Five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders have been arrested and detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
The five are P. Uthayakumar, M. Manoharan, R. Kenghadharan, V. Ganabatirau and T. Vasanthakumar. The Star reported that they were detained under Section 8 (1) of the ISA after Internal Security Minister cum PM Abdulah Ahmad Badawi signed their detention order. Their detention is for two years.
After 60 days, the Minister of Home Affairs can extend the period of detention without trial for up to two years, without submitting any evidence for review by the courts, by issuing a detention order, which is renewable indefinitely.
I have said that some wordings in the Hindraf memorandum are not accurate and sensational but the government and police have yet to provide concrete evidence on their involvement with terrorist groups or their intention to stir up racial violence.
In fact, the police and the government had a role in provoking explicitly peaceful demonstrations by using excessive force to incite the anger of demonstrators. Peaceful demonstrations in many countries are used as a form of expressing public views and opinions when politicians NO LONGER LISTEN to them. Even Khairy Jamaluddin, the deputy chief of UMNO Youth, used the same avenue to speak out on his movement displeasure with US' occupation of Iraq.
The use of ISA in this case is a clear example of misuse and ABUSE of an outdated and draconian legislation to silence oppositions. In any democractic system, there is bound to be opposition and any government must be willing to accept this challenge.
The unfortunate thing is this government has categorically denied any weaknesses, inadequacies, and excesses. It has refused to accept that the perpetuation of racist policy has reached a bottleneck and for the nation to move forward triumphantly in a piece, we need a new rethinking of nation building.
The rebuke given to MP Devamany, the media, NGOs and other civil society organisations is a clear indication that the ruling government, especially UMNO, wants to send a clear signal to all Malaysians that it is WILLING and HAS resorted to FORCEFUL and COERCIVE instruments (police) and legislation (ISA) to ensure everyone toes the line and submit to its hegemony.
Hindraf's action, if is deemed so illogical, will die a natural death and will not get the people's support. But grievances of the Indian community cannot be ignored. It is evident that some of the poorest 40% of the society are grossly marginalised.
What is obvious is that this government has tainted its hands. It can no longer claim how lively democracy is in Malaysia.