Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Malaysian Indian activists vow to defy police ban on rally

Malaysian Indian activists vow to defy police ban on rally
2008-02-13 21:56:26 -
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Ethnic Indian activists vowed Wednesday to proceed with plans to stage a weekend rally at Parliament to renew their call for racial equality despite police banning the proposed gathering ahead of general elections.

The Hindu Rights Action Force, or Hindraf, plans to gather 200 children and some 10,000 supporters outside Parliament on Saturday to hand roses and a protest note to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said coordinator Manickavasagam, who uses only one name.

But police have refused to grant them a permit on grounds that Hindraf isn't a registered body and that the gathering will disturb public peace and security, he said. «It is a peaceful gathering. We are only asking for two hours. There will be no speech, no banner, only roses. We also have our own marshals to direct traffic. There is no reason for them to deny our right to assemble,» he said.
«If the P.M. doesn't want to see us, he can send a representative. The rose campaign will go ahead as scheduled with or without permit,» he vowed.
The gathering will be the first public event by Hindraf since police used tear gas and water cannons to crush a Nov. 25 demonstration by at least 20,000 Indians in Kuala Lumpur.

The violence sparked fears of racial tensions in this ethnic Malay Muslim-majority nation and led to the arrest of five Hindraf leaders in December under the Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite imprisonment without trial.

Manickavasagam urged Abdullah, who on Wednesday called snap elections to be held next month, to meet demonstrators and keep his promise to address the complaints of the Indian community.

«There has been a lot of talk, but we want action. We call for our five Hindraf leaders to be released immediately. That is the first step,» he said.

The government says it does not discriminate against ethnic Indians, who form 8 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people and remain at the bottom of Malaysia's economic and political hierarchy.

Ethnic Malays, who make up 60 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people, control the government and all state-owned enterprises. Ethnic Chinese, at 25 percent of the population, dominate private business.

Many Indians allege that authorities deprive them of fair chances to get jobs and education, and that their temples are being systematically destroyed.

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