Hindraf ISA arrests: BN govt has lost its moral authority

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Aliran condemns the arrest
today of five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders under the
obnoxious Internal Security Act. Those detained were Hindraf legal
adviser P Uthayakumar, lawyers M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan, V
Ganabatirau and organising secretary T Vasanthakumar. These
ISA arrests are certainly a huge step backwards for democracy.
When
the Barisan Nasional detains its citizens under the draconian ISA, it
concedes that it has lost its moral authority and has no
justification to frame a valid charge and take them to court under
the existing laws of the country.


There
is no other conclusion especially when the government had earlier
charged Uthayakumar and his friends for sedition. Why did it not
allow the due process of the law to take its course? Is it because
the charges levelled against them would not stand up to the scrutiny
of the judiciary? And if the police really had concrete evidence to
back up their allegations that Hindraf has links to terrorist groups,
they should have charged the Hindraf leaders in court accordingly.

Many Malaysians are not
surprised by the government’s latest move given the relentless
campaign of vilification of the Hindraf leaders by several ministers
with help from the compliant mainstream media. Through this
single-minded effort over the last couple of weeks, the BN machinery
prepared the ground for the use of the ISA by heaping all kinds of
allegations against Hindraf. Using one-sided media reporting and
official statements, they conveyed the impression that Hindraf was a
threat to national security – without adducing sufficient evidence to
justify this allegation.

Some Malaysians may
believe that certain words used or claims made by the Hindraf leaders
bordered on exaggeration. But the Hindraf leaders, like many others
before them, do not deserve the unjust ISA. Nobody should be detained
without trial. Detaining them under this undemocratic law will not
resolve the underlying causes of the grievances and disillusionment
that have been expressed by the Hindraf leaders and which have struck
a chord among Indian Malaysians. By ignoring the root causes of the
disenchantment, the government may well be putting its head in the
proverbial sand again.

Concerned Malaysians and
keen observers outside the country would be forgiven for suspecting
that these arrests are aimed at suppressing legitimate dissent and
opposition to the ruling party ahead of a general election.
Malaysians will know that what the BN is
trying to protect is its own security and interest and the survival
of the MIC. It is the fear of the eroding loss of confidence that has
driven the BN to take this desperate action.

When
ordinary Indian Malaysians responded to the call of Hindraf on 25
November in an astounding number that ran into tens of thousands, it
stunned and baffled the BN and the MIC. Ordinary Indian Malaysians,
not withstanding the official statistics that have been dished out,
understand their real economic status and position. Their desperate
cry for help was conveyed through their participation in Hindraf
activities. For them to have defied police warnings and political
threats of BN leaders and to have faced the tear gas and chemically
laced liquid sprayed by water cannons spoke of their utter
hopelessness. It is a matter of grave regret that the BN failed to
recognise this reality.

The BN has criminalised
all our freedoms. We cannot walk as a group, we cannot put up a
banner on our own building, we cannot have access to information, we
cannot challenge any ministerial decisions in any court of law, we
cannot have a reasonable campaign period prior to election, we cannot
have equal radio and TV time for all registered political parties to
reach out to citizens to explain party policies, we cannot have a
licence as a matter of right to publish. Our basic fundamental rights
and freedoms have all been taken away through subsidiary laws and
regulations. We are reminded by what was said way back in 163 BC:
Extreme law is often extreme injustice.

Aliran calls upon the BN
government to immediately charge all of them in a court of law if
they have flouted any of the country’s laws or release them
unconditionally. This would be a decent thing to do especially when
Malaysia occupies an exalted seat in the global Human Rights Council.

Aliran Executive Committee

13 December 2007

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