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Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on Sunday, 8th February 2009:

Zahid Hamidi and UMNOs racist politics

The call by Perak UMNO liaison deputy chairman Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to any opposition state assemblyman welcoming them to cross over to Barisan Nasional is both shocking and foolish.

He says these defections are the best way to bring progress to the Indian community. Ahmad Zahid's reasoning contradicts the rhetoric by UMNO and Najib who have been trumpeting that the Malay-majority line-up is capable of serving Perakians, irrespective of race.

Zahid's statement clearly shows they are not and the welcome mat for opposition leaders is only to show a semblance of Indian representation in the state government. UMNO is incapable of shirking communal politics and this also exposes deep-rooted racism that forms the fundamental basis of the party.

The story of the Indian community has been one of progressive deterioration over the last 52 years. Although the Indians constitute 8% of the total population, they own less than 1.2% of its national wealth.

That 1.2% of wealth is shared by wealthy businessmen, MIC leaders and several MIC-linked cronies.

But the minority community faces severe problems of crime and hardcore poverty. Gangsterism and violent crime, not to mention the highest rate of suicide is associated with the Indians.

Failure of the government to look into the welfare of the Indians has led to a simmering discontent of the community, leading to the street protest on November 25th, 2007.

In short, the UMNO-led government has failed to look into the well-being of the Indian community. There was no political will to do so. We, therefore, cannot expect miracles in Perak.

But again, who would want to join an illegally-elected government despite massive poaching efforts? Unless of course if they are coerced and maybe even kidnapped and forced to defect.

Even Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is ashamed to face Perakians after pulling off a shameless coup to topple the Pakatan Rakyat government. He did not show up at a Chinese New Year function citing security reasons. But the people certainly know better.

Their anger led to the unprecedented demonstration against the Ruler in the royal town of Kuala Kangsar, braving water cannons and tear gas. The people also took their anger to cyber space, forcing the Sultan to deactivate the guestbook.

The constitutional crisis caused by the Sultan has a snow ball effect - currently we have two chief ministers in Perak. With no clear end in sight for the political mess in Perak, the least UMNO members can do is stop making nonsensical statements.

* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang



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