Malaysia losing investment over pro-Malay policies: Anwar

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Jan 25 15:42:53 UTC 2008

Malaysia losing investment over pro-Malay policies: Anwar

HONG KONG (AFP) — One of Malaysia's leading opposition figures said
Thursday the country was losing out economically to regional rivals
because of long-running policies favouring ethnic Malays. Former
Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said Malaysia's ability to attract
foreign investment had been compromised by keeping the country's
affirmative action policies in favour of the Malay majority. "That
policy is obsolete... We are losing our competitiveness. Malaysia is
less competitive than the 1990s," Anwar, whose Keadilan party is
formally led by his wife, told reporters in Hong Kong. "Foreign
investments, we have lost. Growth, we have lost. Attractiveness, which
is key to an emerging market, is lost.

"Not to China and India, but to Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia
because of our obsolete policies. If you persist in pursuing this
agenda, you do it not only at the expense of the Chinese and the
Indians, but also of the Malays." Malaysia has pursued the policies
for Malays and indigenous groups known as "bumiputras" since the 1970s
to close a wealth gap with the minority Chinese community.
In recent months, the government has been shaken by rare public
demonstrations which erupted last November, including against alleged
discrimination against Malaysia's ethnic Indians.

Anwar added that Malaysia's creeping "Islamisation" was also turning
away foreign investors. Malaysia has experienced a string of religious
controversies in recent months. A Catholic newspaper was banned from
using the word "Allah", or "God", in its Malay language section, while
a Hindu woman lost her bid to stop the conversion of her child to
Islam after Malaysia's highest court ruled that her now-Muslim husband
can convert their elder son. Anwar was sacked from the former
government of Mahathir Mohamad in 1998 after being jailed for six
years following sodomy and corruption charges.

The sodomy charge was later overturned and Anwar was released but he
is barred from public office or holding any position with a political
party until April because of the corruption conviction. Anwar added
that an upcoming election, expected to be held in March, would be
crucial in determining Malaysia's future. "Given free and fair
elections, these elections will be a defining moment for the country,"
said Anwar, at a press conference organised by the Hong Kong-based
Asian Human Rights Commission.

He added he thought his opposition Keadilan party would damage Prime
Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's United Malays National  Organisation
(UMNO) in the vote. UMNO has ruled the country for 50 years. Anwar
said about 20 potential legislators running for his party were
prepared to stand down once he is able to take part in a by-election
after his ban expires.

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