The Malaysian government is getting tough with ethnic Indians who are complaining about racial discrimination. Indians make up around eight percent of Malaysia's population of 27 million people, but community leaders say they do not enjoy the same rights as Malays and Chinese. Police arrested five activists from the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) on Thursday. The five are being held under the controversial Internal Security Act, which allows for detention without trial. Hindraf member S. Jayathas told the Associated Free Press news agency that: "Regardless of the arrests, this struggle will move on. We have many leaders who are waiting to take over and we will not go backwards, but move ahead with the fight for the rights of Indians in Malaysia.”
Malaysia has been rocked in recent weeks by ethnic tensions. Public protests and marches are taking place in the streets and police are reacting violently, using tear gas, water canons and baton charges. Hundreds of Indians have been injured. The demonstrations are the biggest in Malaysia in over a decade and the government fears ethnic unrest in this usually peaceful, multiracial country. Deputy Internal Security Minister Johari Baharom told The Associated Press: "This action is necessary because they [the Indians] have been causing a lot of problems for the public." Hindraf is demanding equality and fair treatment for Indians. It says Malaysia gives unfair, preferential treatment to Muslim Malays, which means Indians are being held back in business, jobs and education.