Monday, December 15, 2008

Mkini- Makkal Sakthi held Anti ISA forum at Markas PAS Jalan Kebun

Mkini -Outlawed Hindraf's spirit lives on
Rahmah Ghazali Dec 14, 08 2:38pm

Despite being declared a banned movement, Hindraf’s spirit among its supporters still lived on, and this was proven at their anti-ISA forum at PAS’ hall in Klang last night.

The Hindu Rights Action Force’s forum, attended by about 250 people, was held in conjunction with the first anniversary of the Internal Security Act (ISA) detention of five Hindraf leaders, which many of the supporters have described as their ‘blackest day’.

According to national coordinator S Jayathas, who was the first speaker at the forum, the event was organised to launch a hunger strike, which is to kick off today at a Hindu temple in Shah Alam.

According to Jayathas (left), the hunger strike of a dozen of supporters will continue "until the government releases their leaders and abolish the ISA".

The three-hour forum saw some prominent Pakatan politicians including PAS Kota Raja MP Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud, DAP Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo, PKR Kapar MP S Manikavasagam and Selangor exco member Dr Xavier Jayakumar.

RPK did not show up

Much to the supporters’ disappointment however, controversial Malaysia Today editor and former ISA detainee Raja Petra Kamarudin, who was expected to address the crowd last night, could not make it as "he was warned three times by the police not to attend" the forum.

This was claimed by Hindraf coordinator W Sambulingam in his speech, saying that "if he (Raja Petra) chooses to come here tonight, he would face another arrest, so he decided not to come".

Sambulingam also lamented that there were six police roadblocks leading to the PAS hall, and this could have affected the turnout of yesterday’s crowd.

The five Hindraf leaders have been held under the tough security law on Dec 13 last year for "carrying out activities that threatened national security" and allegedly having links with Sri Lanka separatist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Those detained are P Uthayakumar M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan and V Ganabatirau and T Vasanthakumar.

Prior to their arrest, Hindraf had organised a massive protest which saw some 30,000 people taking to the streets in Kuala Lumpur.

The movement was made illegal on Oct 15 two weeks after some 200 Hindraf supporters visited the prime minister's 'open house' during the Hari Raya celebration at the Putra World Trade Centre, where they had pressed for the repeal of the ISA.

‘Arrest me, I am not scared’

The anti-ISA forum began with a high-spirited speech from Manikavasagam.

He challenged the Special Branch police officers, whom he claimed were present at the forum, to arrest him for supporting Hindraf.

"Hindraf is still alive! I’m not scared because I have been working with (detained Hindraf leader) Uthayakumar for seven years. Arrest me anytime you want, I am not scared," thundered the Kapar MP, drawing cheers from the crowd.

Meanwhile, Siti Mariah (right) said "every cloud has a silver lining" as many Malaysian Indians have come to realise that Islamic opposition party PAS had been continuously fighting to abolish ISA.

"If Hindraf leaders were not arrested under the ISA, many Indians would not know what ISA is. Now they know that it’s a draconian law that we should all fight against it.

"However, it’s a shame that most of Malays who are more highly-educated still think we need the ISA to protect the security," said the PAS leader.

The focus then turned to outspoken Puchong MP Gobind, who said there were still ‘ghosts’ in the ruling Barisan Nasional who wanted ISA amended, but were still unwilling to do the necessary to achieve that.

He was referring to PPP’s recent threat to leave the BN coalition if ISA is not amended although Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said there were no plans to do so.

"PM has already told them ISA is not going to be amended, then leave now. Why bother? And where is the leader? He’s not even here, is he scared to make a decision?" said Gobind of M Kayveas, who is currently overseas.

Small commotion erupted during speech

While Gobind was delivering his speech to the crowd, a small commotion erupted at the sideline of the forum where three people who claimed to be Hindraf supporters protested over a banner depicting the movement’s leaders.

It was learnt that the supporters were not satisfied with the organisers as the banner showed only four detained Hindraf leaders together with a photo of the outlawed organisation’s self-exile chairperson P Waythamoorthy.

"Where’s the other photo of the Hindraf 5? It should be five rather than four," they said furiously, referring to the group’s organising secretary and ISA detainee, Vasanthakumar, whose photo was not on the banner.

The argument with the organisers lasted for about five minutes, which some claimed the three outraged supporters "were planted to sabotage the event".

It was later revealed to Malaysiakini by one of the organisers that Vasanthakumar’s wife has requested not to have her husband’s photo on the banner or "she would sue us".

Over the past four months, there has been a fallout between Waythamoorthy - who is currently in London - and Vasanthakumar’s family.

It is believed that, among others, Vasanthakumar prefers a less in-your-face campaign for the release of the Hindraf 5.

The forum ended with a one-minute silence to commemorate the first anniversary of the arrest with lit candles and the released of five pigeons - each representing the five detainees.