Chinese party joins demand for jailed Hindraf leaders’ release

April 2nd, 2008 - 5:39 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, April 2 (IANS) The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), a constituent of the ruling alliance, has joined the demand for the release of five jailed leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf). An unregistered body, Hindraf, claiming to speak for two million Tamil Hindu settlers, courted controversy after it organised a rally here Nov 25, 2007 to highlight the problems faced by ethnic Indians.

Police forcibly dispersed the rally using water cannons and arrested M. Manoharan, 46, P. Uthayakumar, 46, V. Ganabatirau, 34, R. Kengadharan, 40, and K. Vasantha Kumar, 34. They have been detained for two years under the stringent Internal Security Act.

The MCA has appealed to the government to open a dialogue with the Indian community to hear its grievances. The party, which has spoken for the estimated 33 percent ethnic Chinese population since Malaysia’s independence, has for the first time lent its voice to an ethnic Indian cause after an appeal by the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) last week.

However, Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar has rejected the appeal of MIC chief and his former cabinet colleague, S. Samy Vellu, saying that “national interests and not sentiments” would guide the government’s decision.

Both MCA and MIC, which speaks for the eight percent ethnic Indians, belong to the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN).

The BN emerged victorious, but weakened in last month’s general election, losing its two-thirds majority in parliament and control of five states.

MCA vice-president Donald Lim Siang Chai Tuesday called on Albar to seriously consider freeing the five Hindraf leaders “if they are found not to be a threat to the country’s stability”.

He said releasing the five would show that the government was “democratic”, The Star newspaper said.

“It will show that the government is open in its handling of issues affecting the people. This in turn will enable the government to garner more support from the people,” he said.

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