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Hindraf protesters play cat-and-mouse game

 | February 27, 2011

A Hindraf rally was foiled after police swoop down on its leaders and supporters, arresting more than 100.

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KUALA LUMPUR: Hindraf protesters today played a cat-and-mouse game with the police as they attempted to assemble sporadically at various spots around the city.

Their attempts were thwarted after police arrested 109 people, including Human Rights Party (HRP) pro tem secretary-general P Uthayakumar, HRP president and Hindraf coordinator W Sambulingan, Hindraf and HRP national adviser N Ganesan, information chief S Jayathas, Selangor chief K Selvam, Perak head P Ramesh and Kedah HRP chairman R Ramu.

However, police have released all of them in the late night.

City police chief Deputy Commissioner of Police Zulkifli Abdullah told FMT that they have been released in staggered stages.

He also denied that the number of supporters arrested was between 120 and 380 as claimed by Hindraf. “Do you believe our figures or theirs (Hindraf’s)?” he asked.

Meanwhile, despite the setback, Hindraf has claimed the protest was a “victory”.

“We are proud about our arrests. We don’t feel guilty. We just want justice, for the Interlok novel to be banned and racism to be stopped,” Sambulingam said, adding that he was assaulted by the police.

“We are innocent civilians without arms and we are gathering peacefully. Why do the police need to show their might?” he asked, adding that he was punched, pushed to the ground, kicked and stepped
on before he was hauled in.

The protesters were supposed to have gathered at Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) at 9am this
morning and march to the Dang Wangi police headquarters to lodge a police report against the government for Umno racism.

The demonstrators were also targeting the controversial Interlok novel for its derogatory remarks about the Indian community.

Earlier, reporters ran helter-skelter to capture the moments of drama as Indians, suspected to be protesters, were detained around the heavily guarded KLCC vicinity.

No one knew the actual number of Indians participating in the rally, but police said they were did not reach 500, contrary to the organisers estimation of over 2,000.

Many were arrested at the bus, taxi and railway stations before they could begin to organise themselves.

Roads sealed

Roads leading to KLCC were all sealed and roadblocks were erected in Jalan Ampang, Jalan Kepong, Jalan Cheras, Jalan Tun Razak and Jalan Duta-Sungai Buloh Highway.

One of the protesters, Chandran, 45, from Klang, told reporters at the KLCC that several supporters have arrived but were unable to gather.

“Why is it so difficult to move around? We just want to be the voice of the Indian community,” he said, before being hauled away.

Uthayakumar himself was picked up at his residence at Pantai Hill Park Condominium at about 7.50am while the others were picked up later.

Malaysia Makkal Sakti Party (MMSP) president Kannan Ramasamy and several MMSP members were also detained.

However, a group of 30 people managed to assemble in front of the Australian High Commission at 10.15 am to protest against Interlok.

They were led by PKR members MS Arjunan (former Chenderiang PKR candidate), S Murali (Puchong division) and A Ponnusamy (Pahang deputy chief).

The protest march that did not take place in KLCC eventually took shape at Sri Kortumalai Pillaiyar temple, near Jalan Pudu, where about 300 gathered there at about 10.30am.

“To hell with (Deputy Federal Territories and Wellbeing Minister) M Saravanan,” said one protester, S Ramachandran, 36, who was referring to the MIC vice-president’s press statement in a Tamil daily asking police to arrest the protesters.

Among others, the protesters chanted slogans “Hapuskan Interlok” and “Jangan hina kaum India”.

‘Hounded like dogs’

Meanwhile, before Ganesan was arrested, he lambasted the authorities for cracking down on a peaceful protest. “We are hounded like dogs. We are not a threat to national security. Umno is the threat,” he said.

Ganesan also listed four demands: release all those detained, ban the Interlok novel, rescind the ban on Hindraf and abolish all racist policies.

There was also a small argument among the protesters at the temple as the organisers did not allow other protesters to put up their banners.

The protesters then marched to the Kuala Lumpur police headquarters off Jalan Hang Tuah.

A stand-off took place as the Federal Reserve Unit was ready to charge but spokesman A Thiruvenggadam negotiated with the city police deputy chief Amar Singh, who allowed them to sit down at the parking area.

The crowd then left for Jinjang to show support for Hindraf Makkal Sakti leaders detained there.

‘No respect for law’

Meanwhile, Zulkifli expressed disappointment over the conduct of the protesters.

“I am disappointed that they have been stubborn and have acted in this manner despite our advice to them to call off the protest,” said Zulkifli.

“This shows that they do not respect the law,” he added.

Zulkifli also said that police were aided by 13 Indian NGOs which helped dissuade many Indians from participating in the rally.

While under detention, the protesters were being investigated under Section 27(5) of the Police Act for illegal assembly and the leaders under Section 45(1) of the Societies Act 1966 for inciting people to become a member of an unlawful society. A reporter and a citizen journalist were investigated under Section 186 of the Penal Code for obstructing police.

Meanwhile, Hindraf legal adviser M Manoharan claimed that Jayathas was badly injured and unconscious when he last saw him.

“Jayathas and I were driving past the British Consulate and the police came and arrested him when he was speaking to some disabled protesters. There was a scuffle and I saw Jayathas falling to the
ground and assaulted,” he said.

Manoharan said he also witnessed Uthayakumar’s arrest, adding that police had no grounds to arrest him.

Report by: K Pragalath, Teoh El Sen and B Nantha Kumar


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