Saturday, April 4, 2009

Release of Hindraf leaders in Malaysia

New Malaysia PM to free detainees, lift media ban
By VIJAY JOSHI – 23 hours ago
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, in his first act after talking office Friday, freed 13 people being held under a law that allows indefinite detention and lifted a ban on two opposition newspapers.
"These decisions are timely as we move to enhance the confidence of our citizens in those entrusted with maintaining peace, law and order," Najib said in a surprise announcement on national television, hours after taking the oath of office.
"In this spirit, I would like to announce that the government has decided with immediate effect to remove the temporary ban on two news publications (and) release 13 detainees" from detention under the Internal Security Act, he said in a short and solemn speech.
Those freed include two ethnic Indian activists who were arrested in December 2007 for leading an anti-government campaign, three foreigners and eight suspected Islamic militants, Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar announced separately.
About 30 others remain in custody under the decades-old ISA, which allows indefinite detention without trial. Najib also promised to "conduct a comprehensive review" of the act.
He lifted the ban on the Harakah and Suara Keadilan newspapers, the publications of two main opposition parties. The three-month ban, imposed on March 23 with no reason given, ignited fears of a crackdown on press freedom.
"It is a good start. I am happy he has done this as it sets the bar high for his promise of adherence to rule of law. We fully expect him to live up to it," said Malaysia's leading human rights lawyer, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar.
"The ISA is a draconian and oppressive act which runs counter to the rule of law in modern Malaysia. All other detainees must be released as well," he told The Associated Press.
At various times opposition lawmakers, journalists and bloggers have been arrested under the ISA. Five ethnic Indian activists from the Hindu Rights Action Force, or Hindraf, were arrested in December 2007, of whom two are being freed.
They had organized a massive anti-government demonstration to complain about discrimination faced by ethnic minorities in the Malay-majority country.
"We want the unconditional and immediate release of all ISA detainees," said Hindraf leader P. Wayatha Moorthy, who lives in exile in London. "Only then can Najib sow confidence in the people" that he wants to bring democracy to Malaysia, he said in a telephone interview.
Malaysia's minority ethnic Indians and Chinese have been chafing at an affirmative action program for the Malay majority. In March 2008 elections, minority discontentment led to the ruling National Front coalition's worst results in the 51 years it has been in power.
It failed to get a two-thirds majority for the first time in 40 years, conceding 82 seats to the opposition in the 222-member Parliament. It also lost an unprecedented five states.
Najib's predecessor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, accepted blame for the loss and was forced out of office by the United Malays National Organization party, which leads the Front. Abdullah resigned Thursday as part of a planned power transition spread over one year.
The 55-year-old, British-educated Najib inherited the mammoth task of healing the country's politics, society and an economy heading for recession.
Associated Press writers Julia Zappei and Eileen Ng contributed to this report.
Malaysian Indian Congress calls for release of three other HINDRAF members
April 4th, 2009 - 2:23 pm ICT by ANI
Kuala Lumpur, Apr.10 (ANI): The Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) has urged the federal government to release the other three Hindu Rights Action Front (HINDRAF) members, who were detained under Internal Security Act in 2007.
MIC president S. Samy Vellu was quoted by The Star as saying: “We thank the Government and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for releasing two ISA detainees associated with the banned HINDRAF movement.”
He was asked to comment on the freeing of Hindraf lawyers V. Ganabatirau and R. Kengadharan who were among the 13 ISA detainees to be released by Najib in his first address to the nation as Prime Minister yesterday.
Samy Vellu said the MIC was happy that the Government had agreed with the party’s request to release the HINDRAF members.
“I hope they will release the rest of them quickly as it will make the Indian community happy,” he said.
Education Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said the move to release the 13 ISA detainees was an act to stabilise the political situation in the country. (ANI)
Freeing detainees in the interest of Malaysia, says Najib
Jaishree Balasubramanian.
Kuala Lumpur, Apr 4 (PTI) Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak today said the decision to release 13 people, including ethnic Indian activists, detained under country's tough security law proves that his government was not"repressive".
"If we don't release them (the detainees), they will say the government is repressive. If we release them, they will say we are populist,"Najib told reporters at a press conference at the administrative capital of Putrajaya.
"The government has the best interest of the people at heart,"he said, describing it as the main reason behind the release of the detainees.
In his first decision as prime minister, Najib yesterday said he will revoke a ban on two newspapers and release 13 people held under the tough Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for indefinite detention.
One Indian national, who had been detained under ISA for having forged documents, would also be released. Two other ethnic Indian activists along with their three colleagues had been in detention since December 2007 for organising a massive rally, declared as illegal by the government, on Nov 25, 2007.
More than 20,000 ethnic Indians participated in the rally, organised by Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) to protest against alleged marginalisation of the community. The government had denied the allegations and later banned Hindraf. Three Hindraf leaders are still under detention.


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