Rights body awards Hindraf for empowering ethnic Indians

December 10th, 2008 - 12:07 pm ICT by IANS  

HindrafKuala Lumpur, Dec 10 (IANS) Malaysia’s banned Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), claiming to speak for the country’s ethnic Indians, has been given a human rights award for “empowerng Malaysians of Indian origin to speak struggle against very powerful interests”.Hindraf, which says it represents Malaysia’s two million-plus ethnic India, a bulk of them Hindus, has been given the Suaram’s Human Rights Award 2008. Suaram, which stands for Suara Rakyat Malaysia, meaning Voice of the Malaysian People in Malay, is a human rights organisation formed in 1987.

According to a panel of judges, Hindraf had “captivated, mobilised and empowered vast numbers of Malaysians of Indian origin to struggle against very powerful interests and forces” in a short space of time.

Suaram said Hindraf’s success could perhaps be seen “in the fear it has caused in the eyes of the government to the extent it detained five of its leaders”.

The five — M. Manoharan, S. Kengadharan, Vasanth Kumar, P. Uthaya Kumar and Ganabati Rau — were detained after they organised a protest rally in November last year to highlight the perceived discrimination of ethnic Indians in jobs and education.

The five are serving two-year jail terms under the stringent Internal Security Act (ISA).

The panel also awarded the Penans, a local tribe of Ulu Baram in Sarawak state, who have been defending their land from encroachment since the early 1980s.

“They faced threats, killings, rapes, disappearances and hardship,” the panel said.

Suaram also released its 2008 Human Rights in Malaysia report which noted increasing denial of rights to Malaysians as a people.

Suaram executive director Yap Swee Seng told media it was no surprise that Malaysia had fallen eight places from 124 in 2007 to 132 this year out of 195 countries in press freedom.

While Hindraf was getting plaudits, police Tuesday detained ethnic Indian lawmaker D. Jeyakumar and four activists of the Marginalised People’s Network (Jerit) for six hours for obstructing traffic as part of their campaign on cycle to highlight their demands.

After the cycling campaign, police stopped a bus ferrying 45 youths, aged 13 to 16.

Jeyakumar, who was travelling in another vehicle, was among those charged with obstructing the police from performing their duties, The Star newspaper said.

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