Malaysian Gov to punish official for racist remarks
rahul | September 9, 2008 at 05:09 amby
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In reaction to comments made by a ruling official, Ahmad Ismail, against Malaysia's minority Chinese and Indians, prompted a swift governemnt reaction. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad promised to punish him for making racist remarks
2008-09-09 14:29:04 - KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Malaysia's prime minister vowed Tuesday to punish a senior official in his party for making racist remarks that have plunged his multiracial ruling coalition into a crisis as it battles a resurgent opposition. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad told reporters that recent comments by Ahmad Ismail against Malaysia's minority Chinese and Indians have «stirred anger and restlessness among the people. The leaders of the 14-party ruling National Front coalition «want swift and firm action to be taken» against Ahmad, he told reporters after chairing a meeting of the coalition's constituent members. The 14 parties in the National Front represent Malaysia's main races _ the majority Malays and the minority Chinese, Indians and others. Ahmad belongs to the Abdullah's United Malays National Organization, the dominant party in the coalition. Abdullah said the coalition leaders «unanimously rejected» Ahamd's remarks and agreed that UMNO, at a special meeting on Wednesday, should determine the punishment against him. In a country where racial tensions are palpable but never discussed publicly, Ahmad dropped a bombshell last month by describing the Chinese and Indians as «squatters» and «immigrants. The uproar over his comments had barely subsided when he gave a news conference on Monday, where he said the Malays were losing patience with minorities, particularly ethnic Chinese politicians. «I urge the Chinese not to become like the Jewish in America, where it is not enough that they control the economy, but they also want to dominate politics,» said Ahmad, an UMNO district chief in the northern Penang state. «Consider this a warning from the Malays,» Ahmad said. «The patience of the Malays has a limit. Do not push us against the wall, for we will be forced to turn back and push the Chinese for our own survival. Following the comments, the Chinese-based Gerakan party in the National Front severed ties with UMNO's Penang branch, raising fears that it would also do the same at the national level. Gerakan leader Koh Tsu Koon said Tuesday his party would determine its next move after UMNO decides on the disciplinary action against Ahmad. The racial row is a fresh headache for Abdullah, who is struggling to hold the coalition together amid a threat by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to seize power by luring government lawmakers to his side by next week.
Growing dissatisfaction about racial policies prompted many Chinese and Indians to vote against the government in March general elections. Many Malays also backed the opposition, causing the National Front to retain power with only a simple parliamentary majority. Most Chinese and Indian Malaysians are descendants of 19th and early 20th century immigrants who came as traders, laborers and miners during British colonial rule. Ethnic Chinese now comprise a quarter of Malaysia's 27 million people, while Indians form less than 10 percent. They have grown increasingly vocal about alleged government discrimination in economic, social and religious policies. Malays, who constitute about 60 percent of the population, enjoy a host of privileges in jobs, education and business as part of an affirmative action program launched in 1970 following racial riots fueled by Malay frustration over the Chinese community's wealth.
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