MALAYSIA’S ruling coalition sought to quell internal conflict Monday amid fears that ethnic Indian minority leaders might quit the Cabinet because of complaints of unfair treatment.
Members of the Malaysian Indian Congress, the country’s main ethnic Indian political party, have voiced dissatisfaction after Prime Minister Najib Razak appointed only one of the party’s officials as a Cabinet minister and two as deputy ministers last week.
The dissent could destabilise Mr Najib’s National Front multiethnic coalition, which is struggling to shore up its flagging support, especially among ethnic minorities who frequently accuse the government of racial discrimination.
The Star newspaper and independent Malaysiakini news Web site reported over the weekend that the Indian party might pull its three members out of the Cabinet in what would be seen as a personal rebuke of Mr Najib, who took power earlier this month.
The reports quoted unidentified party officials as saying a decision might be reached on Thursday, though the party itself would remain in the ruling coalition.
Human Resources Minister S. Subramaniam and other party leaders have denied knowledge of any such plan, but speculation has intensified that the party’s longtime president, Samy Vellu, is trying to pressure Mr Najib to give the party more clout in the administration.
Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Monday that the Indian party and other members of the 13-party National Front should respect Najib’s prerogative to choose Cabinet ministers, the national news agency Bernama reported.
‘So whatever dissatisfaction they have, it’s better to go and see the prime minister and there’s no need to make public statements on the matter,’ Bernama quoted Mr Muhyiddin as saying. Mr Muhyiddin’s aides could not immediately be reached.
The National Front is dominated by the United Malays National Organisation, which represents the ethnic Malay Muslim majority. Malay comprise about two-thirds of the Cabinet, roughly equivalent to their share of the country’s population.
Ethnic Chinese constitute a quarter of the population, while Indians make up about 8 per cent. The minorities have grown increasingly outspoken against what they view as discriminatory policies that benefit Malays in jobs, education and business opportunities. — AP
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