Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hindraf: vote against Badawi's political grouping

Hindraf urges ethnic Indians to vote against Badawi's political grouping
P. S. Suryanarayana
Police cite "security concerns" for banning protest rally

KUALA LUMPUR: The National Coordinator of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), Thanenthiran Ramankutty, on Saturday asked the ethnic Indians in Malaysia to vote against the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, that had "failed" and "insulted" them.
A mid-term general election is due on March 8; and Saturday's police-aborted campaign was a sequel to Hindraf's mass protest rally here last November against a half-century of "marginalisation" of the people of Indian origin since independence.
Mr. Thanenthiran, who made a surprise appearance at a temple in the heart of the city where the ethnic Indians had gathered for a protest, later told The Hindu that he was now "on the run" under police surveillance.
He said almost all of Hindraf's provincial coordinators and national leader such as Manickavasagam and Jayathas were among 300 activists and supporters arrested on Saturday.
Five top Hindraf leaders are already under detention without trial under the Internal Security Act.
The Malaysian police on Friday banned the "roses campaign" by describing as "a security concern" Hindraf's original plan to deploy nearly 200 children as the star contingent of a "walk" to Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.
These children, it was said, were being put in harm's way in a game of testing the political will of the authorities to maintain law and order.
Another reason cited was Malaysia's political "norm" of not allowing street protest of any kind, be it by the majority Malay-Muslims or ethnic Chinese or the people of Indian origin.
It was also stated that Hindraf, being a non-registered organisation, was not entitled to any permission for public events, more so of the protest kind.
The police-aborted "walk" to the Parliament House was planned to "test" Mr. Badawi's attitude towards his ethnic Indian compatriots, according to Hindraf sources.
Yellow roses were selected by Hindraf to be presented to the authorities to convey its demand for a "fair deal" for the ethnic Indians. Red roses signified the colour of choice for "goodwill" towards the Prime Minister, and these were to have been carried by the children. Following the ban, Hindraf, according to its events coordinator Kannan Ramasamy decided against deploying children.
The first scene of street-side political action on Saturday was near the Parliament House. Hindraf said police chased away nearly 200 adult protesters who attempted to break the series of barricades along the routes to Parliament House.
Hindraf supporters raised aloft posters demanding the abolition of the Internal Security Act and the release of the group's top leaders — P. Uthayakumar, V. Ganapati Rao, M. Manoharan, R. Kengadharan, and T. Vasanthakumar.
"People power [Makkal Sakthi]" slogans and chants in celebration of Hindraf rent the air throughout the standoff.

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