Malaysia: Police Detain 21 People For Illegal Rallies
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: Malaysian police detained 21 opposition members, lawyers and activists Sunday (9 Dec), including nine people who joined a banned human rights march, officials said, in a widening crackdown following a series of anti-government protests.
Twelve members of an opposition coalition were among those rounded up in nationwide raids for taking part in a banned rally on Nov. 10 demanding electoral reforms, coalition spokesman Syed Azman Syed Ahmad told The Associated Press. The coalition plans to hold a second demonstration on Tuesday (11 Dec) outside Parliament.
The arrests are part of a growing crackdown on disgruntled Malaysians who have held a slew of anti-government protests and demonstrations, jolting the administration of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi ahead of elections expected soon.
The Nov. 10 rally _ which drew some 30,000 people _ was followed by an equally large street protest by minority ethnic Indians on Nov. 25 to complain of racial discrimination and economic deprivation from government policies.
Earlier Sunday (25 Nov), eight people, including four lawyers, were detained for taking part in a march for human rights by about 40 people in downtown Kuala Lumpur, defying a ban on assembly and an order to disperse, local police chief Che Hamzah Che Ismail said.
Bar Council President Ambiga Sreenevasan told reporters another lawyer was detained later after he tried to stop police from tearing down banners marking International Human Rights Day.
"I am in a state of utter disbelief at the heavy-handedness of the police ... these tactics are bullying tactics," Sreenevasan said. "This is a sad day for human rights in Malaysia."
Prime Minister Abdullah defended the arrests.
"They ignored the law and still wanted to protest ... of course police have to take action. This (protest) is not our culture," Abdullah was quoted as saying by national news agency Bernama.
Among those arrested for the Nov. 10 rally were Tian Chua, a senior official of the opposition People's Justice Party, and 10 members of the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party. The two parties are the main groups in the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, known by its Malay acronym Bersih, which organized the rally.
Despite the arrests, Bersih will go ahead with its second demonstration on Tuesday outside Parliament to hand over a memorandum to the speaker to demand free and fair elections, Syed Azman said.
He said the 12 are likely to be formally charged in court on Monday (10 Dec). Also Monday, ethnic Indian leader P. Uthayakumar, who organized the Nov. 25 rally, will appear in court where prosecutors will seek permission to charge him with sedition.
The government has also charged 31 Indians with attempted murder after a policeman was injured during the rally.
Sunday's arrests came amid complaints by Uthayakumar that the charges were racially motivated because police did not arrest anyone from the Nov. 10 rally, which was mostly participated by Malays.
Syed Azman said by arresting Bersih activists, the government "is trying to balance it out so that it won't look racially biased."
"The heat is on the government because of the (Indian) issue. The government is under tremendous pressure because the whole world is watching now, so they are trying to divert attention," he said. (By EILEEN NG/ AP)
Ethnic Indian leader lodges police complaint against Malaysia's PM, other officials
By VIJAY JOSHI,Associated Press Writer AP - Sunday, December 9KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - An ethnic Indian leader filed a police report Saturday against Malaysia's prime minister, the attorney general and police chief for claiming his protest group has possible terrorist links.
"These allegations? I just laugh at them," P. Uthayakumar told reporters after lodging the criminal report against Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the others at a police station in a Kuala Lumpur neighborhood. Also included in the complaint are Law Minister Nazri Aziz and the state-controlled media.
Abdullah, Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail and Inspector General of Police Musa Hassan have claimed in public statements that Uthayakumar's Hindu Rights Action Force, or Hindraf, is being investigated for possible ties to terrorism, including the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam of Sri Lanka. The LTTE has been branded a terror group by the United States and European Union.
"We have got zero links with terrorism. We have got zero links with LTTE. We do not support violence. We are a nonviolent group," said Uthayakumar, a human rights lawyer, outside the police station. A dozen supporters gathered around him holding portraits of India's independence leader and icon of nonviolence, Mohandas K. Gandhi.
"I have never met anyone from LTTE in my life," he said.
The government has stepped up its crackdown on Hindraf since it organized a rally by Malaysia's ethnic Indians on Nov. 25 to protest the community's economic plight and alleged racial discrimination by the Malay majority government.
At least 20,000 people participated in the unprecedented protest, which has triggered fears of ethnic unrest in this multiracial country.
On Friday, the government revoked the license of Hindraf Enterprise, a company set up by the group to receive donations. The state Companies Commission of Malaysia said Hindraf Enterprises was conducting unlawful business "prejudicial to national security and public order."
Indians form 8 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people and are at the bottom of the social and economic scale. Malays make up about 60 percent and control the government. Ethnic Chinese are 25 percent and dominate business.
Hindraf is demanding equality and fair treatment for Indians, saying an affirmative action program that gives preferential treatment to Muslim Malays is tantamount to racial discrimination.
"They have gone overboard when they say we have links with terrorism. They are trying to divert the issue" of Indian grievances, Uthayakumar said.
He said he feared the government would use the allegation to arrest him under the Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial.
In the police complaint Uthayakumar accused Abdullah and the four other parties of making "false, malicious seditious, criminally defamatory, racially inciting and inflammatory statements."
Such a complaint is usually followed by a police investigation. Criminal charges are then filed by the police against the accused if necessary.
Uthayakumar said he does not expect the police to take his complaint seriously. But he said he did it as a symbolic gesture, and challenged the government to produce evidence within 24 hours to show he has terrorist links.
Uthayakumar has also threatened to sue the government leaders for defamation to seek 10 million (US$ 2.9 million; ?1.98 million) ringgit in damages.
6 dead, 4,000 evacuated after flash floods hit Malaysia
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Heavy rains caused flash floods throughout Malaysia leaving six people dead and leading to the evacuation of more than 4,000 others, police said Sunday.
Four people, including a 3-year-old boy, drowned in northeast Kelantan state, and 1,671 others were placed in temporary shelters, said police official Mohamad Rizal.
In southern Johor state, police recovered the body of a 13-year-old boy early Sunday who was swept away while bathing in a river. More than 1,160 people were in relief centers in the state.
A 15-year-old boy died after falling into a river while fishing in neighboring Pahang state, said police spokesman Rahimi Rais. A total of 1,495 people in Pahang were evacuated.
Northern Terengganu state was also affected by heavy rainfall, but flood waters receded and all evacuees returned home, police said.
The Meteorological Department said heavy downpours had eased but warned moderate rainfall would continue over the next two days in flood-prone states, a statement on its Web site said.
Malaysia increased flood mitigation efforts after suffering one of its worst periods of monsoon flooding last year. The government estimated losses of 1.2 billion ringgit (US$343 million; ?233 million) to repair roads and schools, and in aid to flood victims.
AP - Monday, December 10