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No community will lag behind: Malaysian PM
Jaishree Balasubramanian in Kuala Lumpur | December 17, 2007 12:58 IST
Amid protests by ethnic Indians against alleged marginalisation, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has vowed to ensure no community lags behind in any field, but said the responsibility of maintaining harmony in the multi-racial country did not rest on his shoulders alone.
"I will not fail you," Badawi told a group of ethnic Indians on Sunday evening at his constituency of Kepala Batas, where he spoke at length about the need to maintain harmonious relations between all races.
The prime minister also said he continues to respect all races and would not treat the Indians as his enemies.
Malaysia is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country with 60 per cent of its 27 million people being majority Malay Muslims, 25 per cent Chinese and 7.8 per cent ethnic Indians, mostly Hindus from Tamil Nadu.
Assuring every race that his government will provide equal opportunities in education, Abdullah said, "We're all together in this, as it is our collective responsibility, and we should respect one another and not make baseless accusations against each other."
The prime minister said the government balanced its policies on the basis of the country's racial composition, where the Malay community was the largest, followed by the Chinese and Indians.
"The government will help with whatever it can but to do my job, the country needs to be peaceful and safe. That is why I had to take action recently," he said referring to the arrest of five Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf) leaders under the tough Internal Security Act, which allows the state to detain people for a long time without trial.
"I want us to continue to live peacefully and harmoniously as citizens of this country," Badawi told the leaders and members of the Indian community in Kepala Betas.
The responsibility of maintaining peace and harmony in the multi-racial country did not rest on his shoulders alone but on all communities, he said.
"Problems will be there but we work at overcoming them. Give us a chance to develop this country. What needs to be done, I will do, but it will take time. That is the nature of my work. I will strive to ensure that no race lags behind in any field. I will not fail you," he said.
Abdullah mentioned the tough stand taken by him against activists of Jemaah Islamiah and Al-Ma'unah. "They are my people, who believe in the same religion. But I had a duty to carry out," he said.
The JI orchestrated four deadly bombings in Indonesia, including the 2002 and 2005 attacks in Bali, which together killed 222 people. Al-Ma'unah, an extremist religious group, wanted to overthrow the government by force and attempted an arms heist to further its cause, leading to a face-off with the police and the armed forces at Bukit Jenalik in Perak in 2000.
Abdullah said that as prime minister, his responsibility was to all Malaysians regardless of race and not only to the Malay community, the New Straits Times newspaper reported.
He added that there had never been a clash between the Malays and Indians which was caused by religion. "I will continue to respect all races, I will not treat the Indians as my enemies."
Badawi said his government knew that it was only through education that citizens could contribute to the country's well-being.
"It is also through education that all races will enjoy quality of life. Education will ensure that people make a decent living and get good jobs," he said, adding the government had always given extra attention to ensure the poor obtained a decent education to help them climb out of poverty.
Noting that different communities had different needs and that it was impossible for the administration to fulfill everyone's needs 100 per cent, Abdullah assured them that the government would continue to do more in the future.