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Hindraf ISA arrests: BN govt has lost its moral authority

Contributed by Anonymous on Thursday, December 13 @ 06:13:44 CST

National: PoliticsHindraf ISA arrests: BN govt has lost its moral authority Thursday, 13 December 2007 Aliran condemns the arrest today of five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders under the obnoxious Internal Security Act. Those detained were Hindraf legal adviser P Uthayakumar, lawyers M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan, V Ganabatirau and organising secretary T Vasanthakumar.   

These ISA arrests are certainly a huge step backwards for democracy. When the Barisan Nasional detains its citizens under the draconian ISA, it concedes that it has lost its moral authority and has no justification to frame a valid charge and take them to court under the existing laws of the country. There is no other conclusion especially when the government had earlier charged Uthayakumar and his friends for sedition. Why did it not allow the due process of the law to take its course? Is it because the charges levelled against them would not stand up to the scrutiny of the judiciary? And if the police really had concrete evidence to back up their allegations that Hindraf has links to terrorist groups, they should have charged the Hindraf leaders in court accordingly.
Many Malaysians are not surprised by the government’s latest move given the relentless campaign of vilification of the Hindraf leaders by several ministers with help from the compliant mainstream media. Through this single-minded effort over the last couple of weeks, the BN machinery prepared the ground for the use of the ISA by heaping all kinds of allegations against Hindraf. Using one-sided media reporting and official statements, they conveyed the impression that Hindraf was a threat to national security - without adducing sufficient evidence to justify this allegation.

Some Malaysians may believe that certain words used or claims made by the Hindraf leaders bordered on exaggeration. But the Hindraf leaders, like many others before them, do not deserve the unjust ISA. Nobody should be detained without trial. Detaining them under this undemocratic law will not resolve the underlying causes of the grievances and disillusionment that have been expressed by the Hindraf leaders and which have struck a chord among Indian Malaysians. By ignoring the root causes of the disenchantment, the government may well be putting its head in the proverbial sand again.

Concerned Malaysians and keen observers outside the country would be forgiven for suspecting that these arrests are aimed at suppressing legitimate dissent and opposition to the ruling party ahead of a general election. Malaysians will know that what the BN is trying to protect is its own security and interest and the survival of the MIC. It is the fear of the eroding loss of confidence that has driven the BN to take this desperate action.

When ordinary Indian Malaysians responded to the call of Hindraf on 25 November in an astounding number that ran into tens of thousands, it stunned and baffled the BN and the MIC. Ordinary Indian Malaysians, not withstanding the official statistics that have been dished out, understand their real economic status and position. Their desperate cry for help was conveyed through their participation in Hindraf activities. For them to have defied police warnings and political threats of BN leaders and to have faced the tear gas and chemically laced liquid sprayed by water cannons spoke of their utter hopelessness. It is a matter of grave regret that the BN failed to recognise this reality.

The BN has criminalised all our freedoms. We cannot walk as a group, we cannot put up a banner on our own building, we cannot have access to information, we cannot challenge any ministerial decisions in any court of law, we cannot have a reasonable campaign period prior to election, we cannot have equal radio and TV time for all registered political parties to reach out to citizens to explain party policies, we cannot have a licence as a matter of right to publish. Our basic fundamental rights and freedoms have all been taken away through subsidiary laws and regulations. We are reminded by what was said way back in 163 BC: Extreme law is often extreme injustice. 

Aliran calls upon the BN government to immediately charge all of them in a court of law if they have flouted any of the country’s laws or release them unconditionally. This would be a decent thing to do especially when Malaysia occupies an exalted seat in the global Human Rights Council.

Aliran Executive Committee

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Uthayakumar's parting messageDec 13, 07 7:47pm
Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) legal adviser P Uthayakumar saw it coming - that he would be arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA), a tough law which allows detention without trial.

In a video message recorded two weeks ago, Uthayakumar called on Hindraf supporters to continue the struggle despite should he be detained under ISA.

“We knew what we were getting into from the beginning of our struggle. We knew this can happen to us.

“We’ve come a long way - we’re fighting a just cause (and for) justice by using peaceful means to succeed,” he said.

“By arresting us under the ISA, the issue of the marginalisation and the permanent colonialisation of Indians in Malaysia will take a higher profile.

“We must look at it positively because that way we (can) get the government and international attention.”

The video was recorded on Nov 29 in Kuala Lumpur High Court - the day when Uthayakumar applied for a revision of the restraining order obtained by the police against the mammoth Hindraf rally. 

Today, Uthayakumar and four others - lawyers M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan and V Ganabatirau and organising secretary T Vasantha Kumar - were arrested under Section 8(1) of the ISA.

In a rare move, the five were sent straight to the Kamunting detention centre in Taiping, Perak, to be detained for two years, without undergoing the usual 60-day investigation period.

