Ethnic Indians protested against alleged
discrimination in Muslim-majority Malaysia in a mass rally in November that led
to the indefinite detention of five leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force
When asked if the issues raised by
Hindraf, which have made national headlines, would influence how Indians vote in
upcoming polls, Mr Abdullah told the Sunday Star newspaper: "Yes, I think votes
will be affected somewhat."
Analysts say general elections could be
held in March.
Ethnic Indians, who complain of a lack of
job and educational opportunities, have been strong supporters of Mr Abdullah's
Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition since the country gained independence from
Britain in 1957.
Mr Abdullah, who is also the Finance
Minister, said he would address Indian grievances, which include the destruction
of Hindu temples.
"I have given instruction that whatever
grouses they have should be attended to," he said. "As for the Hindu temples, I
have asked the chief minister to let the Hindu organisations decide for
themselves how they intend to tackle the number of illegal temples in Selangor."
Ethnic Indians make up 8.0 per cent of
the country's population. Muslim Malays, who make up 60 per cent, control the
government while the ethnic Chinese, at 26 per cent, dominate business.
In recent weeks, debate has also centred
on whether long-time Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) leader Samy Vellu should
step down and make way for a successor. The MIC is part of the ruling BN
He has led the party for almost 30 years
and pressure is on him to give way to new blood. A commentary by a
Malay-language newspaper pointed out that he may meet the fate of leaders like
Dr Lim Chong Eu, long-serving Chief Minister of Penang, and Mr Wan Mokhtar, who
led Terengganu from 1974 until 1999.
Both were voted out by constituents who
felt that they had been too long in office.
However, loyalists within his party say
such talk is unfair to "a man who has worked selflessly and devotedly for the
Indian community and the MIC".
Fellow ministers like national
information chief M Saravanan said the MIC needed an experienced leader like him
especially when opposition parties are "exploiting allegations that the Indian
community had not been well looked after". Mr Saravanan said with the whole
country gearing up for the election, Indians should focus on the issue and not
quarrel among themselves.
But dissenters accuse Mr Vellu of failing
to groom capable leaders who could take over from him. — AGENCIES