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Malaysia tries to pacify Delhi

Kuala Lumpur, March 14 (PTI): Expressing regret over the detention and ill-treatment of over 200 Indian IT professionals here, Malaysia said the allegations made against its police were “serious” and could impair bilateral relations.

Acting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi also asked the inspector-general of police to personally investigate Sunday’s incident and report to him by next week, said the official Bernama news agency.

The allegations could impair “the excellent bilateral relations we have with India”, the agency quoted Abdullah as saying.

Although the police have denied the charges, “from the reports that I have read, there are certain facets to the incident which trouble me. I have directed Tan Sri Norian to personally handle the investigations and report to me directly by next week at the latest”, he said.

The police on Sunday raided an apartment building in Brickfields here and rounded up the Indian nationals, mainly IT specialists, suspecting them to be illegal immigrants. The detainees alleged that they were treated roughly.

Asked about the charges that some of the Indian nationals had their passports defaced, Abdullah said: “Yes, I am aware of that. That will be one of the things Tan Sri Norian will be looking into.”

Indian high commissioner Veena Sikri has also lodged a diplomatic protest against the alleged ill-treatment. Abdullah assured the Indian government that he would personally get to the bottom of the incident.

On the claims that the police action was targeted specifically against the Indian nationals, Abdullah said: “That is not true. The authorities have been constantly taking such actions against illegal immigrants of all nationalities.” Newspapers regularly report such operations against foreign nationals, he said.

Malaysian foreign minister Syed Hamid Albar, who met the Indian high commissioner today, said he hoped that the incident would not jeopardise ties between the two countries.

“We have received their protest. We understand how they feel and we have responded quickly. Now, we hope India will give us time to investigate,” he said. The matter should not be allowed to undermine years of ties and cooperation between Malaysia and India, Hamid stressed.

Asked whether Malaysia would apologise to India, the foreign minister said it would be unfair to Malaysia to do so since the matter is still under investigation. “We have to conduct a thorough investigation. This is not a theft case but a protest from another country.... Foreign ministry has received the protest and is taking follow-up action and that is why I had met its high commissioner.”

If the investigation revealed wrong doings, action would be taken against the erring policemen, Hamid said.

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