Monday, September 29, 2008

Mkini - Hindraf Anti-ISA vigil turns into peace march

Mkini - Hindraf Anti-ISA vigil turns into peace march
Andrew Ong and Rahmah Ghazali Sep 27, 08 8:05pm

About 2,000 people staged a peaceful march through the busy streets of Kuala Lumpur tonight calling for the abolishment of Internal Security Act and freeing detainees under the Act .
Initially, two separate groups - Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) and coalition of NGOs led by the Writer Alliance For Media Independence (Wami) - had initially planned to hold a candlelight vigil at Dataran Merdeka at about 7.30pm. When they came across a police cordon at Dataran Merdeka, the Hindraf-led group numbering about 500 decided to march to the temple opposite the Puduraya bus terminal about 1km away.
The crowd marched unhindered towards their destinations and gradually the crowd swelled to about 2,000 people from all walks of life, with many carrying candles. The other group, which was in a procession holding Chinese lanterns, eventually joined up with the Hindraf group. The police were caught off-guard by the huge turnout. Many media personnel had also remarked that the large crowd was unanticipated as past vigils had been small in number.
‘Tonight, we are the judges’
Shouts of “Mansuhkan ISA (Abolish the ISA)”, “Bebaskan Raja Petra (Free Raja Petra)” and “Hindraf Valga (Long live Hindraf)” were chanted by the marchers. Eventually, the crowd gathered at the temple compound where several individuals addressed the crowd with highly charged speeches.
Hindraf national coordinator R Thanenthiran said that government should heed the protesters' demands to free ISA detainees. “The Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar should listen to us. He alone cannot decide what is best for the country. Tonight, we the people, are the judges,” he said. Later, Teluk Intan MP M Manogaran told the crowd that a large gathering is being planned to commemorate the first anniversary of the ISA arrest of five Hindraf leaders currently held in the Kamunting Detention Camp. “We will keep holding gatherings until all ISA detainees are released,” he said.
Festive atmosphere
Meanwhile, the crowd was peaceful throughout and a festive atmosphere permeates in the air. Several supporters of detained blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin were also at hand to sing ‘Happy Birthday Raja Petra’ as today was his birthday. By 9pm, protest leaders dispersed the crowd. There were no reports of untoward incidents.
Hindraf national coordinator Thanenthiran later told reporters that the march tonight was proof that Malaysians can gather peacefully in order to express themselves. “If the police follows the law, we can do the same,” he said. In a statement immediately after the crowd dispersal, Hindraf leader-in-exile P Waytha Moorthy thanked the police for allowing the march to proceed. “The government should now accept that Malaysians have sent a loud and clear message that the use of the ISA cannot be tolerated,” he said.

Meanwhile, two visually blind participants told Malaysiakini at the scene why they took part in the march.Ramli Abu Bakar, 51, said he has been supporting the anti-ISA movement ever since it was established because “the country has achieved independence and the act is nothing but a mediaeval law”.“We have been independent for 51 years and why would we need such a legislation now?” asked Ramli.Ramli's friend, Kamal Abu Bakar, 48, echoed his views, saying that the government is “stupid for not abolishing ISA as it is no longer relevant”.There were also supporters of Raja Petra who were in high spirits in showing their support to their idol on his birthday. For Sampa Lee, 60, he said releasing Raja Petra and other detainees would be the best birthday gift the government could ever give to them.“It would be the best present for Raja Petra and all Malaysians as we are all against the draconian law,” said Sampa.