Monday, February 18, 2008

Ex DPM,Anwar criticises govt over peace rose rally crackdown

Anwar criticises gov't over rally crackdown
AFP Feb 17, 08 3:20pm

Former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim today criticised the authorities for using water cannon and teargas against ethnic Indians protesting against alleged discrimination.
Saturday's rally was the latest in a series of street demonstrations that have rocked this multicultural nation as political parties manoeuvre to win the hearts and minds of voters ahead of general election on March 8.
More than 300 people defied a police ban, gathering in downtown Kuala Lumpur to present roses to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and protest against alleged discrimination before police fired tear gas and water cannon to break up the rally.
"This is clearly a police state," Anwar told AFP.
"I mean a group marching peacefully to present flowers to the prime minister, what kind of treatment did the government give to these people?" he asked.
"It was very high-handed," said the de facto opposition leader.
Police detained 160 people in scuffles during the rally and later outside a Hindu temple nearby, the capital's police chief Muhammad Sabtu Osman told the official Bernama news agency.
Protester abused
Most have since been released but lawyers claimed a female protester - one of nine who are being held till Monday - was abused in custody.
"While being detained, she said she was beaten up by the police," lawyer Gobind Singh, who is representing the nine, told AFP.
"Although she was in pain, she did not receive any medical treatment," he added.
"These are not hardened criminals, they are normal people and should not have to face such violence at the hands of the police while in detention," said Singh, who is contesting as an opposition candidate in the upcoming polls.
The protest comes after the detention of five leaders of the Indian rights group Hindraf who enraged the government in November by leading a rally protesting at alleged discrimination against Indians.
The protest highlighted the grievances of Malaysia's Indians - descendents of labourers brought over by British colonial rulers in the 1800s - who say they are marginalised in terms of education, wealth and opportunities.
Ethnic Indians make up seven percent of Malaysia's 27 million population with Malay Muslims forming 60 percent and ethnic Chinese 26 percent.