Sunday, November 25, 2007

Release three arrested, allow rally to proceed

Release three arrested, allow rally to proceed
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 November.

SUARAM calls for the immediate and unconditional release of P.
Uthayakumar, P Waythamoorthy and V Ganapathy Rao.

Tah Moon Hui
Coordinator
SUARAM
23rd November 2007

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