Elected Hindraf detainee insists on taking oath at assembly

April 8th, 2008 - 2:03 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, April 8 (IANS) Detained Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leader M. Manoharan, elected to the Selangor state assembly in last month’s election, has insisted that he be allowed to take oath as a lawmaker in the legislature and not in the detention camp. In a signed handwritten statement faxed to the media, Manoharan said the government’s refusal to allow him to take his oath of office at the state legislative assembly was undemocratic, The Star newspaper said Tuesday.

Manoharan is one of the five leaders of the Hindraf, a body claiming to speak for the two million Tamil Hindu settlers, who courted controversy by organising a protest rally last November.

The five have been held for two years under the stringent Internal Security Act (ISA) and tried for suspected terrorist links.

The government has so far not heeded appeals for release, including from ruling coalition members Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), Malaysian Chinese Association and Gerkan Party.

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar has said the decision, to be taken by the full cabinet, would be dictated by “national interests” and not be “swayed by sentiments”.

He had recently stated that Manoharan could take his oath at the detention centre in the presence of the state legislative speaker.

Albar said that this was done in the past when ISA detainees Chian Heng Kai and Chan Kok Kit, who won the Batu Gajah and Sungai Besi parliamentary seats respectively, were sworn-in in 1978.

Attempts by several Hindraf activists to submit a memorandum to Albar failed Monday. They gathered outside the home ministry office, despite an appeal by wives of the four of the detainees who feared that any protest by Hindraf would harden the government’s attitude and delay their release.

Albar did not see them personally.

“They were told to give the memorandum to another officer but they refused to hand it over. They wanted to hand it over to me but I was all over the place,” Albar told reporters.

Hindraf national coordinator R.S. Thanenthiran said the memorandum called for the release of the five men.

“We also want the government to stop making statements that the five are linked to terrorists as there is no proof of this,” he said.

In another development, Hindraf legal adviser P. Uthayakumar was rushed to the Taiping district hospital Monday for diabetes-linked complications.

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