Malaysia PM Woos Non-Malays In Election Manifesto
In its election manifesto, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's coalition also pledged to create two million new jobs, encourage one million new businesses and rein in the fiscal deficit over the next five years.
"We have managed the economy well, we have ensured that Malaysia is on the right track," he told some 500 supporters at his party headquarters. "We will deliver our promise."
The Barisan Nasional coalition is considered certain to be re-elected in March 8 polls, but risks a backlash by Buddhist ethnic Chinese and Hindu ethnic Indians who have complained of religious and racial inequality in the mainly Muslim nation.
The opposition, aiming to deny Barisan a two-thirds majority, the level needed to change the constitution, also hopes to draw a protest vote over rising food and fuel costs, street crimes and an influx of cheap foreign labour.
In the manifesto, Barisan said it would keep Chinese and Indian schools, extend use of Mandarin and Tamil at national schools and offer university scholarships for poor students, irrespective of race.
It will also form a "special mechanism" to facilitate the setting up and relocation of temples, mosques and churches, an issue that has sparked a bitter complaint especially by Hindus.
The government will also step up inter-faith dialogue and ensure that developers set aside land for places of worships in their townships, it said.
More than 10,000 Indians staged their community's biggest anti-government protest in November, braving water cannon, tear gas and arrest to accuse the government of discrimination.
Ethnic Chinese, too, have aired growing complaints about the government's decades-old affirmative action policy, which gives Malays perks such as share allocations and cheap housing loans.
Politically dominant Malay Muslims form about 60 percent of Malaysia's 26 million people. (Reuters India)
***** How much of the pledges made are genuine remains to be seen. But I think that the assurance to step up inter-faith dialogue is an outright lie. The present crop of Umno leaders have neither the intention nor the will to foster better ties between the disparate religious groups here. It is to Umno's advantage to maintain a certain tension and disagreement between them.
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