SUARAM’s Press Statement: 23 November 2007
Release 3 Arrested, Allow HINDRAF Rally
SUARAM strongly condemns the arrests of P. Uthayakumar, P Waythamoorthy and V Ganapathy Rao of the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) under the Sedition Act ahead of their rally on Sunday.
The ground and the timing of the arrests testify to the bad faith on the part of the police. It is none other than another attempt by the police to intimidate and to prevent the organisers and the supporters of HINDRAF from exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of expression.
The arrests are violations to the right to personal liberty as guaranteed under Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution and Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The restraining order under Section 98 of the Criminal Procedure Code on five lawyers of HINDRAF, namely Uthayakumar, Waythamoorthy, M Mahonaran, S Ganapathy, R Kengadharan, and all HINDRAF supporters, preventing them from participating in the rally on the grounds of nuisance is an insult to the plight of the largely poor Indian community.
SUARAM calls on the government to look into the issues of marginalisation and discrimination raised by HINDRAF seriously instead of arrogantly setting them aside as nuisance.
SUARAM also views with extreme alarm and strongly condemns the Inspector-General of Police (IGP)’s latest stern warning to the public not to bring “street protest culture” to the
country (New Straits Times, 23 November 2007, p. 8). He was saying this ahead of the proposed rally on 25 November 2007 organised by the HINDRAF.
Firstly, SUARAM would like to point out to the IGP that freedom of assembly is not an “imported culture” as suggested by the IGP. It is in fact, a universal and inherent right
which is enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution and Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
To make a statement that the notion of freedom of assembly should be curbed from creeping into our society clearly demonstrates the IGP’s lack of understanding of the law and his high disregard for basic human rights standards. It is pertinent to point out that even the currently ruling-United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) had held demonstrations against the proposed Malayan Union way back in 1946. Clearly, the IGP’s assertion that freedom of assembly is an “imported culture” is unfounded, to say the least.
Secondly, SUARAM strongly refutes claims made by the IGP that demonstrations would jeopardise peace and stability of the country. We have clearly seen, the latest example being the massive November 10 rally for free and fair elections in Kuala Lumpur, that demonstrations can indeed be peaceful. In the November 10 rally, the demonstrators were largely peaceful, except when the police started using violence, including spraying
chemical-laced water and teargas, and beating up peaceful demonstrators and bystanders. Suffice to say, it is often the police, through their harsh and high-handed actions, which have caused chaos in otherwise peaceful demonstrations.
By holding roadblocks in the run-up to major demonstrations, the police have caused massive traffic jams, as seen in the November 10 rally and now the HINDRAF rally. It is clear that the police, instead of peaceful demonstrators, have caused more problems and hassle to the general public.
Thirdly, the IGP’s statement regarding certain quarters who are trying to “paint a picture that the nation is in chaos” is unwarranted. Again, the November 10 rally being the latest example, on the contrary, proves that the IGP was the one who tried to paint a picture that demonstrators had created chaos by saying that 245 people were arrested when in fact only 34 were recorded by SUARAM and lawyers monitoring on the ground during the rally.
SUARAM reiterates our strongest condemnation on the police’s scare tactics by sending out stern warnings of harsh action that will be taken against those who attended demonstrations. The police have also been setting up roadblocks in several major roads, reportedly to stop the upcoming HINDRAF rally.
We demand that the police and the government allow public assemblies and peaceful demonstrations without the application of double-standards, regardless of the issues raised. We also strongly urge the police to refrain from using force and intimidation to
crackdown on demonstrators, including those in the upcoming HINDRAF rally on 25
SUARAM calls for the immediate and unconditional release of P. Uthayakumar, P Waythamoorthy and V Ganapathy Rao.
Tah Moon Hui
Three Hindraf leaders arrested – Malaysiakini
Hindraf chairperson arrested – breaking news
Hindraf legal adviser Uthayakumar arrested – Malaysiakini
Hindraf rally: Cops warn of ‘stern action’ – Malaysiakini.tv
Restraining order on Hindraf supporters – Malaysiakini
Dismantle roadblocks, police told – Malaysiakini
Hindraf – a new force is born – analysis by Baradan Kuppusamy