Putrajaya, Dec 15: The representatives of Malay Indian groups met Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to discuss issues affecting the community, particularly its socio-economic standing in Malaysia.
A spokesman from the Prime Minister's Office said that Badawi told the representatives of the 13 non-governmental organisations about the steps taken by the Government to help uplift the economic and social standing of the Indian community. Badawi also explained the Government"s stand on the Hindraf issue. All those who attended pledged to work with the Government for the betterment of the Malaysian Indian community,'' he said.
The meeting took place just 24 hours after the arrest of five Hindraf leaders under the Internal Security Act on Thursday. The spokesman said Badawi also stressed on the importance of preserving peace and stability, which was important to a developing nation like Malaysia.
"One thing for certain is that the NGOs disagreed with the way Hindraf used demonstrations to voice its views and claims, specifically ethnic cleansing of the Indian community, which they said, did not make sense," he added.
Works Minister and MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu and Suhakam commissioner Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam also attended the meeting.
Malaysia Hindu Dharma Mamandram president Prof N.S. Rajendran said the meeting was called to hear the expectations and feelings of the Indian community.
"He asked us to be frank about the real situation. All of us were given a chance to express our views. We raised issues on education, civil service, promotions, racial integration, religion and others. Badawi was very attentive and took down notes," he said.
"Some of the representatives raised 'rather hard issues" to which Badawi replied 'Don"t worry, I am here to listen and I want you all to be frank"," Rajendran said.
Malaysia Hindu Sangam president Datuk A. Vaithilingam said that they asked Badawi to consider releasing the five Hindraf leaders held under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and charge them in court.
"We also made a request to release the 31 people charged in court as they were at a place of worship (Batu Caves) and many of them were merely bystanders who might have just questioned the police and were arrested," he added.
Siva Subramaniam said it was the first time he saw NGOs boldly pouring out all their grievances, the Star online reported.
The 13 NGOs that 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.