Saturday, September 5, 2009

16 arrested at Hindraf candlelight march in KL

Sixteen people, including former Internal Security Act detainee P Uthayakumar, were arrested at a candlelight vigil near Dataran Merdeka tonight.

The vigil, organised by rights group Hindraf, began with a march of a 100-strong crowd from nearby Masjid Jamek.

The participants, who were singing songs and carrying red and white roses and candles, called for Malaysians to respect one another's rights.

However, before they could reach Dataran Merdeka, the crowd was confronted by two dozens police officers.

The cops, who stopped the marchers at the junction of Jalan Parliament and Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, ordered the crowd to disperse.

The cops then began counting from one to 10 (right), and launched the arrests soon after.

Among those arrested were Hindraf leader S Jayathas and Uthayakumar's fiancee, S Indradevi.

Uthaya held on all fours

Uthayakumar, were among the last few individuals to be arrested. He was nabbed together with Indradevi while walking away from Dataran Merdeka.

Several police personnel pounced on Uthayakumar until fell to the ground. Once on the ground, he was held on all fours and rushed to an awaiting police truck.

In the wake of the arrests, participants began leaving the area at about 8pm, barely 15 minutes after the vigil started.

But some 30 minutes later, two more were arrested - Shanti Waytha Moorthy and Waytha Nayagi - some distance away from Dataran Merdeka while sending out alert SMSes.

Though never stated explicitly, it is understood that the vigil tonight was a reaction to the 'cow-head' demonstration last Friday by a group of Shah Alam residents opposing the relocation of a Hindu temple to their neighbourhood.

In contrast to the heavy-handed dispersal of vigil participants tonight, no action was taken against the 'cow-head' protestors.

Police double standards

According to Hindraf leader in exile P Waythamoorthy, the aim of the vigil was to “repair the damage to the centuries-long brotherly Hindu-Muslim relations in the wake of the cow-head protest in Shah Alam”.

In an immediate reaction, he condemned the arrest and accused the police of practising double standards in view of the 'cow-head' demonstration, which has caused public outrage, especially among Hindus.

“It is ridiculous that the Muslim extremist 'cow-head' protesters who were behaving in a violent manner, delivered fiery speeches promoting racial hatred and insulted Hindus were given full police protection.

“Whilst the Hindraf supporters who were armed with unlit candles and roses were violently arrested, bundled and taken into police lock-ups,” said Waythamoorthy in a statement late this evening.

Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur police chief Muhammad Sabtu Osman said that 13 men and three women were detained.