Sunday, January 6, 2008

Singapore artist protesting Indian detentions in Malaysia ends hunger strike

SINGAPORE -- A Singaporean artist calling for the release of five ethnic Indian activists detained in neighboring Malaysia ended his five-day hunger strike Saturday.

Seelan Palay, 23, had been camped outside the city-state's Malaysian High Commission since Monday, consuming nothing but water. Seelan, an ethnic Indian, was protesting the arrest and detention of leaders from the Hindu Rights Action Force who led a massive rally Nov. 25 in Kuala Lumpur to highlight what the group says is racial discrimination faced by ethnic Indians.
The group's leaders were arrested in December under Malaysia's Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial.

On Saturday, a crowd of supporters gathered around Seelan and presented him with a garland that he wore around his neck over a placard that read, "Give them fair trial."

"What I have done is only what I can do as an individual; if we had a hundred, we could make a difference," Seelan said. "One day, we will all achieve freedom."

Seelan said he hoped his hunger strike would draw attention to the detentions.
"I hope that the international community, regardless of race and religion, to look into this issue and pressure the Malaysian government to release the Hindraf five," he said.

Two men hoisted Seelan up and pumped their fists in the air as Seelan completed his protest.
"We are so proud that there is at least one Indian in Singapore supporting our cause," said Mayil Sapapathy, 36, an ethnic Indian from Malaysia who works in Singapore. "Indians like us don't get the same privileges in Malaysia like the ethnic Malays do."

Ethnic Indians form about 8 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people, and complain that the government denies them opportunities in jobs, education and business. They say that years of systematic repression have kept them at the bottom of society. The government denies this.

Officials could not be reached Saturday at the Malaysian High Commission, which was closed, while Singapore police said they had no comment on Seelan's protest.
Protests are rare in Singapore, where police permits are required for outdoor gatherings of more than four people.
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On behalf of HINDRAF and the entire Malaysian Indian community I thank and salute Seelan for his brave and sincere attempt to highlight the evil of ISA and seek the release of HINDRAF leaders.

Waytha Moorthy

"He alone lives who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive" Swami Vivekananda