Saturday, March 8, 2008

Manoharan, ethnic Indian detainee wins seat in Malaysia polls

Ethnic Indian detainee wins seat in Malaysia polls
Sat Mar 8, 2008 9:57am EST
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A detained ethnic Indian activist won a seat in Malaysian parliament on Saturday, local media said, handing another sharp slap in the face to the national ruling coalition in general elections.

Lawyer M. Manoharan, one of five Hindu rights activists detained under internal-security laws for organizing a major anti-government protest last year, won his parliamentary seat outside the capital, pro-government newspaper the Star said in a text-message alert.

The five activists are being held in a detention centre in the country's north under a colonial-era law that provides for indefinite detention without charge or trial. Manoharan was nominated by the opposition Democratic Action Party.

They were arrested after more than 10,000 ethnic Indians took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur in November, accusing the ruling multi-racial National Front coalition of discrimination and depriving Indians of equal opportunity to jobs and education.

Earlier on Saturday, state news agency Bernama said the head of the Front's component Indian party, S. Samy Vellu, had his own seat in a stunning upset. Vellu had backed the decision to jail the five activists and faced down the protesters.

Vellu, leader of the Malaysian Indian Congress, lost the seat he had held for three decades. He was also the longest-serving government minister with almost 30 years in cabinet.

(Reporting by Mark Bendeich; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

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