Anwar Ibrahim, former deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, who was in Mumbai for the global Islamic conference, spoke to DNA correspondent Prashant Hamine about charges of racial discrimination faced by Indians and other immigrants in Malaysia
What do you think about the racial discrimination faced by Indians in Malaysia?
Ours is a multiracial society and it is not just the Indians, but also the ethnic Malays and ethnic Chinese communities who have been complaining of racial discrimination. I have been consistently raising the issue for the past six to eight months. Although the Malaysian government has an affirmative action policy, it lacks transparency. Indians living in Kuala Lumpur are better off than those living outside Kuala Lumpur. Most live in abject poverty and lack basic necessities like water, food, etc.
How do you react to the concerns raised by the Indian government over the treatment of ethnic Indians?
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has raised the issue with the Malaysian government in a very polite and diplomatic manner. I hope it will make our government realise the treatment meted out to ethnic Indians. It is contradictory to complain about discrimination against Muslims in Burma and Palestine, while in our own country, Indians are being treated unfairly.
Do you agree that historically Indians have been treated as slaves in Malaysia?
It is not just the ethnic Indians, the Chinese and Malays are also complaining about ill-treatment. I don’t subscribe to the Hindraf’s (Hindu Rights Action Force) aggressive view, but pulling down temples [as the Malaysian government is doing] isn’t the way to go. It shows that we do not have faith in other religions. The problem in Malaysia is that the media, the judiciary and the various arms of the executive are lopsided. One does not hear the other.
Some Malaysian leaders believe that India must not get involved in local affairs…
These ministers are not aware of diplomatic niceties. When you raise issues of minorities being mistreated in other parts of the world, people are going to question the treatment of minorities in your own country.
What are you doing to resolve this crisis in Malayasia?
I have been openly engaging with the Indian community in Malaysia. I have been fighting their cases in our courts, even though I have been accused of being pro-India and pro-Hindu.