Jailed Hindraf leader sworn in; vows to fight for minorities

May 9th, 2008 - 3:08 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, May 9 (IANS) Malaysian Indian lawmaker M. Manoharan, sworn in while in jail, has said he would continue to fight for the rights of the country’s ethnic minorities. Manoharan, 46, legal adviser of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), was jailed for two years along with four other Hindraf leaders after they organised a protest rally on behalf of Malaysia’s two million Tamil Hindus Nov 25, 2007. The rally of estimated 10,000 was declared illegal and forcibly dispersed by police using water cannons.

Manoharan had won the Kota Shah Alam seat in the state legislature in the March general election. His plea that he be freed to take the oath was not heeded by the government.

He was administered the oath Thursday at the Kamuntin Detention Centre at Taiping by Selangor Assembly Speaker Teng Chang Khim.

“I will continue to fight all forms of discrimination and marginalisation against any community and raise public interest for justice and equality. But I am sad that I have to serve my voters while in detention,” he said in a statement read by his wife S. Pushpaneela after the swearing-in ceremony.

Only Teng, Pushpaneela, Manoharan’s three children, his father M.S. Malayalam and Selangor state legal adviser Zauyah Loth Khan were allowed to be present during the ceremony.

Manoharan has become the third lawmaker to take oath while in detention under the stringent Internal Security Act (ISA). Two ethnic Chinese parliamentarians before him had done so in 1978, The Sun newspaper reported Friday.

Manoharan was elected on the nomination of the Democratic Action Party (DAP).

DAP national chairman Karpal Singh was allowed into the detention centre and join the group after the swearing-in.

Both Singh and Teng urged the government to release Manoharan so that he would be able to serve his constituents.

“The government should accept the verdict of Kota Alam Shah voters and release their elected representative,” said Singh.

He also urged that the ISA be repealed and the 68 ISA detainees at the centre be released.

“Manoharan is not a threat to national security. Instead, he received an overwhelming vote from the people,” said Teng.

During the March general election, Manoharan had one of the highest majorities for a Selangor state assemblyman, polling 12,699 votes against Barisan Nasional candidate Ching Su Chen who received 5,515.

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