Saturday, February 16, 2008

Crushing the children's roses -- another day of international shame for Malaysia

Police crackdown on Hindraf rose campaign - another day of international shame for Malaysia – Lim Kit Siang
Another day of international shame for Malaysia – the firing of tear gas, chemically-laced water cannon and use of excessive force by the police against peaceful demonstrators and children during today’s Hindraf rose campaign in Kuala Lumpur .
Over 200 people have been arrested, reportedly including children, with allegations of manhandling by police.
Why was it necessary for the crude display of police force against peaceful Malaysians and children who wanted to use the Valentine Day to present roses to the Prime Minister at the Parliament grounds and to appeal for the immediate and unconditional release of the five Hindraf leaders unjustifiably detained in Kamunting Detention Centre under the Internal Security Act?
Why couldn’t the Police show a humane and sensitive face demonstrating its respect for human rights by allowing the peaceful Hindraf rose campaign to be conducted without incident?
If the Police could be so high-handed, tough and insensitive for human rights when Parliament has just been dissolved for the conduct of the 12th general election, I dare not think what the Police would do after polling day on March 8 if the Barisan Nasional wins another huge parliamentary majority.
The Royal Police Commission of Inquiry which was set up by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi four years ago when he first took office recommended that respect for human rights should be one of the three core functions of the Malaysian Police to achieve world-class status - together with the objective to keep crime low as well as to eradicate corruption in the police force.
It is clear from the Police crackdown on Valentine Day and the Hindraf rose campaign that the Royal Police Commission Report and its 125 recommendations for police reform had completely fallen on deaf years.
Abdullah, who is also the Internal Security Minister, and the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Musa Hassan, should publicly apologise for the excessive use of police force against the Hindraf rose campaign and utter disregard of the Royal Police Commission recommendation that the police should respect human rights of Malaysians.

Teargas, water cannon used to disperse Hindraf illegal rally, 130 arrested
By : Fadhal A Ghani and Marc Lourdes
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Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse several hundred Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) supporters who defied orders to hold an illegal rally here today.

About 130 people, including one on the police wanted list, were arrested but most of them were released after their particulars were taken down. Only nine, including two women, all aged between 35 and 40, were remanded for repeatedly defying police instructions to disperse.

Hindraf, which claims that Hindus have been marginalised besides also making outrageous accusations of ethnic cleansing against the Government, purportedly organised the gathering at Parliament House to hand over roses to the Prime Minister and to petition the release of the movement’s five leaders detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

But not one rose was seen and instead, the gathering took the form of a political protest with Hindraf leaders urging the crowd not to vote for the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in the March 8 general election.

The protesters had also for weeks said the rally would be peaceful and they would bring their children along. There were hardly any children in sight and most of the protesters were between 20 and 60.
The Hindraf gathering came to a nervous stand-off with police who had blockaded roads to prevent untoward incidents spilling over and affecting holiday makers and businesses open in the city centre.

There were massive traffic jams into the city centre because of the gathering as police blocked off roads to veer off the demonstrators.

More than 300 police and Federal Reserve Unit personnel were deployed for crowd control. Officers from the Welfare Department were also present in case the demonstrators had risked brining children as originally planned.

The crowd brandished banners saying “How is the future going to be?” and “Batalkan ISA, Bebaskan Dari ISA” (Abolish the ISA, Free them from the ISA).

The protest was a far cry from the Hindraf rally last November when several thousand people caused a lockdown of the city when they stood off against police in several parts of the capital’s business district at Jalan Ampang, Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Tun Razak..

Police, who were on standby from early morning, managed to divert at least two buses carrying the Hindraf supporters to the Police Training College in Jalan Semarak. The remaining protesters, most of them clad in the Hindu spiritual saffron-coloured tops, began gathering at Dataran Merdeka, Masjid Jamek and Pudu after finding Jalan Parliament closed off.

By 9.20am, when police failed to persuade them to disperse, water cannons and tear gas were fired.

Those who refused to move, including campaign coordinator S. Manickavasagam, were arrested.

At about 10.50am, another crowd of about 300 began to appear at the Kotta Malai Hindu temple in Pudu to listen to Hindraf adviser R. Raguram’s speak.

Raguram, along with several others, was arrested at about 12.30pm, after which the rally petered out.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Datuk Muhammad Sabtu Osman said 124 individuals including, a mother and her daughter, were picked up by police. About 115of them, including the mother and daughter, were released a few hours later.

He said nine of them, aged between 35 and 40, would be remanded today. One of the men is on the police wanted list for a criminal case in Sentul.

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