Posted on behalf of Seelan Palay.
I, Seelan Palay, am going to undertake fasting in my personal capacity for a period of 5 days calling for the release of the 5 Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) leaders, legal adviser P Uthayakumar, lawyers M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan, V Ganabatirau and organizing secretary T Vasanthakumar, who were arrested on 13 December 2007under the Malaysian Internal Security Act (ISA) on unfounded charges of incitement to rebellion and for having links with terrorist organizations. Detention without trial under the draconian Internal Security Act is unjustified for the HINDRAF 5, who only struggle for the marginalized 8% of ethnic minority Indians in Malaysia.
My action is both a personal commitment and a plea for the international community to pay attention to this serious human rights issue. I am calling for greater global commitment to bear pressure on the Malaysian Government for the release of the HINDRAF 5 and to prove any allegations made against them in an open Court process. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch USA, the Federation of Human Rights Organizations of India (FHROI) and regional NGOs have also strongly condemned this application of the ISA by the Malaysian Government.
Having been present at the HINDRAF rally in Kuala Lumpur on 25 November 2007, I can personally attest to the peaceful assembly that HINDRAF organized and the unjustified response to it by the Malaysian Federal Reserve Unit (FRU). As if there were not enough tears in the eyes of the people gathered that day, the authorities have had to administer tear gas to further add to their pain. Rubber bullets and water cannons were also used on the unarmed citizens, which included men and women of all ages. Let us not forget the Batu Caves incident earlier the same day where tear gas was shot into the Batu Caves temple upon civilians who were trapped inside.
Given our common history, I can relate to the language of structural poverty of the Malaysian Indians. The people gathered that day with peaceful intent for a just cause, and that is why I am determined to express my disquiet and discontent at what is a highhanded approach by the Malaysian Government.
In line with the greater focus on human rights in ASEAN today, what with the inclusion of a Human Rights Commission in the signing of the ASEAN Charter in Singapore, we surely cannot turn a blind eye to this matter, especially as it concerns a country which is our immediate neighbor.
Lastly, I cannot celebrate the coming of the New Year when I know that the HINDRAF 5 may be detained for an indefinite period of time.