|Seven persons were detained, including a blogger and a woman activist, during a 45-minute anti-Internal Security Act demonstration in George Town, Penang this morning.Among those were social activist BK Ong (photo) and blogger K Satish Kumar, who were arrested after they took part in the demonstration held at Gurney Drive at about 11.10am.
Meanwhile, rights group Suaram activists Lau Shu Shi and Teh Chun Hong were detained after they lodged police reports at the city police headquarters in Jalan Patani, Georgetown at 2.45pm.
Five were freed on police bail after being held for seven hours. However, Lau and Teh had been remanded and are expected to brought to court to be formally charged tomorrow.
The other three released today were K Sudhagaran Stanley, M Suparamaniam and B Vimal.
Georgetown police chief ACP Azam Abd Hamid said Ong and Satish Kumar were picked up because they were ‘active’ during the demonstration held by nearly 150 people near the Gurney Drive roundabout at 10am.
The gathering, part of a nationwide protest, was to urge the government to release all ISA detainees and grant Hindraf legal adviser P Uthayakumar proper medical treatment.
Uthayakumar, who was detained under the ISA on Dec 13 last year along with four other Hindraf leaders, is said to be suffering from heart complaints.
His family said that as a result of his detention, he is riddled with a blood sugar level of 13.5, disrupted eyesight, chest pains, and possibly damaged heart muscles. His supporters want the government to refer him to the National Heart Institute (IJN) for further treatment.
The demonstration in Penang was jointly organised by the Penang group of Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf), Suaram, Penang Watch, Tanjung Workers Service Centre, Repeal ISA Coailition (GMI).
Incident-free gathering in KL
A similar gathering was also held in Kuala Lumpur this morning, with about 30 people – including Subang MP Sivarasa Rasiah – assembling at the Kuala Lumpur City Centre shopping mall. This was a revisit by Hindraf to the location after its mammoth Nov 25 rally last year which attracted about 30,000 people.
As a result of that massive rally, the government launched its crackdown on Hindraf, culminating in the detention of five leaders in Kamunting detention camp. Hindraf chairperson P Waythamoorthy is presently in self-imposed exile in London.
R Kannan, a Hindraf coordinator who was the key organiser of the Kuala Lumpur protest, said that the government had been silent on the numerous appeals lodged to seek immediate medical treatment for Uthayakumar (photo).
“Even criminals are given medical treatment, so why not our Uthayakumar? He has done so much for the people, we cannot let this happen,” said Kannan.
“Uthayakumar has been having diabetes since early on. The medication he has received is not sufficient,” chipped in MP Sivarasa who joined in the gathering to show support for the movement.
“We also demand that all ISA detainees be released. We should emulate our neighbours Thailand and Indonesia for fair trials,” he added.
It is also learnt that Uthayakumar’s mother would be handing in a memorandum to the prime minister tomorrow, calling for the release of all ISA detainees.
“We hope they will consider releasing the detainees this time,” added Kannan.
No arrests were reported in Kuala Lumpur although there was a strong police presence. Similar gatherings were also held in Ipoh and Seremban today.
Arrested for not dispersing
In Penang, OCPD Azam said Ong and Satish were picked up to question on their role in the demonstration.
A police team from the Pulau Tikus police station arrived at the demonstration scene at 11.10am and told the demonstrators to abandon the rally and disperse from the area.
However, Ong and Satish were arrested in Gurney Plaza, about 500 metres away, after they had left the venue.
Azam claimed the duo failed to adhere to police instruction to abandon the ‘illegal’ rally and leave the area.
However, a Hindraf activist from Penang, K Vasantha, 26, said the demonstrators were not told to disperse immediately.
“We were given 45 minutes and we complied to it. I don’t understand why our friends were arrested,” she said.
The Suaram duo however were detained after Lau lodged a police report against police harassment at the rally.
Lau had just came out from the Jalan Patani police station premise when an unidentified police officer raised his voice against her.
When Lau told the officer to lower his voice and show respect to her, a shouting match ensued between them. She was then taken under the police custody for questioning.
Teh was also detained for recording the Lau incident. His video camera was also seized.
Second rally in Penang
No untoward incidents were reported, however at another Hindraf demonstration in Megamall Pinang in Prai.
Led by Makkal Sakti coordinator RS Thanenthiran (photo), about 300 people took part in the rally.
The rally lasted for about 40 minutes before the demonstrators dispersed peacefully in the present of about 100 riot police personnel armed with batons and helmets.
At both rallies in Penang, protesters display banners rallying cry for the release of the detained five Hindraf leaders and urging the government to repeal the tough ISA, which allows for detention without trial.
Besides Uthayakumar, the other four Hindraf leaders detained are M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan, V Ganabatirau and T Vasantha Kumar.