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Malaysia violates Constitution and threatens security law on peaceful protestors

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Malaysia plans to use the controversial Internal Security Act to crack down on the organisers of a peaceful rally that saw an estimated 30,000 ethnic Indians march to the British High Commission Sunday to support a USD 4 trillion lawsuit against their former colonisers and express general dissatisfaction with the ongoing plight of ethnic Indians in Malaysia.

(Bangkok, 28 November 2007) Despite the National Human Rights
Commission’s (SUHAKAM) stand that Malaysia’s ethnic minorities of
Indian origin had a right to a peaceful march on 25 November in Kuala
Lumpur, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has threatened to use the
Internal Security Act (ISA) to crack down on the rally’s organisers.
The rally was organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF), an
NGO fighting for the rights of marginalised groups of Indian origins in

According to Malaysiakini, an independent online news website, the
judiciary issued a court order permitting police to “arrest on sight”,
and the Prime Minister warned that the government would not hesitate to
use the draconian Act against any dissenters. Three of the rally’s
organisers were arrested on charges of sedition prior to the rally but
were released later. The organisers fear more arrests and threats in
the coming days.

By invoking the ISA, which allows detention without trial for an
indefinite period of time, on the peaceful protesters, Abdullah has
violated Article 10 of the Malaysian Constitution that guarantees
freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and association and Article 19
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom
of expression. Before the protest, the government had issued a ban on
the protest, citing that it would inflame racial tensions.

Earlier, SUHAKAM Commissioner Khoo Kay Kim had said that the rally was
clearly a result of the sufferings endured by the Indian community
throughout their history in Malaysia. Indian Malaysian member of
Parliament M Kulasegaran echoed similar sentiments, and said “Over the
last 50 years Indians have been marginalised in this country. And we
now want the same rights as enjoyed by other communities”.

However, Deputy Internal Security Minister Mohd Johari Baharom accused
the protestors of being misled by the Opposition, saying that “HINDRAF
manipulated innocent Indian Malaysians to forward the interests of
certain quarters”.

Despite threats not to join the rally by police, an estimated 30,000
ethnic Indians took to the streets on Sunday to support a lawsuit filed
against the British Crown for hardships endured by the Indian minority
as a result of colonial and post-colonial oppression (Malaysiakini).
The gathering was also seen as an opportunity for Indian Malaysians to
express widespread discontent with the current standing of ethnic
Indians in Malaysian society.

Protesters planned to march peacefully to the British High Commission
to submit a petition blaming British colonial policies for ongoing
troubles facing the Indian community. However, the peaceful march
turned ugly when riot police used tear gas water cannons and chemical
laced water on the protestors. Prior to the protest, road blocks were
set up in and around Kuala Lumpur in order to prevent participants from
reaching the site.

The three HINDRAF organisers held on charges of sedition have been
released on a technicality, but police confirm that more than 60
protesters were arrested following the rally. Organisers place the
number of arrested in the hundreds. V Ganapathy Rao, a legal advisor to
HINDRAF, was arrested Thursday morning under the Sedition Act. He was
later released after police grilled him for eight hours (Malaysiakini).



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