Malaysiakini NEWS

Hundreds gather at Brickfields for rally over khat

Published:  |  Modified:

The first of two proposed rallies in "Little India", Brickfields took place today without much incident, although two participants were detained to give their statements.

Organiser Shankar Ganesh said that the rally was being held to express opposition to the idea of introducing khat lessons for Tamil school Year 4 students.

The Education Ministry's proposal had received negative reactions from those in the vernacular school system and a compromise was reached that the lessons would only be taught if approved by parent-teacher associations, parents and the pupils. 

"We are here today to give a voice to the voiceless," Shankar told Malaysiakini today.

It is estimated that a few hundred people attended tonight's rally.

Two men were detained at the rally and brought in to the Brickfields police station to have their statement recorded, according to their lawyer Devaneson Ganesan.

They are K Umagandhan of the Naan Oru Tamilan education group and Chinese educationist Tan Boon Tak.

"It was meant to be a peaceful rally. Umagandhan was only there to disperse the crowd , once he was aware that there was no valid authorisation," said Devaneson.

This was because organisers went ahead with the rally despite police saying its application was incomplete.

Tomorrow's rally is expected to be larger and will address issues such as the unilateral conversion of non-Muslim minors to Islam, the ongoing presence in Malaysia of controversial preacher Zakir Naik, the distribution and alleged misappropriation of funds allocated to the Malaysian Indian Transformation Unit (Mitra), the issue of statelessness and citizenship in the Indian community  as well to continue the khat lessons protest.

Earlier, police denied a viral message on social media that there would be trouble over the proposed rallies which have not received the green light from them.

PSM deputy chairperson S Arutchelvan (above) said that he was not in favour of attending the rally, saying that ethnic gatherings were divisive.

"I have always held that the people have the right to peacefully assemble as a constitutional right. Just this morning, we met in solidarity with workers of the now-defunct newspaper Tamil Nesan," he said.

"But in the case of tonight's rally, I agree with the authorities and ask participants to pull out to ease the situation. Unity is our responsibility and we must move on together and find the best solution.

"In the event of a fire, we should pour water instead of fuel," he said.

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