KUALA LUMPUR – P Waythamoorthy has revealed that failure to find common ground with the opposition had led to Hindraf backing Barisan Nasional (BN) in the last general election, a choice which he says was a mistake.

Waytha said the Indian rights NGO had been put in a situation which led its leaders to sign a pact with “the devil”.

According to Waytha, the NGO had been unable to reach an agreement with then-opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat on how to help the Indian community, even after more than 20 meetings.

“So, while we knew BN might not keep its word, we were left with no choice because Hindraf serves the poor and the underclass in the community.

“It was really unfortunate,” the Hindraf chief said at the forum titled “Pakatan Menuju Putrajaya”, held at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall last night.

Also present were DAP’s Zaid Ibrahim and Amanah president Mohamad Sabu.

Waytha was referring to a memorandum of understanding signed with Prime Minister Najib Razak prior to the general election in 2013,  with the ruling Barisan Nasional government promising to uplift the Indian community.

He added that if Hindraf had campaigned for Pakatan Rakyat, it would now “be in Putrajaya”, the nation’s administrative capital.

“We all make mistakes. I made a mistake, although I didn’t know I had done so at the time, because the rights of the Indian community were all put on a piece of paper,  but there was no implementation.”

Waytha later told reporters that Hindraf would make a formal application to join Pakatan Harapan “in the  weeks to come”. Yesterday, Pakatan Harapan chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he had yet to receive any formal application from the NGO following talk that Hindraf would become the opposition coalition’s fifth component or at least be an affiliate of the coalition.

Meanwhile, Zaid acknowledged that Hindraf had wanted to be part of the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat in 2013 and urged the new coalition to be inclusive.

The former minister added that Pakatan Harapan should not repeat Pakatan Rakyat’s mistake.

“Leaders must take a gamble. We can’t undo the past, but I think we can start again. I think Hindraf can make a strong contribution.”

Hindraf came into prominence in 2007 after tens of thousands of Indians took part in a protest it had organised in Kuala Lumpur, accusing the government of marginalising Malaysian Indians.

The group was widely credited for opposition gains in the general election a year later, when BN candidates were defeated in constituencies with a large concentration of Indian voters. This included then MIC president S Samy Vellu, who lost his Sungai Siput seat, which he had held for more than 30 years.

– M’kini