Uthaya, a true hero of the people

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I refer to the Malaysiakini report 'They threw me out of Kamunting' .

In human history, there have been many times when people facing injustice and oppression have used non-violent resistance to achieve social and political change.

Because of the highest moral standards needed to achieve true change, the leaders of these movements have had to shoulder an enormous responsibility.

Whilst all the time keeping a clear eye on their goal and inspiring and motivating people, they need to ensure that their movement never deviated from the principles of their struggle.

If they sacrifice their principles and accepted that the ends justifies the means, their movements' moral standing would have been lost and would soon disintegrate.

In shouldering these responsibilities, time and time again these leaders have had to make great personal sacrifices. Let's look at three notable examples.

1. Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned in 1908 by the racist government in South Africa for resisting the unjust Asiatic Act law.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘Gandhi's most painful experience must have been when he was told that his wife, Kasturbai, was critically ill. He was given the option to pay his fine and rush to her bedside. His commitment to satyagraha would not allow him to do so.'

2. Martin Luther King, Jr took part in protests against segregation in the town of Albany, Georgia in 1961, and was sentenced to imprisonment. The authorities offered to release him (and his colleague) if they paid a fine of US$178.

Sticking to principle, they refused. Finally the police chief himself paid their fine and released them to avoid embarrassment.

3. Nelson Mandela was undergoing life imprisonment at Robben Island, a maximum security prison, when the apartheid government offered to release him in exchange for accepting the ‘bantustan' policy by recognising the independence of the Transkei and agreeing to settle there.

He chose to never compromise his principles. He remained in prison until he was released unconditionally on Feb 11, 1990 after being imprisoned for a total of 27 years.

To this fellowship (which includes many others, some of whom we may not know about), we can now add a Malaysian, P Uthayakumar, who refused to accept any conditions for his release from

detention under the ISA.

In his own words, ‘If they force me (to sign the conditional release papers, which among other things would have barred him from speaking at public functions), I will not do it as I prefer going back to Kamunting prison,' (the words in brackets being mine).

Leaders like them inspire us. They and their loved ones have suffered pain, physical and emotional, for us.

Let us stand, not behind them but shoulder to shoulder with them, and work together for justice for all Malaysians. Let us never forget what these brave people have shown, that truth and justice will always triumph over lies and oppression.

Let us not forget either, that all that is needed for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing. Finally, let us never forget these words of Uthayakumar: ‘Never give in to them.'

May all victims of the ISA get the justice that they deserve.

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