The past week was an extraordinary time in the life of two India-origin Malaysians - P. Wayathamoorthy and P. Uthayakumar. Only hours after Wayathamoorthy was awarded senatorship in Malaysia, his brother Uthayakumar received two-and-half year jail term on sedition charges.
P. Udayakumar, de facto chief of the once-banned Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), has been sentenced to 30 months imprisonment as the letter he wrote to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2007, was alleged to contain seditious content.
In the letter written between 15 November and 8 December that year, Uthayakumar had alleged that a state sponsored social 'ethnic cleansing of the Indian poor' was being carried out in Malaysia, according to Malaysia Today.
The azstarnet.com reported that the letter also contained references to ethnic Indian detainees shot by police and other custodial deaths. The letter received worldwide attention after being broadly dispersed through numerous websites and blogs.
Sessions Court judge Ahmad Zamzaini Mohd Zain handed over the sentence to Uthayakumar on Wednesday. Earlier this week, Uthayakumar had refused to be defended saying that the case's circumstances did not allow him to proceed and he declined from applying a stay on the sentence. He did not file an appeal or mitigate the case as stated earlier and chose to remain silent throughout the court proceedings. He allegedly posed for photographs after asking to be handcuffed, even after court officials warned him. The 50-year-old will be sent to Kajang Prison to serve his sentence.
Terming the allegations against the government as baseless, Deputy Public Prosecutor Noorin Badaruddin said, "The words used by Uthayakumar such as 'mini genocide' and 'ethnic cleansing' at an international level gives the impression that grave crimes and racial oppression were committed," reported The Star.
Stating that the comments could damage the country's peace and security she opined that a mere fine would have been insufficient for the offence.
Among the 29 million people in Malaysia, ethnic Indians comprise nearly 10 percent. The Malay dominated government has always been facing allegations on racial discrimination. Recently, a task force was set up to investigate into this month's custodial deaths, and three offices were convicted for murdering Indian-origin Dhamendran while he was in custody.
Sedition charges are not unheard of in Malaysia. On 29 May, five people including Tian Chua of People's Justice Party were charged for sedition. Many political activists including Lim Guan Eng accused that Wayathamoorthy escaped the charges when he turned friendly with the ruling Barisan Nasional Front coalition.
The 2007 Hindraf rally against discrimination of ethnic Indians had seen both men marching together. While Wayathamoorthy had gone into self-exile and fled the country, Uthayakumar was arrested under the Internal Security Act. The two brothers, who are the founder members of Hindraf, had a fall out around the 2013 election period, when Wayathamoorthy supported the coalition after the government lifted the ban on Hindraf.
Wayathamoorthy was recently appointed deputy minister to Prime Minister Najib Razak's Cabinet and also as senator. Attributing his victory to the poor and underclass ethnic Indians, he said he will strive to achieve Hindraf's fundamental goals.