Tue, Jan 01, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Singaporean artist on hunger strike over detainments

AFP , SINGAPORE

A Singaporean artist said yesterday he had begun a hunger strike to seek the release of Malaysian Hindu rights activists detained under a tough security law.

"At 9am I began," Seelan Palay, 23, said from outside the front gate of the Malaysian High Commission.

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 that he had 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," it said.

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.

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