Malaysian PM promises to solve problems of ethnic Indians

March 3rd, 2008 - 5:39 pm ICT by admin  


Kuala Lumpur, March 3 (IANS) With elections due next Saturday, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has promised to “seriously look into” the problems facing the ethnic Indian community. “This is not just an empty promise but a serious promise that we will carry out. I am listening to your problems and demands. We will discuss your problems and will execute whatever we have promised in the Barisan Nasional’s manifesto if we win in the coming elections,” Badawi was quoted as saying by The Star Monday.

“These include education for the Indians and problems faced by Indians in estates,” he said in his address to about 2,000 Indians at a dinner here.

Leaders of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), Indian Progressive Front and People’s Progressive Party attended the dinner.

Badawi, the Barisan Nasional chief who opted for early elections, said he was aware that there were “many other problems” affecting the Indians that had not been settled.

Authorities at district level were doing their best to resolve problems affecting the community, including Hindu temples and land matters, he said.

The prime minister spoke on a day Education Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said a special education fund had been established to help some 85,000 children of largely Indian estate workers.

Hishammuddin, who is the incumbent MP for the Sembrong parliamentary seat, said the fund was a contribution from government-linked companies in Malaysia.

“Some 85,000 children will benefit from the programme,” he told a gathering at Pamol Estate Sunday.

The minister noted that there were about 100,000 students studying in 526 Tamil schools in the country, said the government had allocated four billion ringgit ($18 million) to manage Tamil schools throughout Malaysia over the past six years and another 64 million ringgit had been set aside to build and upgrade these schools.

Ethnic Indians, predominantly Tamil Hindus who came to Malaysia during the British colonial era, account for eight percent of the country’s 27 million population.

They have complained of discrimination in jobs and education and some of religious discrimination.

Their woes got highlighted last November when Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), a body claiming to speak for the Tamil Hindus, staged a rally that was declared illegal.

Five Hindraf leaders are detained under the stringent Internal Security Act (ISA).

Meanwhile, a poll-eve survey said that one out of five Indians thought race relations was on top of the poll agenda.

A survey by Merdeka Centre showed that 88 percent of the Malaysians were happy with relationships between various races. Concern over racial inequality remained highest among Indians, The New Straits Times said Monday quoting the survey results.

Just one in 10 persons surveyed said ethnic relations were the country’s top issue, compared with more than one in six in a December survey, which reflected the sentiments that followed the Hindraf demonstrations in November.

Compared to one in five Indians, the ratio was one in 10 among the Chinese who account for 33 percent of Malaysia’s 27 million population. It was one in 20 among the Malays, who form the 60 percent-plus majority.

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