Thursday, February 28, 2008

Jailed Indian activist to run in Malaysian polls

Jailed Indian activist to run in Malaysian polls
Web posted at: 2/25/2008 12:43:3
Source ::: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR • An ethnic Indian activist who is being detained without trial after organising anti-discrimination protests will run in Malaysian's upcoming elections, state media said yesterday.

Manoharan Malayalam will represent the Democratic Action Party (DAP) against the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition incumbent Ching Su Chen, the state Bernama news agency said.

Manoharan is among five leaders of rights group Hindraf who were jailed last December under internal security laws after they organised an unprecedented mass rally claiming discrimination against ethnic Indians here. The Election Commission has said that detainees under the Internal Security Act (ISA) are eligible to contest in the polls, which are expected to deliver another victory to the coalition dominated by Muslim Malays.

"It is clearly stated in the law. The public should be aware that there is a stark difference between detention and imprisonment," the commission's secretary, Kamaruzaman Mohamad Noor, said recently.

Manoharan and the four other Hindraf leaders are being held at the Kamunting detention centre in northern Perak state, some 300km from Kuala Lumpur. The government was criticised after police used tear gas, water cannon and baton charges to break up the November Hindraf street protest which drew at least 8,000 people. Manoharan, a prominent lawyer, contested the 1999 general elections for the DAP but was not successful.

Meanwhile, Malaysian premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi kicked off his election campaign yesterday, vowing to seize a two-thirds majority in polls dominated by ethnic tensions and anger over rising prices.

The Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which has ruled for half a century, bagged six of the 222 parliamentary seats on nomination day yesterday, after they went uncontested by the opposition.

Abdullah dismissed as a "marriage of convenience" a pact between the three opposition parties who will field just one candidate in each electorate on March 8, avoiding the three-cornered contests that have hurt them in the past. "I want it to be a free, fair and democratic election. I want BN to win... with more than a two-thirds majority," he told reporters.

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