Malaysia spurns calls to free ethnic Indian legislator

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Singapore, Mar 29 (UNI) Malaysia has rejected opposition calls for the release of an ethnic Indian activist elected as a state legislator while in jail.

Home Affairs and Internal Security Minister, Syed Hamid Albar, yesterday rejected opposition calls for the release of M Manoharan detained under a contentious tough security law, saying, ''We must react to the country's internal security and public order.'' The Hindraf leader was arrested shortly after his group organised a rally in November, 2007 in which 20,000 ethnic Indians protested alleged government discrimination.

He has been held since December under the Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial.

The opposition last week had pressed for the release of five ethnic Indian activists, including Manoharan.

Standing for the Democratic Action Party (DAP), Manoharan was elected from his detention centre -- soundly beating the government incumbent in a central Selangor state seat in the March 8 general elections.

Despite the win, Mr Albar said Manoharan would be forced to sit out of the newly formed state assembly when it convenes. ''The government could not free him because he was still a security threat,''the Asia One quoted him as saying.

''We cannot simply react to political parties' calls,'' he said when asked if the government would release Manoharan so that he could represent his electorate.

Democratic Action Party chief Lim Kit Siang slammed the government's decision saying the Cabinet was not listening to the people's voice for change towards a more democratic, accountable and more progressive Malaysian society.

The opposition, which now controls more than a third of parliamentary seats, has said it will seek to repeal the ISA -- which dates back to the British colonial era when it was used against communist insurgents.

Human rights and lawyer groups say the law has been abused at times over many years to lock up political opponents.

UNI XC SYU AS1532

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