Sunday, February 3, 2008

Pak Lah says Indians vote against ruling Malaysian party

Malaysian PM says Indians will vote against ruling party: report
2 hours ago

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) — Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the number of votes from Indians for the ruling party will likely drop in the coming polls, a report said Sunday, amid increasing ethnic strife in Malaysia.

Ethnic Indians protested against alleged discrimination in Muslim-majority Malaysia in a mass rally in November that led to the indefinite detention of five leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).

When asked if the issues raised by Hindraf, which has made national headlines, would influence how Indians would vote in upcoming polls, Abdullah told the Sunday Star newspaper: "Yes, I think votes will be affected somewhat."

Analysts say general elections could be held in March.

Ethnic Indians, who complain of a lack of job and educational opportunities, have been strong supporters of Abdullah's National Front coalition since the country gained independence from Britain in 1957.

Abdullah, who is also the finance minister, said he would address Indian grievances, which include the destruction of Hindu temples.

"I have given instruction that whatever grouses they have should be attended to," he said. "As for the Hindu temples, I have asked the chief minister to let the Hindu organisations decide for themselves how they intend to tackle the number of illegal temples in Selangor," state in central Malaysia.

Ethnic Indians make up 8.0 percent of the country's population. Muslim Malays, who make up 60 percent, control the government while the ethnic Chinese, at 26 percent, dominate business.

Abdullah also said he expected a tough fight in the elections in urban areas, where people were unhappy about price hikes for goods and transport.

Opposition leader, Lim Kit Siang of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), urged voters to deny Abdullah's National Front coalition a two-thirds majority in parliament to allow the "people's rights and genuine democracy the chance to flower and mature."

Lim said two of the five detained Hindraf leaders -- M. Manoharan and B. Ganabathi Rao -- who are DAP members, may contest the upcoming polls.

"It would be a good idea for them to contest. It will help focus on the injustices caused by their detention under the ISA and to highlight the issue of the marginalisation of Indians in Malaysia," he told AFP.

Lim said there was a precedent when in 1978, two DAP lawmakers who were detained under the ISA were nominated and subsequently won in the polls.

Since independence, Malaysia has been ruled by the National Front -- previously known as the Alliance party.

No comments: