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Hindraf leader arrested

P Uthayakumar, the man behind a rally of Indian immigrants on November 25, could be charged with sedition, attracting stringent punishment.

india Updated: Dec 19, 2007 14:39 IST

Malaysian police on Tuesday arrested P Uthayakumar, legal advisor of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) and the man behind a rally of Indian immigrants on November 25. He could be charged with sedition, attracting stringent punishment.

The arrest, part of the drive against opposition leaders and rights activists, came hours after Malaysia's police chief, Inspector-General Musa Hassan, said their investigations would be sufficient for court action against Hindraf leaders.

The group has courted controversy and strong government response since the protest rally that was declared illegal and forcibly dispersed by police using water cannons.

Hassan's statement came even as the high court here set aside a lower court's earlier decision to discharge three Hindraf leaders charged with sedition.

"We will not go soft on parties who want to threaten the nation's peace and stability," he was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper Tuesday. He added that the police would take more drastic measures should the security situation worsens.

The use of the stringent Internal Security Act (ISA), however, would be "as the last resort", he said in Johor Baru, the province adjoining Singapore.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has directed Hassan to probe Hindraf's terror links, particularly with Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Hassan's statement did not indicate whether the evidence pertained to Hindraf being 'extremist' or actually having terror links, a line that the Malaysian authorities have so far drawn, analysts said.

Hindraf has denied any links with the LTTE or any terror group, saying it was an alibi by the government to invoke draconian laws and mislead public opinion.

Prime Minister Badawi said, "If the choice is between public safety and public freedom, I do not hesitate to say here that public safety will always win.

"If I were to sign a detention order under ISA, I will do it without feeling any guilt because I have to do my duty," he said.

Hindraf claims to speak for the Indians, predominantly Tamil Hindus, who account for a two million plus population.

Over 400 NGOs have supported the government's crackdown on those involved in holding rallies.

Its coordinating chairperson Mohd Saiful Adil Daud told the New Straits Times that the government had its full backing to do anything necessary under the law to curb illegal gatherings and defuse racial tension.