Saturday, March 5, 2011

Hindraf leader Ramesh charged, 53 in all

Another Hindraf leader has been charged with being a member of the outlaw organisation.
KUALA LUMPUR: Hindraf national secretary P Ramesh was today charged with being a member of an unlawful society at a magistrate’s court here today.
He was charged with committing two offences under the Societies Act 1966. This brings the number of people charged since last Sunday’s rally to 53.

According to the first charge, Ramesh was a member of Hindraf, and therefore committed an offence, outside a hotel at Jalan Thambipillay, off Jalan Tun Sambanthan, at 8.30am on Feb 27.

The word “Hindraf” in the chargesheet was changed to Hindraf Makkal Sakthi after the deputy public prosecutor Vincent Chew applied for the change.

Ramesh, 40, is also charged with possessing banners and documents totalling nearly 100 which appear to further the cause of Hindraf, an outlawed organisation.

Some the banners read: ‘People’s march solidarity against Umno’s racism’, ‘We demand equal rights for 12 million non-Malays in Malaysia and… universal standards of democracy’, ‘Hindraf is not anti-Islam’ and ‘What – racism? Who – Umno? When –54 years? Where – 1Malaysia? How –Marginalised? Why – Racist agenda’.

The first offence comes under Section 43 while the second under Section 47 of the Act.
Ramesh, also Human Rights Party (HRP) pro-tem Perak chief, pleaded not guilty to both charges.

Double standard
If convicted, Ramesh faces a maximum three-year jail term or RM5,000 fine or both for the first charge and a maximum of two years jail and a maximum fine of RM5,000 fine or both for the second offence.
Magistrate Mohd Azali Ibrahim set bail at RM8,000.

Mention date was fixed for April 11.

HRP’s pro-tem secretary-general P Uthayakumar, who is a lawyer for Ramesh, together with M Manoharan, Hindraf legal adviser, told FMT that the prosecution of Hindraf supporters showed that the government practised double standard.

“I submitted in court that in 1988 Umno was declared illegal by the Kuala Lumpur High Court. The named was changed to Umno Baru, and now they’ve dropped the word Baru. It is contempt of court to be using the word Umno. They (Umno) don’t even have a court order to ban Hindraf or Hindraf Makkal Sakthi but they’re going after us.”

“This is in contravention of Article 8 of the Federal Constitution which provides for equality before the law,” he said.

On Feb 27, police arrested 109 people from different parts of the city and crippled a planned Hindraf rally.
Hindraf, which rose to fame after a mammoth rally in 2007, is a banned organisation but the group has now come under a new name – Hindraf Makkal Sakthi. It is closely linked to the political party HRP.

‘Malicious prosecution’
The Hindraf rally was to call for an end to “Umno’s racism” as well as seeking a ban on the controversial textbook Interlok. The group also held gatherings nationwide on the same issues.

On March 1, five men, including HRP information chief S Jayathas, 44, were charged at the Selayang magistrate’s court with being Hindraf members.

One of them was also charged with obstructing a public official from carrying out his duties by pushing Insp Mohd Aster Mohammad, causing him to fall to the ground.

On March 3, six men were slapped with similar charges at the Ipoh magistrate’s court.
Yesterday, 21 people, including five women, pleaded not guilty at the Kuala Lumpur magistrate’s court with being members of Hindraf.

At the Seremban magistrate’s court, 20 people, including state HRP chief S Sivarasa, pleaded not guilty to being Hindraf members.

All charges came under Section 43 of the Societies Act.

“To me, the charges on all the Hindraf supporters are basically a malicious prosecution by the attorney-general and an abuse of his powers,” said Uthayakumar.

“The charges are also politically motivated and intended to stiffle and finish off Hindraf Makkal Sakthi, which is a mere minority rights and human rights NGO.

“We are not a secret society; we have never been a threat to the country. This is an attempt by the Umno-led government, under its racist policies, to stop us from raising legitimate grouses and championing the Malaysian Indian poor.”