Thursday, October 28, 2010

Malaysia would tackle ethnic Indians'' issues on its own: PM

021_najib Jaishree Balasubramanian and Ajay Kaul Putrajaya, 

Oct 27 (PTI) In the backdrop of discrimination being felt by ethnic Indians in this country, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today expressed confidence that Malaysia would tackle such issues through its inbuilt flexibility while his counterpart Najib Razak asserted it was a "purely domestic matter" which India should respect. "Like India, Malaysia is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic entity.

It is a democracy which respects fundamental human rights of all its citizens. "I am confident that the Malaysian system has built-in flexibility to tackle any problem of the kind you mentioned," Singh said at a joint press conference with Najib when a question was asked about the feeling of discrimination among people of Indian origin in Malaysia and whether this issue was discussed.

Najib, while responding to the question, said "this is purely a domestic matter for us to handle and we are handling it very positively. We don't have to discuss such matters between the two countries."

He went on to add that "as much we respect what happens in India", he expected the latter also respects "what we do". Ethnic Indians form eight per cent of Malaysia's population of 27 million people, with majority of them from Tamil Nadu. In 2007, more than 20,000 ethnic Indians took part in a massive protest rally here against alleged marginalisation of the minority community by the Government.

The protest was organised by a group called Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) which was later banned. The government denied the charges of discrimination. In the general elections the next year, the ruling coalition of Barisan national had a dismal performance at the polls barely hanging on to power with several states voting for the opposition. A huge chunk of the ethnic Indian population also voted for the opposition as many believed that the Malaysian political party Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) had hardly done enough to uplift them. Their ire was against the party chief Samy Vellu, who has been at the helm of the party for 30 years, alleging he had done little for them.

Samy Vellu is expected to step down voluntarily in January next year and pass on the presidentship to his deputy. Indians were brought to Malaysia by the British 200 years ago as indentured labourers to work in plantations and make roads in the then Malaya. Soon after India's independence some left for home while many stayed back with subsequent generations growing in Malaysia as Malaysian Indians.