12/15/2007, 00.00
MALAYSIA
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Minorities and opposition united against the government

The last month has seen a crescendo of protests led by the Indian minority and opposition parties demanding equal opportunities and electoral reform. Authorities react with force while premier Badawi approves the implementation of the draconian Internal Security Act.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Malaysia’s opposition parties have come out in support of the Indian ethnic minority, which has launched a series of protests recently against the governments discriminating policies.  Yesterday former vice premier Anwar Ibrahim demanded that the 5 Indian activists arrested on December 12 for their role in organising protests be allowed to appear before the courts to avoid a violation of their rights.  M. Manoharan, R. Kengadharan, B. Ganabathi Rao, Vasanthan and lawyer P. Uthayakumar, are being held under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

ISA is an emergency law which has been in vigour since 1969, and is widely criticised by the International community.  It allows for the unlimited detention of presumed criminals, torture and beatings and even sets out that they can be re-arrested after a court has ordered their release.

The 5 are leading members of Hindraf (Hindu Rights Action Force), the group which has become the main defender of the Hindu minority in the country.  It was their initiative which saw over 30 thousand people – according to unofficial estimates -  take to the streets of the capital Kuala Lumpur November  against racial discrimination which favours the majority Malay population.

The Indian community’s discontent is accompanied by the oppositions’ campaign for electoral reform ahead of the general election set for 2008.  The authoritarian premier Abdullah Badawi is facing a deep governmental crises.  Protests in recent months have rocked social classes, a crises refelected in the institutions and economy.  Out of 27 million inhabitants, Muslim Malays count for 60% and dominate the political scene; 25% are of Chinese origin, and highly influential in the economy, while only 10% is represented by Indians, who take up the most undesirable jobs.

 

 

 

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