Sunday, December 16, 2007

Badawi asks for grievances list; has he read the 18 grievances listed by Hindraf?

Malaysian leader asks Indians to list grievances after anti-racism
rally stuns nation
The Associated Press, December 16, 2007

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Malaysia's prime minister has asked ethnic
Indian social groups to list grievances that recently led to an
unprecedented anti-discrimination rally by Indians, activists said

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi met Friday with a coalition of
ethnic Indian non-governmental groups, and "assured us that he will
personally address the issues," the groups' spokesman A. Rajaretnam
told reporters.

The meeting was Abdullah's first with representatives of the Indians,
whose growing disaffection threatens to upset the long-standing
harmony among Malaysia's varied ethnic and religious communities.

Rajaretnam said the 65-group coalition, called the Federation of
Malaysian Indian Organizations, will set up a committee to prepare the
list of grievances within a month.

Among the complaints are lack of government funding for Indian schools
and the destruction of Hindu temples by authorities in this
Muslim-majority nation, Rajaretnam said.

Abdullah's public relations officials were not available for comment
on Rajaretnam's remarks because of the weekend.

Ethnic Indians make up about 8 percent of Malaysia's 27 million
people, and most are at the bottom of the country's social and
economic ladder. Malay Muslims comprise about 60 percent of the
population, and control the government. Ethnic Chinese account for
about a quarter of Malaysians, and dominate business.

"We can be different in language, religion and culture, but after 50
years of independence, we should not be talking about our differences.
We should create a space where we think of ourselves as one,"
Rajaretnam said.

The Indian issue has become the biggest political challenge for
Abdullah, who took office in 2003 and is widely expected to call
general elections next year.

After simmering under the surface for decades, the Indians' anger
erupted on Nov. 25 when at least 20,000 poured into the streets to
demand racial equality, religious freedom and economic opportunities.

Police used tear gas and water cannons to quell the demonstration.
More than 100 people were charged with illegal assembly, and 31 others
with attempted murder of a policeman who suffered a non
life-threatening wound to the head. Rajaretnam said the non-government
organizations had urged Abdullah to drop the attempted murder charges.

On Thursday police detained five of the rally's ethnic Indian
organizers under the Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite
detention without trial.

They were being held at a high-security detention camp in the northern
Malaysia, where about 500 Indians gathered Sunday in a nearby temple
for a peaceful protest.

Rajaretnam said the NGOs had also urged Abdullah to try the five
activists in a court instead of holding them under the security act.

"We want to create an environment in Malaysia where no one is
victimized," Rajaretnam said.

Rajaretnam said the NGOs want Abdullah to set up a department to look
after non-Muslim affairs, similar to the country's existing department
that handles Muslim matters.

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