Thursday, December 13, 2007

V Ganabathirau

(Update II: Donation mechanism is ready. See post here.)

(Update: Due to numerous requests for information on how to donate to Gana's family from DAP Damansara branch members to fellow supporters, I'll be announcing details soon here on this blog this weekend when the mechanism gets ironed out)


Today is another sad and black day for Malaysia. You would have read that 5 Hindraf leaders have been arrested without trial under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA), exactly two decades after the last Operasi Lalang.

There appears to be plenty of such sad and black days in recent weeks. Who would have thought that the seemingly genial Prime Minister, Pak Lah, when he took over the reigns of the Government could have been such an incompetent, uninspiring, sleeping and heartless leader?

But enough about Pak Lah, I've ranted enough 2 days ago here. Now, I'd just like to provide a little more insight to one of those arrested, a little known unsung hero, 34 year old lawyer, V Ganabathirau, who hit the limelight recently as one of the core leaders of Hindraf.

As you may have read from the New Straits Times (NST) yesterday, Gana is a DAP member. What makes the whole ugly episode we saw today close to me, is that Gana is a member of DAP Damansara branch, of which I'm the chairperson. Gana joined me in March this year, and subsequently helped form the Taman Muda branch in Shah Alam, of which he is the advisor.

Having known him for the past 8 months or so, I can't claim to know him inside out. But there are somethings which I will vouch for him with my life.

Gana is not a racist. He is not a religious fanatic and neither is he in anyway at all, a terrorist as he is insinuated to be. Having known him well in recent months, he is the complete opposite of what the Pak Lah administration, through the mainstream mouthpieces will like to paint him to be.

Gana is a full-blooded Malaysian, who strongly believes that all Malaysians regardless of ethnicity must have equal opportunities to succeed. While some may quibble over the fact that Hindraf could have taken a greater multi-racial outlook in its position, no right thinking Malaysian will deny them the fact that the overwhelming majority of Indians in this country are severely marginalised and lives below or near the poverty line.

The way politics in Malaysia are framed at this point of time, it is unsurprising that the ethnic Indians found themselves having to stand up and be counted. They really have nothing else to lose.

Some will argue that I can afford to spend some time on politics today because I've made some money after having sold my company. However, Gana, despite having just started his own fledging law firm, found himself travelling frequently (i.e., at least weekly) between Teluk Intan, his hometown and Shah Alam where he now stays, in order to provide his community services to the needy and unfortunate. He even rented and refurbished a service centre in Teluk Intan with his own money, to carry out his services.

When I received cases at my own service centre in Damansara Utama, and was in need of legal services to assist the complainants, Gana offered his with absolutely no hesitation. For example, there was a group of 7 contractors who failed to receive payment from a housing developer, Gana took up their case and offered legal advise pro bono. When legal actions were required, I actually had to convince him to accept some payment from these contractors! Guess what, these contractors were all Chinese but race, as should be the case for all right-thinking Malaysians, never ever came into the picture.

Gana, the youngest of 3 brothers, is a son that would have made any family proud. He belongs to the Indian Telugu community and grew up in a poor family which just about made enough to survive. Gana never manage to have the privilege of completing his education at one go. After finishing Form 5, he had to take up various odd jobs to help support himself and his family.

That however, did not prevent him from investing his earnings and taking up part-time courses to pursue his ambition of becoming an officer of the court. His dream came true in his late twenties when he graduated with a law degree from the University of London external programme. He plied his trade as a legal assistant with a law firm in Teluk Intan before saving sufficiently to set up his own firm, having moved to Shah Alam late last year.

But all these while, he held political ambitions, ambitions not to further enrich himself by illegal and unethical means, but ambitions to help play a part in the betterment of his marginalised community as well as Malaysians in general. Having set up his own firm, it provided him, for better or worse, the flexibility to spend time on social and political causes. And he did it with all his heart and soul.

Gana was married not too long ago to a school teacher. And only just on Merdeka day this year, his first, now barely 4-month old baby daughter, was born. If Pak Lah has his way, by the time Gana is released from ISA detention, his daughter would be more than 2 years old. When Gana first pointed out his wife to me sitting in the court stands when he was being charged with sedition in Klang sessions court, you could visibly see tears in her eyes. Her fears have unfortunately come true.

Gana told me that his wife was a former Tamil school debater and is very politically aware. In fact, in the earlier years, she used to tease him that he only knew how to "talk" politics but never got his hands dirty. More recently however, she will half-jokingly tell him that she regretted having ever encouraged him to join the fight for a just cause.

Gana is a good man. He has sacrificed selflessly to help create a better Malaysia for all Malaysians, particularly for the underprivileged and marginalised community. He has rose quickly to prominence through sheer tenacity, hardwork, eloquence and dedication to the cause. 30,000 Indians from all parts of Malaysia walked the streets of Kuala Lumpur not because they had nothing better to do, but because they shared his cause, and they believed that "enough is enough!"

For that, Pak Lah who is clearly unable to hear, accept and deal with the truth, invoked the draconian ISA in the hope of sweeping all under the carpet.

Thankfully, Gana has a kind and loving family members who will help take care of the needs of the mother and child. The DAP, as announced by the party secretary-general, will be setting up a fund to assist the families of those who have been detained without trial.

My eyes were moist as I wrote this post. I firmly believe that Gana will be a stronger man post-detention. You would not have heard the last of him for a long time yet. I expect him to be a future leader of this country, a rare breed of the much needed righteous, caring, intelligent and dedicated kind who will only contribute immensely to creating a better Malaysia for our future generations. His personal sacrifices must not, and will not be in vain.

Share this story with others who need to see the other side of the coin.

(Footnote: I've been corrected that he is actually the middle and not the youngest son of 3 brothers. ;-))

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