The Unrest in Malaysia and Beyond
A recently attempted coup again in Philippines, the Asean country that wants to ape the US most about human rights and democracy and what not, and the irony is not lost. The infamous crackdown in Burma and the killing of monks. Ban on protests in Singapore, making Singapore even worse than Burma as the junta at least allowed street protests for a few days before it went mad and used baton, boots and bullets to smash the anti-junta opposition. Malaysia experiences mass protests from peaceful Bersih to volatile Hindraf in recent months. Thailand, is however holding out for now despite the junta behind the curtain, but is the promised election coming soon? Asean’s take on its governance style, the role of the military and coup in democracy, and the principle of absolute non-interference is constantly being questioned this last quarter of 2007. The unrest bug is spreading in the region. Is a pandemic around the corner? Not yet but with the recent Asean summit in the background, one cannot help but think Asean is nowhere near the EU, regardless if it is a fair comparison or not.
Don’t meddle in our affairs: M’sia
Tuesday • December 4, 2007
Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar yesterday warned other governments not to interfere in Malaysia’s domestic affairs as the country braces for a new wave of activism that began with two separate demonstrations last month involving ethnic Indians and opposition groups.
“This is Malaysia. We’ll deal with our problems according to our laws. Other countries should be mindful of our rights,” Mr Syed Hamid said yesterday.
“If there is anything that we are dissatisfied with, there are avenues within our system to deal with it. Malaysians don’t want foreign interference,” he said.
Mr Syed Hamid urged the ethnic Indian minority to refer any complaints to the government rather than foreign countries. Activists from the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) had called on the United Kingdom UK to spearhead United Nations action against Malaysia.
In two letters sent to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, they claim to have suffered discrimination because of Malaysia’s bumiputera policy that favours the Malay Muslim majority. They also cited the demolition of dozens of Hindu temples as evidence of “ethnic cleansing”.
In comments aimed at calming religious and racial tensions, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, yesterday denounced the way in which Hindu temples were demolished, calling the action by local authorities insensitive. He noted that the latest site to be torn down was a 36-year-old temple in Selangor, which was destroyed last month even as devotees were praying there.
Hindraf had led a rally of 10,000 ethnic Indians in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 25 to demand equality in Malaysia. Police had dispersed protesters with teargas and charged 94 people with taking part in an illegal gathering.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said New Delhi was disturbed by reports about the use of force against the protesters, while Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said “the government remains deeply solicitous of the welfare of people of Indian origin living abroad”.
On Sunday, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi denounced the discrimination claims by the country’s ethnic Indians and accused activists of stirring up racial conflict.
Meanwhile, 10 people are expected to be charged today in Kuala Lumpur for their involvement in the Nov 10 mass rally organised by the poll reform group Bersih, Malaysiakini reported.
The Bersih-led demonstration in Kuala Lumpur was the country’s largest political rally in nearly a decade, drawing 40,000 people from opposition parties and human rights groups. The demonstrators marched to the king’s palace to submit a memorandum calling for electoral reforms. The protest was considered illegal because it was held without a police permit.
“We believe citizens of any country should be allowed to peacefully assemble and express their views,” a US State Department official said, alluding to the crackdown against the protests.
More marches are planned across Malaysia in the coming weeks for a range of different causes. On Dec 9, the Malaysian Bar Council will hold its annual Human Rights Day March. Non-governmental organisations and opposition parties are also planning to hold demonstrations to protest impending hikes in highway toll charges beginning Jan 1. — AGENCIES