Link to terrorist groups

According to inspector-general of police Musa Hassan, the ISA arrests were made against the five for carrying out activities that threaten national security.

The charismatic activist had been expecting the ISA arrest after Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi threatened to use the security law against Hindraf leaders.

Last week, Musa claimed that Hindraf was linked to terrorist groups and was active in fanning racial sentiments among the Indian community by stirring up their anger and arousing hatred against the government.

Uthayakumar, who said he had no regrets, added that the sacrifice he had made for the struggle was worth it.

“If that means we have go into ISA for the betterment of the Indians, for them to be treated with dignity and for them to be respected as human beings and as Malaysian citizens [...] then so be it,” he asserted.

The jovial lawyer ended the video with a smile and waved goodbye - an image of Uthayakumar which many will not be seeing for a while.


*********************
ISA dragnet: 'Gov't is desperate'Yoges Palaniappan | Dec 13, 07 7:04pm
The government’s decision to invoke the Internal Security Act (ISA) against Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders is an act of desperation, said an opposition party today.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said the party “unreservedly condemns the arrests.”

"We urge the government to unconditionally release them and charge them in an open court if they've committed a crime. At least, we can use proofs and evidences," he added.

He was responding to the arrests of Hindraf legal adviser P Uthayakumar, lawyers M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan, V Ganabatirau and organising secretary T Vasanthakumar.

The five were picked up from various locations in Kuala Lumpur and Seremban this afternoon.

According to Lim, who is a former ISA detainee himself, the government invoked the security law in desperation to silence dissent.

"We think the government is desperate to use the ISA,” he told a press conference in Parliament. “ Even though they claim they have proofs, they haven't made them public," he added.

‘Purely evil’

The opposition leader also described the arrest and detention of the five, who have been sent to the Kamunting Detention Centre to be held for two years, as “purely evil mala fide.”

"They first need to go through 60 days in detention. If the authorities feel that they are still a threat to the nation, their detention can be extended for another two years," he said.

The five were detained under Section 8(1) of the ISA after Internal Security Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi signed the detention orders.

Under Section 73 (1) of the ISA, the police can detain any individual for up to 60 days without a warrant, trial and without access to legal counsel if he is suspected to have "acted or is about to act or is likely to act in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof or to maintenance of essential services therein or to the economic life thereof."

After 60 days, the minister can extend the period of detention without trial for up to two years, without submitting any evidence for review by the courts, by issuing a detention order, which is renewable indefinitely.

MP’s suspension

Citing DAP MP for Ipoh Barat M Kulasegaran's suspension, Lim said: "We're also very sad that while preventive detention is used outside Parliament, an Indian MP has been also prevented from voicing out (inside Parliament)."

"The suspension, on flimsy and baseless grounds, shows the growing intolerance towards Indian voices," he added.

Explaining that he did not agree with Hindraf's allegations that "ethnic cleansing" and genocide had taken place in the country, Lim, however, said Hindraf's statement on the grievances of Indians "is real."

He said DAP will be calling for an emergency central committee working meeting to address the issue.

"As a first step, we want to take the legal step by filing a habeas corpus," he said, adding that the party has also planned to set up a support group to assist the families of the detainees.

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Police disperse Hindraf supporters at Bkt AmanAndrew Ong | Dec 13, 07 7:20pm
The police moved in swiftly to disperse some 40 Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) supporters who had gathered outside Bukit Aman following the arrest of the movement’s key leaders.

At about 5pm, the crowd converged at a sidewalk near the entrance to the federal police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur after receiving news that five Hindraf leaders were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Backed by about 70 police personnel - including a dozen in riot gear - Dang Wangi police chief ACP Zulkarnain Abdul Rahman warned the crowd to disperse at about 5.30pm.

The supporters dispersed within minutes and no arrests were reported.

Speaking to reporters later, Zulkarnain said the cordon would continue indefinitely.

“We would wait until we have further information (about Hindraf supporters’ movements),” he said.

Ceramah to go on

Those arrested under ISA are Hindraf legal adviser P Uthayakumar, lawyers M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan and V Ganabatirau and organising secretary T Vasanthakumar.

Initially, Hindraf supporters were under the impression that the five were held at Bukit Aman.

However, Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan announced that the five were already taken to the Kamunting Detendion Centre in Perak.

Hindraf representative S Manikavasagam told Malaysiakini that supporters are expected to gather at Kamunting on Sunday to show support for the five detainees.

Hindraf has also urged supporters to attend a PKR-organised ceramah at Jalan Kebun, Klang where the party’s de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim will give a speech on Indian issues.

The ceramah is being held on private land and police permission was not sought for the event.

At 7pm, ceramah organiser and PKR deputy secretary-general Dr Xavier Jeyakumar said save for a few plainclothes police personnel, there are no signs of an impending crackdown.

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