Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hundreds of ethnic Indians pray outside detention centre

Hundreds of ethnic Indians pray outside detention centre

Kuala Lumpur (PTI), Dec. 16: Braving government pressure, hundreds of ethnic-Indians on Sunday converged near a detention centre where Malaysia is holding five of their leaders under a controversial security law and "prayed" for the release of all those arrested for taking part in protests against alleged marginalisation of the community.

About 500 people assembled in a temple near the detention camp in Kamunting in northern Malaysia, about 400 km from here, and released doves to pray for the welfare of the five detained under ISA and 31 others who have been charged with attempt to murder and await bail hearing on Monday.

"These people are not terrorists... we demand their immediate release. The government is escaping from the real issue," an activist of Hindraf, which has spearheaded protests by ethnic-Indians here, said.

As police sealed all roads leading to the camp in Perak state, the people chose to hold prayers at a nearby temple and released 36 doves, one for each detainee.

Activists demand Malaysia free Indians held after protests
17 hours ago

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) — Thousands of activists gathered near a detention camp where Malaysia is holding five leaders of a ethnic Indian group and freed pigeons to demand their freedom, a rights group said Sunday.

The five leaders were detained under the country's controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) that allows for detention without trial last Thursday.

At least 2,000 activists held prayers in a nearby temple for their early release after police sealed the roads leading to Kemunting camp in the northern Perak state, rights campaigner R.S. Thanenthiran told AFP.

"These people are not terrorists. The government is escaping from the real issue that Indians are marginalised in Malaysia. We demand the immediate release of the detainees," he said, adding that the protest also aimed to rally support for families of those in custody.

Thanenthiran said "36 pigeons were freed -- five for the ISA detainees and 31 for those in prison awaiting Monday's bail application -- as a symbol of freedom for all of them," noting there were no arrests despite a heavy security presence.

The 31 Indians were arrested after last month's protest outside the famous Batu Caves temple, north of the capital Kuala Lumpur. They face an attempted murder charge against a policeman who allegedly suffered head injuries.

Rights group Hindraf, whom Thanenthiran represents, is pushing for an end to discrimination of minority ethnic Indians in multi-racial Malaysia, which is led by the majority Muslim-Malay administration.

The organisation enraged the government last month by mustering at least 8,000 people to the streets of Kuala Lumpur to highlight issues including a lack of economic opportunities and the destruction of Hindu temples.

But the activists' demands seemed unlikely to be heeded as Malaysia Sunday vowed more arrests under the ISA in order to maintain security ahead of possible elections early next year.

Mohamad Johari Baharum, deputy internal security minister told AFP that police have compiled a list of people who could be held under the ISA.

"The police have the list of names including some Hindraf members and politicians. Once they have sufficient evidence they will forward the names to the minister in charge of security.

"My advice to those who organise street protests and rumour mongers who circulate text messages --- stop it. If your don't, we will not hesitate to use the ISA," Johari said.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is the minister for internal security, is expected to call an election in the next few months.

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

Muslim Malays make up 60 percent of the population and control the government.

Malaysia is also home to ethnic Chinese, who make up 26 percent of the population and dominate business.

Ethnic Indians, who make up 8.0 percent, complain they run a distant third in terms of wealth, opportunities and education.

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