her Majesty, the Queen of Great Britain and Mother of the Commonwealth to appoint a Queen's Counsel on their behalf to prosecute their claims against the government of Great Britain. Since they claim they are victims of the laws of the land which Her Majesty had transported them to, they seek justice according to the laws of England.

And what is the response of the state apparatus? Predictably, to prove the allegations of the hapless and helpless underclass. The police first issue warnings and then threats of firm action. Later, they arrest the leaders, invoke an ancient law which even lawyers and judges did not know existed, go ex-parte before a magistrate getting an injunction to prevent the public from going anywhere near the British High Commission that has already announced that they are ready to receive the petition.

They deploy thousands of police officers to choke the entry points into the city and use the courts to charge the leaders for sedition based on a colonial law of Her Majesty enacted against natives of the subjugated land.

Fifty years after independence, the administration invokes a colonial law against its own citizens who contend historic, systemic and continued victimisation and marginalisation. The Queen is beseeched to appoint a Queen's Counsel for the petitioners to prosecute her government and also the crown. In the meantime, ordinary Malaysians can only hang their heads in shame witnessing the full force of the state apparatus unleashed upon the sang kancil.

The writer is former president, National Human Rights Society (Hakam)