The “Valentine Roses Campaign” will be the first public event by the Hindu Rights Action Force, or Hindraf, since police used tear gas and water cannons to crush a Nov. 25 demonstration in Kuala Lumpur by at least 30,000 ethnic Indians.
The violence sparked fears of racial tensions in this Malay Muslim-majority nation and led to the arrest of five Hindraf officials last month under the Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite imprisonment without trial.
Hindraf chairman P. Waytha Moorthy, who fled to London in December fearing arrest, said Hindraf plans to gather at least 10,000 supporters outside Parliament on Feb. 16 to hand red and yellow roses to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
A Hindraf activist in Kuala Lumpur, who declined to be identified because he is not a spokesman for the group, said that even though Valentine’s Day is Feb. 14, the event is planned for two days later, a Saturday, because it is easier to gather people during the weekend.
“Red roses would signify Hindraf’s love and peaceful struggle while yellow roses would signify the demand for justice for the five Hindraf leaders held under the draconian laws,” Moorthy said in a statement.
Moorthy stressed it would be “purely a peaceful gathering … to enlighten (Abdullah) on the predicament and cry for justice of the minority Indian community,” which claims the Malay-dominated government practices discriminatory policies in economic and religious matters.
“It is hoped by accepting the roses, the prime minister would be compassionate and understand the needs of the Indian community,” Moorthy said.
Abdullah is not scheduled to be in Parliament on Feb. 16, but Hindraf said it could change the venue to suit his convenience. Abdullah’s aides could not immediately be contacted.
The planned rally will likely face opposition from police, who have barred virtually all public demonstrations in recent months. A federal police spokesman who declined to be named, citing protocol, said he could not comment on the planned rally because police have not been informed.
The government says it does not discriminate against ethnic Indians, who form 8 percent of Malaysia’s 27 million people. Malays make up about 60 percent of the population, while ethnic Chinese account for a quarter.
Many Indians allege that authorities deprive them of fair chances to get jobs and education, and that their temples are being systematically destroyed.
News by IHT