SINGAPORE (AFP) – A Singaporean artist said Monday he had begun a hunger strike to seek the release of Malaysian Hindu rights activists detained under a tough security law.
“At 9:00 am (0100 GMT) I began,” 23-year-old Seelan Palay told AFP from near the front gate of the Malaysian High Commission.
Singaporean artist Seelan Palay, 23, sits outside the Malaysian High Commission on Monday, Dec. 31, 2007 in Singapore. Seelan went on a hunger strike Monday to protest the indefinite detention by authorities in neighbouring Malaysia of five leaders of an ethnic Indian group. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Palay said he would drink water but not eat during the hunger strike, which will last five days — one day for each detained member from Malaysia’s Hindu Rights Action Force.
The five are being held under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act, which allows for indefinite detention without trial.
“I’ll sleep on the ground on a straw mat,” Palay said, adding he was wearing a sign around his neck that read: “Give them fair trial.”
The activists were detained after they enraged the government in November by mounting a mass rally alleging discrimination against Indians in Malaysia, where the majority are ethnic Malay Muslims.
Police used tear gas, water cannon and baton charges to break up the street protest by at least 8,000 people. Palay said he attended that rally.
In a statement released before the hunger strike, Palay called for global pressure on the Malaysian government to free the five and to prove allegations against them in open court.
“In line with the greater focus on human rights in ASEAN today … we surely cannot turn a blind eye to this matter,” his statement said.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) last month signed a charter calling for the establishment of a regional human rights body.
Singapore currently chairs the 10-member ASEAN and Malaysia is a member.
By NELSON BENJAMIN and GLADYS TAY
SINGAPORE: A lone protestor is staging a “hunger strike” outside the Malaysian High Commission here against the arrest of the five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) activists under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
The man, also carrying a placard containing photographs of the detainees, has been outside the commission at Jervois Road since early Monday.
This is the second protest at the high commission in the past month. On Dec 17, several members from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) presented a memorandum urging the Malaysian Government to respect human rights.
Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore Datuk N. Parameswaran when contacted confirmed that a man was holding a placard outside the high commission on Monday.
“This incident is the second protest at the high commission.
“We are not sure whether he is a Malaysian. We leave it to the Singaporean authorities to handle the matter,” he said, adding that so far the man has not passed any memorandum to the high commission.
On the SDP protest, Parameswaran only said that a memorandum was received and sent to Kuala Lumpur.
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