Malaysian courtesy: Lay off - Karunanidhi’s plea on Tamil rights sparks war of words
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- Published 30.11.07
|Malaysian police detain a protester during the demonstration by ethnic Indians in Kuala Lumpur|
Nov. 29: Malaysia today told Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi to mind his own business after he complained about the country’s treatment of ethnic Indians.
“This is Malaysia, not Tamil Nadu,” Malaysia’s de-facto justice minister Nazri Aziz said. “This has got nothing to do with him... lay off.”
Karunanidhi had asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday to intervene and protect the rights of Tamils.
He made the request after the minority community’s biggest anti-government protest in Malaysia on Sunday, sparked by anger over policies they say prevent ethnic Indians from getting decent jobs or a good education for their children.
Karunanidhi today said it was his “duty” to “defend” Tamils and he was prepared to accept any “punishment” for doing so.
Told about the comments of Aziz, the chief minister said: “If there is any punishment for doing the duty, I am prepared to accept it.”
|This has got nothing to do with him (Karunanidhi)... lay off |
|I don’t want to get into a tit for tat. It is my duty to defend Tamils |
TN chief minister
Karunanidhi pointed out that he did not criticise the Malaysian government. “I don’t want to reply to his (Aziz’s) remarks. I don’t want to get into a tit for tat. It is my duty to defend Tamils.”
Aziz said he had not seen the protest letter from Karunanidhi.
In the letter to Singh, Karunanidhi said he was “pained” at the way Malaysian police had treated Tamils when they organised a rally to complain of racial discrimination.
The rally, which drew more than 10,000 people, had triggered sporadic protests in Tamil Nadu.
Karunanidhi said Tamils were the largest group among Malaysia’s 1.8 million ethnic Indians and added that the people of Tamil Nadu were disturbed by the events there.
He sought Singh’s intervention “to end the sufferings and bad treatment of Malaysian Tamils”.
Today, MPs from Tamil Nadu disrupted both Houses of Parliament, demanding that New Delhi pressure Kuala Lumpur to protect ethnic Indians there.
Some MPs raised slogans against Malaysia and demanded the Indian foreign minister make a statement on the issue, forcing proceedings in the Lok Sabha to be suspended briefly.
“We have expressed our concern over the condition of Indian-origin Tamils in Malaysia,” said CPI leader D. Raja, who hails from Tamil Nadu.
“They are subjected to repression and discrimination. They are fighting for equality with other sections of Malaysian people.”
Multi-racial Malaysia has brushed aside claims that it mistreated its ethnic Indians, saying that they were better off than those in India.
But ethnic Indians complain of lack of educational and business opportunities, saying government affirmative-action policies that favour majority ethnic Malays had marginalised them.
Indians comprise 8 per cent of Malaysia’s 27 million people. Malays form about 60 per cent of the population and control the government. Ethnic Chinese are a quarter of the population and generally much more wealthy than Indians, most of whom earn low incomes and do menial jobs.
The Malaysian Indians hold the British responsible for their plight. The British had taken their ancestors to Malaysia as indentured labour to work on rubber plantations.
A petition is pending in a UK court seeking compensation of £1 million each for the ethnic Indians in Malaysia.
The Hindu Rapid Action Force, the organiser of Sunday’s procession in Kuala Lumpur, had marched to the British High Commission to present a copy of the petition.