01 Jan 08
A Singaporean artist went on a hunger strike Monday to protest the indefinite detention of five leaders of an ethnic Indian group by authorities in neighboring Malaysia.
Wearing a placard around his neck that said, “Give them fair trial,” Seelan Palay, 23, stood outside the city-state’s Malaysian High Commission.
He said he would stay there for the next five days, consuming only water.
“This is a personal commitment and a plea for the international community to pay attention to this serious human rights issue,” Seelan, a visual artist, told The Associated Press. “Each day is in dedication to each of the detainees.”
Five leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force in Malaysia were arrested in December under the Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial.
The protesters were arrested after leading a massive rally Nov. 25 in Kuala Lumpur to highlight what the group says is racial discrimination faced by ethnic Indians, who form 8 percent of Malaysia’s population. Malays, who are Muslims, make up 60 percent, while ethnic Chinese account for 25 percent.
Seelan said he joined the Nov. 25 rally in downtown Kuala Lumpur, at which police used tear gas and water cannon to quell the protest.
“I am determined to express my … discontent at what is a high-handed approach by the Malaysian government,” he said. “The people gathered that day with peaceful intent for a just cause.”
Phones at the Malaysian High Commission rang unanswered Monday while Singapore police had no immediate comment.
Protests are rare in Singapore, where police permits are required for outdoor gatherings of more than four people.