Malaysian PM meets Indian NGOs to discuss current developments

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Singapore, Dec 14 (UNI) Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi today met leaders of 13 Indian-based Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to discuss the current developments in the country, including the arrest of five Indian Hindraf leaders under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

The Prime Minister stressed the importance of preserving peace and stability in the country. He disclosed the government's plans to narrow down the socio-economic gaps among the various communities in the country, the Malaysian national news agency Bernama quoted a Prime Minister's Office spokesperson as saying.

Mr Badawi listened to various matters raised by the NGOs and explained the government's efforts for the socio-economic upliftment of Malaysian Indians.

He also explained the government's stand on the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) issue. All the NGOs present pledged to work with the government for the betterment of the Malaysian Indian community.

The spokesman said Mr Badawi did not make any promises but listened to the views expressed by the 13 NGOs.

''The NGOs disagreed with the way Hindraf used demonstrations to voice its views and claims, specifically ethnic cleansing of the Indian community,'' he added.

Among the NGOs which attended the meeting were the Malaysian Hindu Sangam, Malaysian Hindu Dharma Mamandram, Malaysian Hindu Association, Sri Murugan Centre, Malaysian Hindu Youth Council, Malaysian Tamil Youth Bell Clubs Council, and Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

The others were the Malaysian Indian Business Association, National Land Finance Cooperative Society, National Union of Plantation Workers, Malaysian Tamil School Headmasters Association, Child Information Learning and Development Centre, and Yayasan Strategik Sosial, a strategic social group.

Works Minister and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) president S Samy Vellu, who is a senior minister in the Malaysian cabinet was also present.

The Abdullah-led government in the Barisan Nasional, a multi-party coalition including the predominantly muslim Malay party United Malays Organisation, the Malaysian Chinese Association and MIC are facing one of the toughest opposition from the minority ethnic Hindu Indians in the country seeking better life.

Abdullah's government invoked the feared ISA yesterday, which allowed detention of five Hindraf leaders without trial, for having organised illegal rally demanding equal rights for the minority ethnic group last month.

Diplomatic observers said the government was under tremendous pressure to resolve the issue of poor minority Indians, mostly plantation workers, ahead of the general elections scheduled next year.

Their cause of being left behind in the economic development was allegedly being played up by the fragmented opposition, which was trying to gain a strong foothold in the country for the last 50 years.

They said Hindraf represented the poorest of the ethnic Indians of the two million Indian origin Malaysians in highlighting their plight through the 20,000-man strong march last month, which upset the usually peaceful political landscape for the ruling coalition and the government.


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