Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Malaysia's opposition demands crisis talks with PM

Malaysia's opposition demands crisis talks with PM
Published on : Wed, 12 Dec 2007 10:23
By : Agencies

KUALA LUMPUR (Thomson Financial) - Malaysia's opposition parties Wednesday demanded crisis talks with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi over a crackdown on dissent triggered by mass protests.

Dozens of protesters, including opposition figures, have been arrested and slapped with charges including attempted murder and sedition after a series of banned street rallies that have infuriated the government.

Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy premier who was sacked and jailed in 1998, said Abdullah must face issues including mounting racial tensions in the multicultural country dominated by Muslim Malays.

'The main issues we want to raise are the racial and religious tensions affecting this country, protesting the high-handedness of breaking up protests and public assemblies, and the need for free and fair elections,' he said.

'These are legitimate grievances of the people regardless of whether they are Hindus or Muslims.'

Two major rallies last month, which police broke up with tear gas, water cannons and baton charges, have sent shockwaves through the nation which is home to large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

An electoral reform protest drew at least 30,000 people, and a week later some 8,000 people protested against discrimination towards Indians.

In a joint press conference, four opposition parties including Anwar's Keadilan and the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP) deplored the arrests and insisted Abdullah discuss the national crisis.

'We are seeking an immediate appointment with the prime minister to discuss these pressing matters of state and urge him to honour his promise of being willing to listen to the concerns of all Malaysians,' they said in a statement.

'This brutal crackdown against leaders of civil society organisations and political parties is a clear contravention of the fundamental liberties and human rights guaranteed in our constitution.'

The DAP's Lim Guan Eng said the government, led by Abdullah's United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), was stamping out dissent ahead of elections expected to be held next year.

'The government is using fear to intimidate the opposition. The government feels that fear is the only weapon that can be used to defeat the opposition in the next general election,' he said.

'There must be a way out to national reconciliation and if (Abdullah) denies that Malaysia faces serious national problems, then I think we are approaching a level of confrontation that I think is completely unnecessary.'


No comments: