Friday, December 14, 2007

Silent Malaysian majority backs lock up of loud-mouth demonstrators

BBC:
Five ethnic Indian rights activists have been arrested in Malaysia, under a rarely used security law that allows indefinite detention without trial.

The men belong to the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), which organised a mass rally last month alleging discrimination against ethnic Indians.

AFP:
The United States demanded Thursday that Malaysia provide fair treatment to five leaders of a rights group held under a security law that allows for indefinite detention without trial.

The five from the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), pushing for an end to discrimination of ethnic Indians in multi-racial Malaysia, were picked up Thursday and ordered held under the feared Internal Security Act (ISA).

"Our expectation as a government is that these individuals would be provided the full protections under Malaysian law, that they would be given due process, that they would be accorded all the rights accorded to any other citizen, and that this be done in a speedy and transparent manner," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Hindraf enraged the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi last month by mustering at least 8,000 people to the streets of Kuala Lumpur to highlight various issues facing ethnic Indians, including lack of economic opportunities and destruction of Hindu temples.

Police used tear gas, water cannons and baton charges to break up the protests.

"It is our firm position that those individuals who want to peacefully express themselves in a political forum or any other forum should be allowed to do so," McCormack told reporters.
The New York Times:
The government detained five leaders of an ethnic Indian organization under a strict and rarely used security law after they were accused of threatening national security. The law allows for indefinite detention without trial. The group brought 10,000 people onto the streets of Kuala Lumpur last month to protest what it claims is discrimination against ethnic Indians by the mainly Malay government.

The Times of India:
"A terrorist is a terrorist. He has no religion and his origin does not matter," said foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The Indian government refused to meet the leader of the protesting Indian group Hindraf — Waytha Moorthy — on Thursday.

India is not going to give the protesting Malaysians more traction. This is clear from the recent actions of the government that they consider the protests to be part of an internal matter of Malaysia, because these were all Malaysian citizens. To the extent that they are persons of Indian origin, they would receive notional support from India.

But, India will not place its relations with Malaysia on the line for them. This is a clear message. So even though there will be expressions of support for the protesters the government will not be seen to be backing any group that might have sympathies with the LTTE. This will complicate its relations not merely with Malaysia and Sri Lanka but could prove to be a legal hot potato — because LTTE is banned in India.
The Star Online (Malaysia):
Representatives of Damai Malaysia – an umbrella body comprising 395 non-governmental organisations – handed over to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday a memorandum criticising the illegal street rallies.

Damai represents 1.5 million members and its representatives include those from 75 Chinese-based and 20 Indian groups and associations.

In the joint declaration read by Mohd Saiful Adil, the members expressed their disgust at street demonstrations and the use of religious and racial issues to create hatred among Malaysians.

They condemned individuals and groups who used lies and slander against the country and asked for foreign intervention in Malaysia’s internal affairs.

“We also condemn accusations that the country’s leaders had allowed ethnic cleansing to occur in the country,” he added.

Damai advisor and Bukit Bintang MCA chief Senator Datuk Dr Lee Chong Meng said the Bersih and Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) illegal demonstrations last month had caused tourists to cancel trips to Malaysia.

Cheras Hindu Youth Organisation vice-president S. Ariivazhagan regretted that Hindraf had used religion to protest.

“Hindraf has presented the wrong view to the world that the Indian community here is being persecuted. This group is not fighting for our rights,” he said.

On arrival in Kuantan, Abdullah labelled those who solicit support from outsiders as traitors and the action of Hindraf, which claimed to fight for the rights of the Indian community in Malaysia, as an attempt to destroy the country and racial unity, Bernama reports.

The Prime Minister said the memorandum was a sign that people were angry with illegal protests and violent acts.

“The country’s successes and achievements didn’t come about due to street demonstrations or illegal protests.

“We have progressed because we have been able to maintain democratic institutions which respect the law while the people enjoyed the fruits of peace and political stability.

“If freedom cannot be respected and used in a responsible manner, the people themselves will be at the losing end.

“As can be seen from today’s memorandum, the people who remained silent have now stood up to make their stand. They want peace to be maintained.”


He said he was informed that the street demonstrations had caused a 10% cancellation of hotel room bookings and rental of tour buses, while retail stores also reported a drop in sales.

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