Syed Jaymal Zahiid | Feb 16, 08 11:33am
Police fired teargas and chemical-laced water cannons in a bid to disperse some 300 Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) supporters gathered for a peaceful rose handing-over ceremony at Jalan Raja Laut early this morning.
The Hindraf event was initially scheduled to be held at Parliament gates where 200 children were to hand over roses as a peaceful gesture requesting that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to heed the group’s 18-point demands.
News that roads leading to Parliament were closed to prevent the group from going there then led them to change the venue to Jalan Raja Laut in the city centre.
According to Hindraf acting leader S Thanenthiran who was present at the gathering, about 200 people have been arrested including Hindraf’s rose campaign coordinator S Manickavasagam and popular blogger B Mahendran.
Women and children were among those detained.
Witnesses also claimed that police had aggressively manhandled a women with her child when they wanted to arrest her.
"The woman was crying aloud because the police forced her to leave her child when she was arrested," said Mahendran who later informed Malaysiakini of the woman’s condition through his mobile phone.
Detained at roaddblocks
Thanenthiran added that almost two thirds of them were detained prior to the gathering at roadblocks set up along the routes leading to the city. They are being held at the Police Training Centre (Pulapol) in Jalan Semarak,.
There were heavy police and riot squads presence in Jalan Raja Laut. Four water cannon trucks were stationed along the route leading to Parliament.
It is learnt that the police have been stationed at key areas pertaining to the gathering since last night. Roadblocks were also set up at various key routes leading into the city.
"The police outnumbered the crowd in three folds. I saw several of them firing teargas canisters to the peaceful crowd. Why is there a need to fire that many teargas canisters when one is strong enough (to disperse the crowd)," said a tourist who happened to be in the area.
After the teargas and water cannons were fired, the crowd were chased by some 40 plainclothes policemen. They then retreated into the Masjid India area.
The dispersed crowd then walked in small separate groups towards the Court Malai Pillayar Temple in Jalan Pudu where another stand- off occurred between Hindraf supporters and the police.
At this point, ten people were arrested while seeking shelter in the temple. Three more were later nabbed while making their way to the KL Remand Centre in Jalan Hang Tuah to show support to some Hindraf members who were detained last night.
By this time, the crowd had dispersed and small groups made their way to Pulapol to show support to those detained. According to A Sivanesan who is the group’s legal adviser, lawyers have been sent to Pulapol to ensure that detainees get proper legal help.
Mahendran, who was arrested near the Masjid Jamek area, had managed to contact Malaysiakini through his mobile phone and said that the "police are taking people in batches for questioning"
Police reaction unnecessary
Self-exiled Hindraf chairperson P Waythamoorthy in a statement issued immediately after learning of the arrests said he was extremely disturbed by the manner in which the police handled the matter.
"Peaceful struggle, gesture of Love and cry for justice of the poor and underclass Indian society has been met with violence and brutality by the state sanctioned by. The attack on peaceful poor and underclass people who came with roses is appalling,
"I invite all peace loving people throughout the world to condemn this brutal attack on innocent citizens who were exercising their rights under Article 10 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution and Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," he said.
Police have declared today’s event illegal as no permit was given to the group.
Daripada Abu Umarah iaitu al-Bara' bin 'Azib radhiallahu anhuma, katanya: "Kita semua diperintah oleh Rasulullah s.a.w. untuk melakukan tujuh perkara, iaitu meninjau orang sakit, mengikuti janazah, menentasymitkan orang yang bersin, menolong orang yang lemah, membantu orang yang teraniaya, meratakan salam dan melaksanakan sumpah."