Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on Sunday, 26th October 2008:

Address Indian marginalization; persecuting Hindraf is not the solution

I strongly denounce the recent arrests of 10 Malaysians who attempted to submit a letter to the Prime Minister's department in Putrajaya. The officials also refused to accept the letter that demanded freedom for the Hindraf five and other ISA detainees, who are held indefinitely without trial.

This move would further alienate the Indian community which has been largely disengaged from the development of the country. The grouses harbored by the minority community were reflected in their decision to support and vote for the opposition at the March 8 general election.

It is also high time the ruling UMNO-led government allows for further democratic space for people to air their dissatisfaction instead of nabbing those who turn up to submit memorandums or hold protests.

Civil societies and rights organizations are calling for the repeal of the Internal Security Act, an archaic relic, used primarily to curb dissent and thwart any form of opposition to UMNO and government. Furthermore, holding people indefinitely without trial violates democracy.

Hindraf has been in the eye of a political storm since organizing a mammoth rally where thousands of Indians turned up to publicly show their frustrations at the ruling government.

Hindraf's rallying cry, Makal Sakthi, has become a political brand used by all Malaysians in the struggle against poverty, injustice and abuse of power.

It is therefore clear that the ruling National Front coalition issued a ban on the organization as it feels threatened by its capacity to mobilize Indians, who were perceived as compliant.

The government must come up with durable solutions to the many woes faced by the Indians and poor Malaysians. Branding Hindraf an extremist organization is clearly a wrong strategy.

Malaysia has recently come under worldwide condemnation for its gross human rights violations, arbitrary arrests, corrupt politicians, domesticated media and tarnished judiciary.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi could make a difference before he leaves office next March. He could start by releasing all ISA prisoners as the country gears up to celebrate Deepavali.

* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang