a community of singaporeans

Singaporean activist protests outside Malaysian High Commission

Posted by theonlinecitizen on January 2, 2008

Singaporean activist, Seelan Palay, is fasting without food for five days (starting at 9am, 31st Dec 2007) outside the Malaysian High Commission in protest against the ISA detention of the Hindraf leaders in Malaysia.

(Read here for the background to the story.)

Mr Palay is asking for the release of the 5 detainees by the Malaysian government.

Below is the statement from Mr Palay explaining why he has decided to undertake the protest. The video of his protest follows the statement.


I, Seelan Palay, am going to undertake fasting in my personal capacity for a period of 5 days calling for the release of the 5 Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) leaders, legal adviser P Uthayakumar, lawyers M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan, V Ganabatirau and organizing secretary T Vasanthakumar, who were arrested on 13 December 2007under the Malaysian Internal Security Act (ISA) on unfounded charges of incitement to rebellion and for having links with terrorist organizations. Detention without trial under the draconian Internal Security Act is unjustified for the HINDRAF 5, who only struggle for the marginalized 8% of ethnic minority Indians in Malaysia.

The fast, in which I will only consume water and no food, will be carried out outside the Malaysian High Commission in Singapore, 31 Jervois Road. It will begin at 9am on Monday, 31 December 2007 and end at 9am on Saturday, 5 January 2008. Each day of my fast is in dedication to each of the 5 detainees.

My action is both a personal commitment and a plea for the international community to pay attention to this serious human rights issue. I am calling for greater global commitment to bear pressure on the Malaysian Government for the release of the HINDRAF 5 and to prove any allegations made against them in an open Court process. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch USA, the Federation of Human Rights Organizations of India (FHROI) and regional NGOs have also strongly condemned this application of the ISA by the Malaysian Government.

Having been present at the HINDRAF rally in Kuala Lumpur on 25 November 2007, I can personally attest to the peaceful assembly that HINDRAF organized and the unjustified response to it by the Malaysian Federal Reserve Unit (FRU). As if there were not enough tears in the eyes of the people gathered that day, the authorities have had to administer tear gas to further add to their pain. Rubber bullets and water cannons were also used on the unarmed citizens, which included men and women of all ages. Let us not forget the Batu Caves incident earlier the same day where tear gas was shot into the Batu Caves temple upon civilians who were trapped inside.

Given our common history, I can relate to the language of structural poverty of the Malaysian Indians. The people gathered that day with peaceful intent for a just cause, and that is why I am determined to express my disquiet and discontent at what is a highhanded approach by the Malaysian Government.

In line with the greater focus on human rights in ASEAN today, what with the inclusion of a Human Rights Commission in the signing of the ASEAN Charter in Singapore, we surely cannot turn a blind eye to this matter, especially as it concerns a country which is our immediate neighbor.

Lastly, I cannot celebrate the coming of the New Year when I know that the HINDRAF 5 may be detained for an indefinite period of time.

Seelan Palay


18 Responses to “Singaporean activist protests outside Malaysian High Commission”

  1. sophie said

    Yes, the use of ISA is debatable but Hindraf leaders are not totally innocent, especially over the ridiculous petition that incited hatred by claiming ethnic cleansing of the Indian community in Malaysia. The end does not justify the means, bro.

  2. James said

    Why doesn’t this guy protest against PAP’s human rights abuses. Take care of your own house before pointing fingers at your neighbor.

  3. Malaysiaboleh said

    Agree with Sophie. Seelan would be better off picking his allies and stating his stand clearly. Is he against the marginalisation of Indians in Malaysia, the use of ISA by Pak Lah, human rights abuses in general, or is he protesting in support of Hindraf’s ridiculous claims? At the moment he appears to be merely fasting to get his buddies off the hook.

  4. Martin Lurther said

    well said james…..

    is this guy fishing for a cause to fight for or fighting for a cause?

  5. Charles said

    In response to Sophie, James, Malaysiaboleh and Martin, no one can find fault with Seelan for his 5 day fast over the detention of the Hindraf 5 because he was merely voicing his personal displeasure over what the Malaysian government has done – mainly ISA detention over these leaders who were trying to voice out their community concerns. It is Seelan’s right to protest what he feels strongly about.

    As for choosing a Singaporean issue, such a mindset reveals only petty parochiality. When the US invades Iraq, worldwide protests are held because people understand its an important issue. Does it mean we can only condemn the Nazis if we are Germans? Similarly for Seelan, having been at the rally must have affected him as well.

    An abuse of human rights, whether be it in Malaysia or Singapore is an attack against humanity. As such, why should someone be subject to ridicule or forced to address human rights issues in countries that he or she is born in? Everyone has the right to speak up against human rights violations when it happens.

  6. Martin Lurther said

    it is not a question about his right to speak up… it is a question about his sincerity… how sincerely are these people attempting to raise the awarenesss of marginalizatin of Indians??

    half of the reasons for marginalization of Indians in Malaysia maybe attributed to the economic policy (not political) of the government. but half of the reasons for marginalization of Indians in Malaysia clearly lies in the furthermore systematic marginalization of Malaysian Indians by the very largest Malaysian Indian organization Malaysian INdian Congress(MIC) led by Sami Velu, which have chosen to only represent Tamil speaking Hindus. Malaysian INdian Congress started as an offshoot of Indian’s Congress Party back then. If you look at how India’s Congress Party have worked to fill their ranks and boards with Indians from all religions, languages and ethnicity and there maybe some shortcomings but nothing as perverse as MIC which has systematically ignored several sections of Malaysian Indian community.

    MIC has obtained large amounts of resources for the Malaysian Indian community from the Malaysian community over the last three decades but delibrately failed to distribute without bias across the Indian community. In provision of services too, they have chosen to work with this bias and ostracisation.

    Hindraf is complaining about the representation about representation of Indians in the economy and government in Malaysia. true enough it is something to bring to everyone’s attention.. but Just look at the obvious and blatant underrepresentation representation of Indian Christians and Indian Muslims, non-Tamil Indians in MIC both in membership and board…. you dont see Hindraf talking about it… instead Hindraf is even proposing that Sami Velu be considered for DPM post in Malaysian government…

    Hindraf isnt representing Malaysian Indians nor sincerely attempting to bring to attention the marginalization of Malaysian Indians… It purely wants to further the position of Tamil speaking Hindus in Malaysia and vent out its built up anger and hatred against Malays and Islam.

    This is pure racism and chauvanism which is no different in character to what has been observed amongst Hindu fundamentalists in India over the last 60 years such as RSS, BJP, Shiv Shena… etc etc

    This truely is not a fight for human rights…

  7. True Indian said

    Wat ever ppl can say bout this..but i think its gud as all indians no matter frm which country has to play their role to support those 5 lawyers who fought for us…lets be United…rather than giving comments..:)

  8. Charles,

    The sad thing is that a parochial attitude towards civil rights action still persists in Singapore.

    Take the issue of immigration too. It’s all been parochial at the grassroots level.

    Even our bloggers, I dare say, are guilty of being parochial too. How many Singaporean bloggers actually dedicate some time to discussing global affairs or anything that doesn’t remotely concern our pocket?

    Well, I may fall into that trap now and then, but I try to keep myself aware that Singapore is not the only thing on the horizon.


  9. For all you haters out there, Seelan HAS been a dedicated activist on Singapore issues as well.

    For years, he’s been involved in rallies against the death penalty and cruelty to animals and was actually detained briefly by the police in 2006 when he attempted to hand out information about the World Bank and IMF’s abuses.

    Seelan is hungry and tired, but he’s still there (the police have issued him a warning, but they haven’t forced him to move). A number of Singaporeans and Malaysians have stopped by to support him. Several people will be camping out with him on Friday night so they can be with him when he ends his fast at 9am on Saturday.

  10. […] Dr Chee Soon Juan in the 1990s after he was sacked from NUS for alleged misuse of official funds. Seelan Palay’s choice of hunger strke as the form of protest puts him in dubious company. Even Dr Chee has not repeated his stunt since […]

  11. Martin Lurther said

    Ng Yi-Sheng

    It is immature and ludicrous to label the critics as haters. none of the criticisms contain any hatred against anyone? everyone is simply questioning the ethnocentricism, radicalism, double standards and racism inherent in the philosophy and approach adopted by Hindraf and/or Seelan….

  12. Gary Teoh said

    Seelan Palay is a human right activist.It is only natural to support his own community no matter in Singapore or other place.What he did is right,ISA is a barbaric act to silence the critic,if any person is found guilty,go ahead and charge him in court, why use ISA??

  13. Hey Martin Lurther, sorry if I caused offence. It’s common slang on a lot of the American forums I’m on to describe critics casually as “haters” – it’s not a slur, it’s just a turn of phrase.

    But honestly, I do think you guys (i.e. you, James and Malaysiaboleh) were way too cynical about the motives of Seelan’s protest. We don’t have enough people who’re brave enough to make a statement this way.

  14. Realist said

    The persistent and blatant discrimination of minorities in Malaysia is apparent to all. However i agree that the discrimination of racial minorities in Singapore deserves more coverage than the lack of attention it gets from Local so-called activists.

    Seelan Brave? I personally dont think so. His actions are so typically singaporean: cover backside

    If he would stand up for Indians in Singapore then i would call him brave. Its easy to get away with “protesting” issues outside singapore. Brave?… nay… safe

  15. ! said

    well, i suppose protesting in Malaysia would be really stupid/ignorant/foolish of him. He’d get incarcerated by the police immediately. The next best option, is to of course, do it in the neighbour’s yard! The police here can’t be half-assed to do anything much, I guess.

    He IS better than the robotic sheep that many Singaporeans are. And it is his personal prerogative to protest against that issue in whichever way he wants.

  16. jabir said

    It’s sad to see the amount of negativity here. Seelan is only human and he cannot do everything, but at least he’s doing something, about which he feels passionately for and surely deserves support for that. I don’t see what good there is to gain out of putting him down like this. As a Singaporean, I’m proud of Seelan who rises beyond national boundaries and shows that we don’t just care about ourselves.

  17. Han said

    I think YOU are the typical Singaporean. Its even “easier” to get away with merely protesting online. 😮

    ! & Jabir,
    Agreed. I think its cool that Seelan is charting waters we dare not go. When you dare to be different, people will come after you. Just look at whats going on here

    Think this nfirdaus guy is talking to himself, trying to insinuate without proof that Seelan is an anarchist and Ti Lik is using him…. wild imagination man

  18. Harry said

    Why cannot Malaysians co-exist in the 21st Century. Why don’t the Chinese and Indians understand that the Malays in Malaysia need help with their skills and economic development and why does the mainly Malay government not help the Indians develop alongside?
    As for the Chinese,while admiring them for their own economic development, it is very detestable that they care not a penny for others in Malaysia. They live in their own world!
    This is definetly not leading to Malaysia Boleh 2020.

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