Two Indian origin MPs arrested for holding protest rally

June 15th, 2008 - 1:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, June 15 (IANS) Two Indian origin lawmakers were among three opposition members of the Malaysian parliament who were arrested here for joining a rally to seek the release of detained activists of a Hindu body. Indian origin lawmakers, S. Manikavasagam and R. Sivararsa, and their Malay colleague, Zuraida Kamaruddin, had joined a rally to seek freedom for five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) activists, and 65 others detained under the stringent Internal Security Act (ISA).

The lawmakers, from the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), were among six detained by the police Saturday. They were released on bail later. The PKR party has emerged at the head of an opposition alliance with an unprecedented 82 members in parliament and rules in four of the country’s 13 states.

The protest, held in front of the Istan Negara, the palace of the royal head of the state, is the first such involving elected representatives.

Holding of rallies requires police permission in Malaysia.

Around 70 rallyists, including children, had gathered in front of the Istana Negara, demanding the release of the 70 men currently detained under ISA at the Kamunting Detention Centre in Taiping.

“Each child was carrying a basket with flowers and a teddy bear and lined with yellow cloth. They left the baskets in front of the palace gate,” The Star newspaper said Sunday, quoting Police Assistant Commissioner Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid.

The children were accompanied by their mothers as well as other family members.

The official said that all except the six left after they were asked to.

The rally was organised by the Hindraf and joined by members of the Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA, a human rights body.

According to Hindraf national event coordinator Kannan Ramasamy, they gathered to appeal to the King Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin to advise Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar to release all the ISA detainees.

Five Hindraf leaders - M. Manoharan, P. Uthayakumar, V. Ganabatirau, R. Kengadharan and K. Vasantha Kumar - are serving two-year jail terms under ISA after they organized a protest rally on Nov 25 last year alleging discrimination against the two million-plus Tamil Hindus in jobs and education. They also alleged that over 35,000 Hindu shrines had been demolished in the last five decades.

Settlers from India form eight percent and Chinese 33 percent in Malaysia where the majority Muslim Malays enjoy special privileges under the constitution.

Appeals for the release of the “Hindraf-5″ from abroad and from different quarters within the country, including members of ruling coalition Barisan Nasional, have not been heeded by the government.

The royal head of the state issued a decree in April to confirm the detention of the five and directed that they serve their full two-year terms.

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