11 Hindraf members held outside Malaysian PM’s officeOctober 24th, 2008 - 11:18 am ICT by IANS
Kuala Lumpur, Oct 24 (IANS) At least 11 members of Malaysia’s banned Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), including the minor daughter of one of the leaders, have been arrested for gathering outside Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmed Badawi’s office to submit a memorandum.Their gathering Thursday was declared illegal and officials of the prime ministers’s office refused to receive the memorandum that sought freedom for five Hindraf leaders serving two-year terms for organising a rally last November.
The Hindraf members wanted M. Manoharan, S. Kengadharfan, Ganabatirau, Vasanth Kumar and P. Uthaya Kumar, held under the stringent Internal Security Act (ISA), released before Hindu festival Deepavali next Monday, The New Straits Times reported Friday.
The group was the first to be arrested since Hindraf,which claims to speak for the country’s 2.6 million ethnic Indians, a bulk of them Tamil Hindus, was declared illegal by the authorities last week, The Star noted.
Among those arrested were K. Santhi, wife of self-exiled leader P. Waythamoorthy, and their six-year-old daughter Vwaisgnnavi. Police took the girl as she was accompanying her mother.
The little girl had on many occasions been put “on the frontline of Hindraf’s activities”, the newspaper noted. She had presented a Hari Raya (Eid) card and a gift basket containing flowers and a teddy bear with a Hindraf badge on it to Badawi at the latter’s open house reception.
The police did not want the girl to spend the night in jail with the mother and so decided to release them on bail. However, the woman refused to leave the lock-up in a show of solidarity with the other arrested members.
Outside the guardhouse of the prime minister’s office, the girl was made to carry a poster with the message “Release Our Leaders”. Her mother is now being investigated for child abuse.
Kuala Lumpur police chief Muhammad Sabtu Osman confirmed the arrests but declined to comment.
A crowd of relatives and friends of those detained turned up outside the Kuala Lumpur police headquarters. Among them was lawyer and member of parliament Gobind Singh Deo, who is representing those arrested.
Hindraf has been in the eye of a political storm since it organised a rally Nov 15 last year to highlight the perceived discrimination of ethnic Indians in jobs and education.
A royal decree has said that the five complete their two-year terms. The Hindraf has nevertheless fought their cases in law courts.
Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar who pursued the ban on Hindraf has accused it of promoting extremism, stating that the Hindraf considers the majority Malays as “enemies”.