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BN likely to lose Indian votes: Abdullah

Contributed by Anonymous on Monday, February 04 @ 00:48:10 CST

National: Politics
Today Online, Monday, Feb 04, 2008
KUALA LUMPUR — Malay-sian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (picture) said the number of votes from Indians for the ruling party will likely drop in the coming polls, a report said yesterday.

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 (Hindraf).
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 coalition.
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



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