Saturday, March 1, 2008

Msia's Anwar vows to dismantle race policies - AFP

M'sia's Anwar vows to dismantle race policies

Feb 26, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA'S opposition figurehead Anwar Ibrahim vowed on Tuesday to end race-based discrimination policies, lower fuel prices andfight corruption in a policy manifesto ahead of Mar 8 polls.Anwar, who was deputy prime minister until being sacked and jailed in 1998,said long-running policies favouring majority Malays had only benefitedcronies of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno).

'The New Economic Policy has been abused to enrich the family of Umnoleaders and their cronies,' said Mr Anwar who is campaigning for theKeadilan formally led by his wife.'If you really want to deal with the issue of poverty, why can't we just say we have an affirmative action policy helping the poor and the marginalised. ''It should not be racially based.

'Malaysia has pursued an affirmative action programme for Malays andindigenous groups known as 'bumiputras' since the 1970s to close a wealthgap with the minority Chinese community.

However, it has been criticised for failing to pull a large number of Muslim Malays out of poverty, and of ignoring the minority ethnic Indian community,which is also disadvantaged.

The manifesto entitled 'A New Dawn for Malaysia,' centred on battling rising inflation, which has triggered public anger and rare public protests as theprices of food and fuel edge higher.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has said the government cannot affordto continue spending 43.4 billion ringgit (S$19 billion) annually to subsidise essential items.

Mr Anwar, who was heir apparent in 1998 to then-premier Mahathir Mohamad,spent six years in jail on sex and corruption charges. The sex charge was overturned but the corruption count bars him from taking public office until April.His wife has said she will stand aside to make way for Mr Anwar to contesther seat in a by-election after the March polls, in a plan that could seehim return to parliament within months.Mr Anwar said Mr Abdullah was 'in denial' over the state of the economy.'Keadilan promises to lower the price of petrol ... as well as manage the prices of basic goods to ensure a consistent supply. Tolls and tariffs will also no longer be raised,' he said.

Keadilan has forged a loose alliance with two other opposition parties whohave agreed to stand just one candidate against the government in eachconstituency, avoiding damaging three-cornered contests.The opposition hopes that gripes over inflation, rising crime rates andmounting ethnic tensions will enable it to reduce the government's thumpingmajority below two-thirds for the first time in history. -- AFP