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 Monday, 20 January, 2003, 13:30 GMT
Malaysian police raid website office
A man removes a computer from the editorial department of the Malaysiakini.com headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on Monday
Police took away all Malaysiakini's computers
Malaysian police have raided the offices of the independent news website, Malaysiakini.

The editor of the site, Steven Gan, told BBC News Online the police had taken away all of its headquarters' 19 computers and servers.

It is an obscenity to see well-fed Malays driving around in Mercedes Benzes and drawing fat salaries, yet availing themselves of... bumiputera (ethnic Malay) discount

Letter published by Malaysikini.com
The raid on Monday was in connection with a complaint issued by the youth wing of Malaysia's ruling party, Umno, over a letter carried by Malaysiakini which criticised the government's preferential treatment of ethnic Malays.

The party complained that the letter carried false accusations, could instil hatred towards the government among non-Malays and contained seditious remarks "that could create chaos in the country".

A police investigation is now under way based on the country's sedition act, Mr Gan said.

'Not seditious'

The police asked Malaysiakini to reveal the author of the offending letter, and when the journalists refused to break their source's anonymity, the police said they would take the office's computers, Mr Gan said.

Favours for Malays
University places
Business licenses
Housing
The police were told that only one of the computers was capable of downloading letters, but "they insisted on taking the whole lot", Mr Gan told BBC News Online. Malaysiakini is now reliant on a back-up server outside the office, and is still writing stories.

A crowd of at least 200 people has been staging a candle-lit vigil outside Malaysiakini's offices in support.

Mr Gan said he was to make a police statement on Tuesday.

"My opinion is that (the letter) is not seditious... I am convinced it is a factual comparison between what is happening in the US and what is happening here," Mr Gan said.

"I think these guys (Umno) have been watching us," he added. The letter was not the real issue, but simply "allowed them the chance to come in here to shut us down", he said.

The letter was posted on the Malaysiakini site on Thursday, in response to a defence of the country's policy on ethnic Malays.

The letter is strongly critical of the government's preferential treatment of this ethnic group, occasionally using uncompromising language.

"It is an obscenity to see well-fed Malays driving around in Mercedes Benzes and drawing fat salaries, yet availing themselves of 7.5% bumiputera (ethnic Malay) discount' for posh houses, plentiful government scholarship forms to go overseas, entitlement to bumiputera unit trusts... when everyone else is in recession or going broke," the letter said.

"There has been a lot of unhappiness" about "rich Malays abusing such privileges", Mr Gan said.

Benefits

Malays retain certain benefits under affirmative action programmes introduced in 1971. Along with indigenous people, they make up nearly 60% of the population with ethnic Chinese accounting for around 26% and Indians for 7%.

The special privileges established quotas allowing Malays to enter universities and gain employment even if less qualified than applicants from other races.

They also allocated 30% of the equity in local companies to Malays.

The policy was brought in to help the progress of Malays who in the 1970s were seen as economically disadvantaged.

See also:

03 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
01 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
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20 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
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