Police crack their whips again, coming down hard on Hindraf leaders and activists at an anti-Interlok forum.
UPDATEDLUNAS: The police’s clampdown on Hindraf Makkal Sakti’s anti-Interlok campaign continues with the arrest of eight leaders and activists at an anti-Interlok forum here in Kedah this morning.
However, all eight have been released at 5.30pm, some six hours later.
The eight were Human Rights Party (HRP) Malaysia president W Sambulingam, 48, Kedah Hindraf chief R Ramu, 43, deputy chief P Muniandy, 37, CF Mani, 35, S Kuberadasan, 25, S Maniam, 57, T Raja, 52, and Perak Hindraf chief P Ramesh, 45.
They were detained when police stormed and disrupted the forum at the Kattu Raja hall in Paya Besar at 11.30am here.
All have been released on police bail. They will have to report at the Kulim police headquarters on March 19.
HRP secretary-general P Uthayakumar said that police have denied Hindraf permits to hold the anti-Interlok forum at Paya Besar and Air Itam and Simpang Ampat, Penang.
He said that police also prevented Hindraf activists and other Hindus from entering a temple in Kampar, Perak, to attend a similar forum last night.
He said the police clearly showed they would violate all human rights, including freedom of religion and assembly, enshrined under the Federal Constitution.
“They would violate all principles of human rights to halt our anti-Interlok peaceful march planned for Feb 27 in Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC).
“The police clampdown is a replay of the historic Nov 25 mammoth gathering at KLCC three years ago.
‘Handcuffed, chained, locked up’
“Its déjà vu 2007,” said Uthayakumar.
Meanwhile, Hindraf adviser N Ganesan claimed that his detained colleagues were “handcuffed, chained and locked up” at the Kulim district police headquarters.
He said Sambulingam was addressing some 100 people at the Kattu Raja hall at 11.30am when a group of police officers entered and told the Hindraf leader to stop speaking.
Police gave Sambulingam and the others about 10 minutes to disperse. The activists were arrested when they defied the order.
HRP secretary-general P Uthayakumar told FMT that police have threatened to detain the Hindraf activists for seven days and asked them to hand over their saffron-coloured shirts.
“However, they did not give their shirts. They told the police that our saffron shirt is sacred,” he said.
Meanwhile, at another forum at a community hall at Bandar Baru Air Itam on the island, the police did not barge into the community hall or arrest any Hindraf leaders and activists.
But they managed to stop the forum within minutes of its commencement.
Earlier, Ganesan got the ball rolling by addressing a few people who defied the police order to attend the forum.
While he was speaking, a group of policemen led by a commander known only as ASP Jamaluddin entered the hall and stopped Ganesan from speaking.
They gave Ganesan and others 10 minutes to disperse to avoid arrest. Ganesan and the rest obeyed and ended the forum.
They then left, but not without loud chants of “Hindraf, Hindraf, Hindraf”.
Using a loud hailer, Jamaluddin also ordered all journalists and cameramen to leave the area immediately.
Earlier, the police formed a massive barricade to prevent anyone from entering the hall. They have also put up blockades and booths along roads leading to the hall. A police notice was pasted outside the hall warning the people not to attend the forum.
The notice stated that the forum was illegal since it was being held without a valid police permit. Police warned they would detain anyone who showed up.
About two hours before the forum started, some police officers have also allegedly intimidated HRP/Hindraf activists to get them to cancel their plans.
When the activists showed their defiance, police began to build up their presence. Residents claimed at least 100 police personnel gathered in the area within an hour.
Another forum is scheduled at 6pm at the Meenakshi Aman Kovil in Simpang Ampat, Seberang Perai.
Ganesan said that a police permit was not needed for an indoor forum for the people.
“We are not having a political rally. We duly paid the hall rental and the building management allowed us to organise the forum without any qualms.
“But we have been told not hold the forum and leave the area,” he said.
“Under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, Malaysian citizens have every right to assemble,” he added.
Ganesan was puzzled why the authorities strongly opposed the anti-Interlok campaign.
“We are actually helping the Umno government to eliminate racism in the country.
“I don’t understand why the government and police are not assisting us,” he told FMT.
Earlier, in his address, Ganesan told the attendees that Interlok had projected the Indians in an undignified and distorted manner.
He said that the novel was reinforcing the stereotyped portrayal of Indians in the country as “dark, oily and scraggy community of low life”.
“Interlok must not be seen as an isolated case. It’s part of Umno government’s racist agenda to demean and degrade the Indian poor.
“The racist perpetrators want to ensure that the Indian poor will forever remain oppressed, suppressed and subservient to the Umno regime,” said Ganesan.
He also attributed the low turnout to the heavy police presence since morning.
“It’s a serious violation of human rights. Why must the police stop us from speaking to a small crowd in a peaceful manner?
“It’s a high-handed tactics of Umno regime to instil fear into us and the Indian poor.”