A group of Malaysian lawyers demanding affirmative action for the nation's ethnic Indians vowed yesterday to sue top police and legal officials who claimed it had ties to terrorists.
Malaysia has tried to paint the group, the Hindu Rights Action Force, or Hindraf, in terrorist colors after it organized a rare protest by 10,000 ethnic Indians last month. Malaysia's police chief said it was trying to provoke racial clashes.
But Hindraf dismissed the accusation as ridiculous, saying it was pursuing its objectives by legal, peaceful means.
"They're bankrupt of ideas to punish us," the group's legal adviser, P. Uthayakumar, said.
"They've no more bullets to fire so they're firing this at us. It's like killing a fly with a sledgehammer, because we're so small," he said.
Multiracial Malaysia has brushed aside claims that it has mistreated its ethnic Indians, saying they are better off than those still at home.
But ethnic Indians, who make up about 7 percent of a population of roughly 26 million, complain of a lack of educational and business opportunities, saying government affirmative-action policies that favor majority ethnic Malays have marginalized them.
Police chief Musa Hassan on Thursday accused Hindraf of seeking assistance from terrorist groups.
"Of late there have been indications that Hindraf is trying to seek support and help from terrorist groups," Musa told state news agency Bernama. "The police are concerned over Hindraf's activities and will not hesitate to take harsh action to guarantee the nation's peace and security."
Uthayakumar said Musa's remarks echoed courtroom comments by Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail linking the group to Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels, and dared both officials to produce evidence of their claims.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi defended a crackdown on recent anti-government protests, including by ethnic minority Indians, saying he would not tolerate people who incite violence for "personal gains."
In an opinion piece published yesterday in the Asian Wall Street Journal, Abdullah wrote that "the right to protest is fundamental, but it is a right that must be matched by a responsibility to respect general public safety."
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