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Saturday December 15, 2007

NGOs discuss Indian issues with PM in heart-to-heart chat


PUTRAJAYA: A frank and open discussion. That was how representatives of Indian groups described their two-hour meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday. 

The talks centred on issues affecting the community, particularly its socio-economic standing in the country. 

A spokesman from the Prime Minister's Office said Abdullah told the representatives of the 13 non-governmental organisations what the Government was doing to help uplift the economic and social standing of the Indian community. 

“He also explained the Government’s stand on the Hindraf issue. All those who attended pledged to work with the Government for the betterment of the Malaysian Indian community,'' he added. 

The meeting took place just 24 hours after the arrest of five Hindraf leaders under the Internal Security Act on Thursday. 

The spokesman said Abdullah also stressed on the importance of preserving peace and stability, which was important to a developing nation like Malaysia. 

“One thing for certain is that the NGOs disagreed with the way Hindraf used demonstrations to voice its views and claims, specifically ethnic cleansing of the Indian community, which they said did not make sense,” he added. 

Raising their concerns: Siva Subramaniam accompanying several representatives of Indian NGOs to the meeting with the Prime Minister in Putrajaya on Friday.
The 13 NGOs that attended the meeting were the Malaysian Hindu Sangam, Malaysian Hindu Dharma Mamandram, Malaysian Hindu Association, Sri Murugan Centre, Malaysian Hindu Youth Council, Malaysian Tamil Youth Bell Clubs Council, and Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. 

The others were the Malaysian Indian Business Association, National Land Finance Cooperative Society, National Union of Plantation Workers, Malaysian Tamil School Headmasters Association, Child Information Learning and Development Centre, and Yayasan Strategik Sosial. 

Works Minister and MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu and Suhakam commissioner Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam also attended the meeting. 

Malaysia Hindu Dharma Mamandram president Assoc Prof N.S. Rajendran said the meeting was called to hear the expectations and feelings of the Indian community. 

“He asked us to be frank about the real situation. All of us were given a chance to express our views.  

“We raised issues on education, civil service, promotions, racial integration, religion and others.  

“The Prime Minister was very attentive and took down notes,” he said. 

Rajendran said: “Some of the representatives raised ‘rather hard issues’ to which Abdullah replied ‘Don’t worry, I am here to listen and I want you all to be frank’. 

“The Prime Minister also stressed that this would not be the last meeting. He said he would have a discussion with Samy Vellu on the issues raised,” he added. 

Malaysia Hindu Sangam president Datuk A. Vaithilingam said they asked Abdullah to consider releasing the five Hindraf leaders held under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and charge them in court. 

“We also made a request to release the 31 people charged in court as they were at a place of worship (Batu Caves) and many of them were merely bystanders who might have just questioned the police and were arrested,” he added. 

Vaithilingam said he also agreed to be the coordinator to prepare a memorandum to be submitted to Abdullah on the community’s plight. 

Siva Subramaniam said it was the first time he saw NGOs boldly pouring out all their grievances. 

Before the discussion Abdullah also met with Bar Council chairman S. Ambiga. 

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