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State accused of fanning racial tensions

Echoes of deadly 1969 riots spark concerns

  • Mike MacLachlan, London
  • Malaysia
  • April 8, 2013
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In the lead-up to elections expected later this month, the Malaysian government is fanning the sort of racial tensions that led to deadly riots in 1969, activists say.

Opposition party meetings have been disrupted by motorcycle gangs unrestricted by police, while rural Malays are being bussed to showings of a film that blames the 1969 riots on minority groups, activists said in statement released yesterday. 

The violence erupted after a poor performance by the ruling party in a general election, and thousands were reportedly killed. The riots were reportedly sparked by a victory march by members of the largely Chinese-ethnic Democratic Action Party in Kuala Lumpur.

Suaram UK, an NGO in Britain associated with the Malaysian human rights watchdog Suaram, and Global Bersih, the international arm of a Malaysian electoral reform group, called on the British and Australian governments yesterday to “publicly help Malaysians who are struggling to achieve free and fair elections.”

Similar pleas were sent to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council.

The statement claims that when the Malaysian parliament was dissolved on April 3, defense minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi urged on Twitter: “Kill all adverse political intruders.”

At a rally in March supporters of Umno, the leading party in the ruling Barisan National coalition, chanted: “Kill [opposition MP] Tian Chua!” according to the statement. 

It adds that former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has called for the MP Tian Chua and Bersih activist Ambiga Sreenevasan, a former president of the Malaysian Bar Council, to be stripped of their citizenship. 

Meanwhile, Suarah and Bersih say there is mounting evidence of bogus voters on electoral lists, with three dead people on the list in one opposition-held constituency.

Calls for electoral reform are dismissed as a “foreign-backed plot” to bring down the government, the statement says. 

The activist groups urge the Australian government to respond to the recent call by the Malaysian opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, to help ensure the next general election is conducted fairly.

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