Badawi calls for racial unity amid growing tensions
09/01/2006 09:13 PM | Reuters
Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi appealed for unity in the multiracial country as the country marked Independence Day on Thursday amid smouldering racial and religious tensions. “The solidarity of Malaysians is our strength. We need to ensure that we maintain that strength,” Abdullah said in an Independence Day message carried by the nation’s media.
Half of Malaysia’s population of 26 million is Malay, but ethnic Chinese and Indians form sizeable minorities.
Racial tensions have come to the fore recently, after Khairy Jamaluddin, Abdullah’s son-in-law and deputy head of the youth wing of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), said the Chinese would exploit any weakness in UMNO to make demands.
Some members of the Malaysian Chinese Association, a key partner in the ruling coalition, have demanded that Khairy apologise for his remarks, which he has refused to do.
“What causes hardship to us, we must avoid. That’s the meaning of learning from history,” Abdullah said, referring to bloody racial riots in 1969 that killed almost 200.
The tensions are posing a headache for the prime minister who is already grappling with attacks from former premier Mahathir Mohamad and a slowing economy.
Mahathir, who handpicked Abdullah to succeed him in late 2003, has turned against his protégé over a range of issues, including shelving large state projects such as a bridge to neighbouring Singapore.