29 March, 2008

Calls to release Indian state legislator rejected

The Malaysian minister responsible for internal security on Friday rejected opposition calls for the release of an ethnic Indian state legislator detained under a contentious tough security law.

“We must react to the country’s internal security and public order,” newly appointed Home Affairs and Internal Security Minister Syed Hamid Albar said .

Malaysia’s opposition last week pressed for five ethnic Indian activists, including a man who won a seat in recent elections, to be freed from the Internal Security Act or ISA, which allows for indefinite detention without trial.

Lawyer Manoharan Malayalam, standing for the Democratic Action Party (DAP), was elected from his detention centre -- soundly beating the government incumbent in a central Selangor state seat in the March 8 general elections.

Syed Hamid said Manoharan will be forced to sit out of the newly formed state assembly when it convenes.

“You definitely can’t be at two places at the same time,” he said.

The five are leaders of rights group Hindraf who were detained last December for organising an unprecedented mass rally claiming discrimination against ethnic Indians.

Police used tear gas, water cannon and baton charges to break up the November protest, which drew at least 8,000 people.

The opposition, which now controls more than a third of parliamentary seats, has said it will seek to repeal the ISA -- which dates back to the British colonial era when it was used against communist insurgents.



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