Anwar demands Putrajaya to apologise to Hindraf leaders

Sunday, May 10, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR: Opposition icon Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today ramped up pressure on the Malaysian government, saying that it should apologise to P Uthayakumar and other Hindraf leaders for detaining them under the Internal Security Act.

He also challenged the authorities to substantiate reasons why the men who helmed Hindraf were detained in Kamunting, noting that the police had linked them to terrorism just after their detention in December 2007.

“During their detention, the government frequently spun stories that they were involved in terrorism but none of them were ever brought before the courts.

“Now they have been released without any explanation. It is clear that whatever the explanation and whatever the justification, the ISA has to be abolished and all the detainees released. These archaic laws have not more place if we really want true changes, ‘’ he said in a posting on his blog, adding that the release of the 13 ISA detainees yesterday was an attempt by the Barisan Nasional government to change the news cycle after the fiasco in Perak.

Uthayakumar, M Manoharan and Vasanthakumar were among several Hindraf leaders who were picked by the police in December after they organised mass gatherings and demonstrations across the country to protest the marginalization of Indians in Malaysia.

The government justified their actions by declaring Hindraf an illegal organisation and painting its leaders as threats to national security.

Few bought the official line and the Najib administration knew that it would not be possible to reconcile with the community - traditional strong supporters of the BN – with Hindraf leaders still behind bars.

Still some in Umno appear grudging that Uthayakumar and gang – whom they blame for the Indian vote swing towards the Opposition – are enjoying freedom.

They are even more troubled than he and his comrades do not appear broken or cowed by their experience in Kamunting.

Anwar’s demand for the government to apologise to the Hindraf leaders will touch a raw nerve among Umno members, many of whom believe that the likes of Uthayakumar must be grateful to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for releasing them from detention.

The Umno-owned Mingguan Malaysia reported with a tinge of incredulity that Uthayakumar did not think it was necessary for him to thank the government for his release.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein also appeared to stoke the fire when he said today: “We did not expect him to thank the government. He is stubborn, tore his shirt before his release and also spread all sorts of lies.

“I’d like to remind him that as a normal person free from the ISA, he is not immune from other laws.’’

Still settling into his new job as the Home Minister, Hishammuddin needs to show that he has the steely spine to helm this important ministry.

It was this same pressure that prompted his predecessor to use the ISA against a journalist and a popular Opposition politician, a move which not only made him one of the most unpopular ministers in the Abdullah administration but also probably persuaded Najib to leave out of the Cabinet.



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