Sunday, December 16, 2007

Report: Malaysia tells US to check its own backyard before criticizing arrests

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Malaysia has told the United States to study its own human rights record after it criticized the Southeast Asian nation for detaining without trial five ethnic Indian activists, reports said Saturday.
"Can they first of all give a fair trial to the detainees in Guantanamo Bay? We'll only respond if they do so," Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.

Washington — widely criticized for detaining 290 terror suspects without trial at its Cuban military prison — urged Malaysia to give a fair trial to the five Indians arrested Thursday under the Internal Security Act, which also allows for indefinite detention.
Najib said the activists were detained because they had continued to violate the law despite receiving several warnings.

The five are senior members of the Hindu Rights Action Force, or Hindraf, which sparked fears of ethnic unrest in this multicultural country when it held a street protest Nov. 25 that drew at least 20,000 minority Indians demanding racial equality. Police used tear gas and water cannons to quell the rally.

"The major section of the public had demanded that the government take sterner action much earlier, but we have been very patient and quite tolerant," Najib was quoted as saying.
"We have always said people must obey the law. Nobody is above the law. So when the ISA was used, it should not have come as a surprise," he added.
The arrests sparked criticisms from opposition parties and local rights groups, which accused the government of abusing the law to curb dissent.

Najib and his officials couldn't be reached Saturday for comments.
Ethnic Indians make up about 8 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people and are at the bottom of the social and economic scale. Malays comprise some 60 percent and control the government. Ethnic Chinese are about a quarter of the population and dominate business.
The government denies discriminating against Indians, but Hindraf insists an affirmative action program that gives privileges to the Muslim Malay majority in business, jobs and education is tantamount to unfair treatment.

Hindraf chairman P. Waytha Moorthy, who is abroad to seek support, has pledged to maintain the group's peaceful campaign against discrimination.

Seals: But how come Malaysia can comment on others?

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