Saturday, January 5, 2008

Malaysian police break up fourth rights rally

Malaysian protesters hold candles during a rally in Kuala Lumpur January 5, 2007. Malaysian police broke up a human rights rally on Saturday for the fourth time in three months, arresting at least one person and using a water cannon to disperse a group protesting against the use of internal security laws to silence dissent.
REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad

Malaysian police break up fourth rights rally
Sat Jan 5, 2008 10:16pm IST

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian police broke up a human rights rally on Saturday for the fourth time in three months, arresting at least one person and using a water cannon to disperse a group protesting against the use of internal security laws to silence dissent.

Malaysia has drawn international criticism for its use of a colonial-era security law in a crackdown on public protests which have brought more than 20,000 people onto the streets since November.

The spate of protests in this normally peaceful country comes at a delicate time for Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's government, which has seen its popularity fall ahead of snap polls expected in the coming months.

A witness said an ethnic Indian man was arrested at Saturday night's protest after defying police orders to disperse. A police spokesman said there was no record of arrests so far.

The Malaysian rights group Suaram criticised police for using water cannon and deploying riot police to break up the peaceful candlelight vigil.
"It's totally unnecessary. They provoked the crowd by lining up the riot police with batons and shields and tried to push people away," Suaram executive director Yap Swee Seng told Reuters.

He said at least two people were arrested.

About 300 protesters, mostly lawyers, holding lighted white candles had earlier gathered near the city's main square, handing out leaflets calling for the abolition of internal security laws.

Their march to the square was halted by police who had earlier sealed off the area. Most protesters soon left, but a group of about 30 Indian men challenged police to arrest them with cries of "We want action", another witness said.

Police fired water cannon to break up the rally and chased protesters away, prompting shopkeepers to shutter their stores.

Last month the government invoked the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for indefinite detention without trial, to detain five members of a Hindu rights body that had organised a rally of more than 10,000 ethnic Indians in November.
The Indian protest, which complained of racial discrimination by the government, was one of the largest in a decade. It shocked authorities who accused the organisers of trying to incite racial tensions.

Police had said the organisers of Saturday's rally did not have a permit.
Malaysia bans public assemblies of more than five people without a police permit. In practice, police deny permits to anti-government protests but often issue them for protests aimed at foreign governments such as the United States.

Malaysians seek scrapping of National security Act

Malaysian riot police break up rally to protest detention without trial law

The Associated Press
Saturday, January 5, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Banging batons against their shields, Malaysian police Saturday chased away hundreds of demonstrators who held a candlelight vigil to protest against a decades-old law allowing indefinite detention without trial.
A water cannon fired a single burst to drive away the last stragglers among the crowd in downtown Kuala Lumpur, ending a 90-minute standoff.

Police had banned the rally to protest the Internal Security Act. It was the latest in a series of protests that had rocked the government in recent months. Any gathering of more than four people requires a police permit.

"It is a peaceful gathering just to send a message that all citizens have a right to voice their feelings," said Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, chairman of the Abolish ISA Movement that organized the rally.

"This law is unjust. I think it is time to voice our human rights," he said, adding that the group would hold more protests.

About 300 people lit candles and gathered behind a police barricade that prevented them from marching to the nearby Independence Square, where they had originally planned to hold the protest.

Police gave them 15 minutes to disperse, during which the protesters chanted "No ISA!" before being pushed back by riot police and a water cannon truck.
The crowd retreated but gathered again about 100 meters (330 feet) from the police barricade. After a while, riot police began chasing protesters away. One person was seen being dragged away by police but it was unclear if he has been arrested.
Police officials declined to comment.

Malaysian opposition and human rights groups have repeatedly called for the ISA, a colonial-era law allowing indefinite detention without trial, to be repealed, saying the law is abused to silence dissidents. The government has said it is necessary to protect national security and ensure stability.

The ISA was most recently used to detain five ethnic Indian leaders who organized a massive rally on Nov. 25 to demand equal right for their minority community in the Muslim-majority country.

Saturday's protest was not as large as the one on Nov. 25 involving some 20,000 people, but still reflected growing anger among Malaysians against the law.
"We have heard firsthand experiences of ISA detainees. I cringed when I heard how they were tortured," said Lim Sze Ming, a 29-year-old engineer. "The law has to go."

Malaysians seek scrapping of national security act

Saturday January 5,2008 09:06 PM

Kuala Lumpur, Jan 5 (PTI) Malaysian police chased away about 300 demonstrators who held a peaceful candlelight vigil calling for scrapping of the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) that allows detention without trial.

The police had barricaded the Merdeka Square here, where the protestors wanted to assemble and light the candles. The vigil was held near the barricades before police shooed them away. A single burst of water cannon was used to disperse a small group of protesters who did not leave the area.

Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, the Chairman of the Abolish ISA Movement which had called for the vigil banned by the police, said it was a peaceful gathering to tell the people that they all had a right to voice their feelings.

Street protests were unheard of in this southeast Asian country till two months back when two massive demonstrations in November last year took the government and the people by surprise.

The first was held by opposition groups and NGOs demanding electoral reforms and the second was called by Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf) to protest against alleged marginalisation of ethnic Indians in this country.

Thousands of people participated in both the protests. Five Hindraf leaders have been detained under ISA.

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