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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Malaysia's minority races urged to respect ethnic Malay dominance

AOL (6/11/2007): Malaysia's minority ethnic groups should accept and respect the political dominance of the ethnic Malays, a senior leader of the ruling United Malays National Organization said Tuesday amid rising ethnic tension in this multi-racial Southeast Asian country.

"Don't create imaginary enemy and don't be afraid of your own shadow. Don't get carried away by blunt racial sentiments until you lose the respect built upon years of sacrifices made by the Malays," the head of UMNO's youth wing, Hishamuddin Hussein, said in a speech at the wing's annual meeting.

The youth wing's one-day meet precedes the three-day main UMNO annual assembly that will begin Wednesday with a key speech from party President and Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

UMNO's annual assembly is closely followed by the nation as it is the dominant party in the ruling National Front 14-party coalition and the party that produces the most policymakers in the government, including the premier and his deputy.

UMNO touts itself as the leading champion of the Malays, who make up over 60 percent of the country's 27 million population. It has been heavily criticized in recent years for being racist.

Hishamuddin, who is also education minister, angered minority ethnic Chinese and Indians when he brandished an unsheathed keris, a long wavy Malay dagger, at the wing's annual meeting two years ago in what was viewed by non-Malays as a sign of aggression.

The act, which has since been repeated, was made worse when an UMNO delegate remarked last year that "UMNO is willing to risk lives and bathe in blood to defend the race."

That statement came amid increasing unhappiness among the Chinese over the continuation of the nearly four-decade-old affirmative action policy that accords Malays privileges, ranging from from scholarships to government contracts.

The policy aims to give the poorer Malays a leg-up in playing catch-up with the economically dominant Chinese. But critics say it has only served to enrich a handful of politically well-connected Malays, and there have been loud calls for it to be scrapped.

Ethnic Indians, meanwhile, are furious over a recent spate of demolitions being carried out on Hindu temples purportedly built illegally on state or private lands.

Non-Malays are also dismayed by what they viewed as creeping Islamization in schools, in government agencies and even in courts.

Despite the outcry over the keris, it again made its appearance Tuesday to loud applause from the delegates.

Hishamuddin defended the keris act, saying it was not just a symbol to defend the Malays but the other races too.

"The Malay keris is the protector of all just like the government of today. Come seek shelter under the protection of this sacred Malay keris," he said. (Kyodo)


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