Riot police greeted thousands of minority protesters in Malaysia’s capital of Kuala Lumpur, turning back their calls for increased social benefits with water cannons and tear gas.
The protesters, primarily Tamils, seek business licenses, access to scholarships and “other privileges reserved exclusively for native Maylays,” reports Asia Times Online.
Tamil activists also sought reparations from the United Kingdom for relocating their ancestors to Malaysia as indentured laborers 150 years ago, according to the Web site.
The protestors represent a Hindu minority that makes up roughly eight percent of the population in the majority Muslim nation.
Economic programs established in the 1970s have created a burgeoning middle class, but one that is limited to Malays.
With general elections coming up in early 2008, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim blamed the incumbent government of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi for widening ethnic divisions, and said he would overturn discriminatory legislation if he tops the poll.
“Ethnic edge to Malaysian rally politics”
Asia Times Online, November 27, 2007