Malaysia’s Racial Discrimination Time Bomb
While across the world in Paris’ northern suburbs race riots are looming again, Malaysia is also having explosive race problems of its own. The Indians have had enough of the blatant bumiputra policy and started with their own race-religion rallying led by the Hindu Rights Action Force. This group deliberately used “Hindu” and not Indian, suggesting that Indian-Muslims are less discriminated than Indian-Hindus. The situation is so serious that the Malaysian government is resorting again to the ISA. Therein lies the problem of the ISA – there is nothing wrong with the Act per se but there is a high chance that it is open to abuse simply because the powerful catch-all legislation is conveniently within arm’s reach. The Malaysians are using the ISA as a threat to maintain order, as if all efforts to use other laws and means to resolve the crisis have been exhausted. The ISA is seen as the first thing that came into the Malaysian government’s mind, rather than the last resort reserved mainly for real terrorists.
Malaysia Threatens Crackdown on Protests
By EILEEN NG
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s prime minister warned Tuesday he may invoke a law that allows for indefinite detentions without trial to curb street demonstrations after two violent protests stunned the normally peaceful country.
On Sunday, some 10,000 ethnic Indians clashed with police at a rally in downtown Kuala Lumpur to demand economic equality, two weeks after thousands of people marched in the capital to seek electoral reforms.
“When it is appropriate to use it, it will be used,” Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was quoted as saying by national Bernama news agency.
Bernama quoted Abdullah as saying that the decades-old Internal Security Act, which allows for detention without trial, “is a preventive measure to spare the nation from untoward incidents that can harm the prevailing peace and harmony and create all sorts of adverse things.”
“I don’t know (when to invoke the ISA), but ISA will be there,” he was quoted as saying.
An aide to Abdullah confirmed his comments but couldn’t give further details.
The Bar Council, which represents some 12,000 lawyers in the country, warned that the use of the law would be “retrogressive, counterproductive, and smacks of extreme high handedness.”
“Gone are the days when force could be used to solve our problems. We are entering a new era of openness and democracy. A vital part of that process is to hear the voice of the people and to heed their call,” it said in a statement.
Sunday’s rally raised ethnic and racial tensions after police used tear gas and chemical-laced water to disperse the protesters, largely working-class Indians. Government officials denounced the demonstration as an attempt to create racial animosity and smear the government’s image.
The Abolish ISA Movement, an activist group, warned the law would not suppress widespread disaffection in the Indian community but would further inflame their anger.
Street rallies are rare in Malaysia, which prides itself on communal and political peace.
The Indians’ rally was the largest protest in at least a decade involving ethnic Indians, the country’s second-largest minority after ethnic Chinese.
However, Indians say discrimination persists because of an affirmative action policy favoring Malays, who form about 60 percent of Malaysia’s 27 million people. They also complain of religious discrimination, citing the demolition of several Hindu temples by state authorities in recent years.
More than two-thirds of ethnic Indians, who are mostly Hindus and constitute about 8 percent of the population, live in poverty.