KUALA LUMPUR, March 31, 2009 (AFP) – Malaysia’s incoming premier Najib Razak Tuesday hailed the ethnic Chinese community’s contribution to the nation, in a bid to mend ties with minorities who deserted the coalition in 2008 elections.
The comments from Najib, who is expected to be sworn into power later this week, came after an angry debate over the role of minorities in the multiracial country’s independence struggle.
“I would like to thank the Chinese community for their many contributions to our nation’s development,” Najib told editors of a local Chinese paper, according to a statement from his office.
“The Malaysian Chinese community has, is now, and will forever play a vital role in the fabric of our nation,” he added.
Najib last week became president of the ruling United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) which represents majority Muslim Malays who make up 60 percent of the population and dominate the government.
UMNO leads a coalition of race-based parties that also represent the ethnic Chinese and Indian communities, but they were hammered in elections a year ago as minorities shifted towards the opposition.
The opposition benefited from a rising sense of “Islamisation” of Malaysia, and fears that minorities’ rights are being eroded.
Najib pledged to “develop a government that respects the voices of all Malaysians” and said the government “recognises and respects the contributions of all people in building Malaysia.”
His comments came after a senior leader said at last week’s UMNO assembly that independence and later developments were forged by “UMNO and our Malay rulers and no one else.”
The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), a key member of the coalition, urged a stop to “rewriting the facts of history or denying the efforts of other races in helping to fight for the country’s independence.”
Malaysia gained its independence from Britain in 1957 under the leadership of UMNO, MCA and the Malaysian Indian Congress, which later along with several other parties, came to form the present ruling coalition.
Copyright 2009 AFP
Source : AFP