Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Uthaya's sedition trial moved to February

S Pathmawathy | Oct 20, 08 11:42am

Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leader P Uthayakumar's sedition hearing has been fixed for Feb 3-5, when the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court will hear further arguments on alleged bias by the attorney-general (AG)

uthayakumar sedition trial 201008 01The proceedings today were adjourned after lead defence counsel M Manogaran contended that there is an "element of bias" in the charge sheet and consent form which were signed by AG Abdul Gani Patail.

The consent form is issued under Section 5 of the Sedition Act 1948, which states that "no person shall be prosecuted for an offence under section 4… without the written consent of the Public Prosecutor".

Manogaran cited a court case on Dec 5, 2007 when Uthayakumar and the AG shouting at one another over a charge of ‘attempted murder’ levelled against 31 Hindraf supporters who had gathered at the Batu Caves temple grounds the night before a mass rally on Nov 25, 2007.

Manogaran claimed that there was "bad blood between them" because Abdul Gani had accused "some Hindraf members of meeting with LTTE” (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – a Sri Lankan separatist group).

However, Sessions Judge Sabariah Othman interjected, asking Manogaran the relevance of objecting to the charge.

"Consent is necessary (as it is the) integral part of the charge… (but) he (the AG) himself has released the charge sheet," said Manogaran.

"Gani Patail appears to have a personal interest in this case. He wants Uthayakumar to be prosecuted and convicted. I think it is very pertinent. The consent and charge sheets were filed and signed by the same person."

uthayakumar sedition trial 201008 raja rozela raja toranDeputy Public Persecutor (DPP) Raja Rozela Raja Toran (right) said "whether the consent form is valid or not or whether there it is bias or not should have been addressed on Dec 11, 2002".

"The AG was there at that time and he could have answered your queries," said Raja Rozela.

"This is an application that is an ambush… this a delaying tactic by the defence counsels. We have been ready since this morning and our witnesses are ready."

The judge said she would decide on the issue of bias when the hearing resumes in February. Manogaran told her that the defence would raise further objections then.

uthayakumar sedition trial 201008 03Uthayakumar (left) has claimed trial to the sedition charge, based on a letter he had posted on a website. Dated Nov 15, 2007, it was sent from Hindraf’s main office in Seremban.

The letter, addressed to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, highlighted alleged marginalisation of Indian Malaysians. It also sought the British government’s help to move an emergency UN resolution condemning ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Malaysia.

Uthayakumar has been held under the Internal Security Act (ISA) since Dec 13 last year for organising Hindraf activities.

He had been charged with sedition on Dec 11 and was on RM50,000 bail before being arrested two days later under the ISA, which provides for detention without trial.

Section 4 (1)(c) of the Sedition Act 1948 carries a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or a jail term not exceeding three years, or both for a first offence.

Apart from Manogaran, the defence team comprises N Surendran and AS Dhaliwal.

'Stronger despite detention'

Uthayakumar, who now sports a beard, appeared in good spirit and told reporters that he has become stronger since being held at the Kamunting detention camp in Perak.

“I’m okay; I’ll fight to the end… I have had enough time to think of the struggle, to analyse and to think deeply. And I still feel our struggle is a legitimate struggle,” said Uthayakumar.

He was referring to an 18-point resolution on the rights of Indian Malaysians, which had been submitted to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in July last year.

Uthayakumar described that the sedition charge as “malicious persecution” by the government and said: “They can keep me as long as they want but I shall keep on fighting.”

uthayakumar sedition trial 201008 as dhaliwal indra devi and s jayathas

His fiancee Indra Devi (in white), 47, was in court with his mother K Kalaivany, 65, and his sister Waytha Nayagi, 42.

A small commotion in the courtroom preceded today's hearing when the case was moved to another court, but before the same judge.

Hindraf supporters were unhappy when they were not allowed into the new courtroom. A shouting match ensued between the supporters and the police, with Uthayakumar - wearing a white shirt and tattered blue pants - joining in.

Kapar MP S Manikavasagam was among those shouting, insisting that the police should stop "harrassing the supporters".

A woman fainted in the ensuing disorder and was taken to a hospital in an ambulance. Surendran claimed she had been “elbowed” by a police officer.

However, the commotion died down after 20 minutes, when more supporters were allowed to enter the courtroom where they sat on the floor.

More than 100 Hindraf supporters - clad in orange T-shirts with slogans like ‘Abolish ISA’, ‘Keep walking’ and ‘Makkal sakthi’ - had gathered at the court complex since early this morning.

Asked to comment on the banning of Hindraf since last Wednesday, Uthayakumar said: “The tenth most important point in our federal constitution guarantees the people's rights to form an organisation… (the government is) doing this because we have the support of the people.

“You can suspend the organisation but you cannot stop the people… by having me detained, the people are becoming more encouraged and I (myself) am prepared for the worst."

Before leaving the court, Uthayakumar urged his supporters to “stay strong and keep to the goal”.

BN parties must speak out

On a related matter, Hindraf chairperson P Waythamoorthy urged all BN component parties to make their stand on the banning of Hindraf and the real problems facing the Indian Malaysian community.

hindraf london demo 060208 waythamoorthy"Hindraf urges component parties within BN to come out of their cocoon and speak the truth on the real situation facing the Indians and the impact of the Umno repression on Hindraf which is causing great uneasiness amongst the people," Waythamoorthy (in coat) said in a statement today.

He said that the Umno-led government "cannot go on forever silencing all legitimate voice of democracy in the unfounded and malicious allegation of national security".

He said the BN component parties have a moral duty to speak the truth in the larger national interest and to protect and uphold the rule of law.