Monday, January 23, 2006

Malaysian ministers pull minorities memorandum - AFP


Malaysia's non-Muslim ministers have withdrawn a controversial memorandum which called on Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to protect the rights of religious minorities, local media said yesterday.

Eight of the Cabinet ministers who submitted the unprecedented memorandum -- which critics say constituted a breach of protocol -- have withdrawn it, with only one signatory remaining non-committal, said the New Straits Times.

"As advised by the PM, submitting the memo is procedurally inappropriate. Following his advice, we have withdrawn the memo," Housing and Local Government Minister Ong Ka Ting said in a joint statement to the official Bernama news agency.

But Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Bernard Dompok defended the memo, saying: "To my mind, it is an attempt by myself and my colleagues in the Cabinet to try to help in pointing out what are the possible things that had to be done in order to settle some of the issues that are involved."

"I think that is all contained in the memorandum and I don't think there is anything offensive in that," said Dompok.

The ministers came under fire from several colleagues at Wednesday's weekly Cabinet meeting after they submitted the memorandum, which calls for a review of laws and the constitution where they infringe on minorities' rights.

Their unusual move followed the controversial Muslim burial of well-known mountaineer M. Moorthy last month, despite his Hindu wife's protests, which sparked outrage among religious minorities.

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