Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Malaysian PM rules out coalition merger over race

Malaysian PM rules out coalition merger over race

Tuesday, Oct 09, 2007, Page 5

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has vetoed a proposal to merge the 14 parties in the ruling coalition, which supporters said would transform Malaysia's race-based politics.

Political parties in Malaysia are based mainly on racial lines, and the component parties in the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) represent Malay Muslims as well as Malaysia's ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

Critics say that the structure, conceived when Malaysia was formed 50 years ago after the end of the British colonial era, is outdated and responsible for heightening racial tensions in the country.

However, Abdullah insisted the system ensured proper representation for all and that it would stay.

"I do not say that it is impossible but right now, it is not practical," he was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times yesterday.

The prime minister said that under a unified system, factions from different ethnic groups could emerge and promote their own candidates.

"The current approach is good as it allows all races to voice out their concerns, with problems being jointly addressed by the component parties," he told state news agency Bernama.

Gerakan youth chief Mah Siew Keong said at the party's youth conference last week that all coalition members should merge into one party to enhance national unity.

Another coalition member, the Malaysian Indian Congress, disagreed with the call for a consolidation.

"If the parties join together, the minority communities will become a small kacang [bean] in a curry," party president Samy Vellu told Bernama.