Page last updated at 17:14 GMT, Friday, 28 November 2008

Pledge to aid Malaysia minorities

By Steve Jackson
Asia Pacific analyst - BBC News

Najib Razak
Najib Razak is currently finance minister and deputy prime minister

Malaysia's deputy prime minister, Najib Razak, says he will do more to address the grievances of minority groups when he becomes prime minister.

In a BBC interview, Mr Najib promised further measures to tackle the problems of the ethnic Indian minority.

Anger has been growing among Indians over laws that favour the Malay majority in business and education.

Mr Najib is expected to take office in March when the current prime minister, Abdullah Badawi, steps down.

Voters want change

His arrival will follow a turbulent period in Malaysia, which has seen an opposition electoral revival, growing political conflict and protests from angry minority groups.

If they are legitimate grievances we will take steps to address them
Najib Razak

Mr Najib acknowledged that Malaysian voters would want to see changes when he took office and that he needed to regain the trust of non-Malays in particular.

However Mr Najib warned that the Hindu activist network, Hindraf, which has organised large public protests, has complicated attempts to tackle the problems of ethnic Indians.

"I would like to separate the genuine concerns and the concerns exploited by Hindraf, because some of their demands are totally unrealistic," he said.

"We cannot pander to those kind of demands, but if they are legitimate grievances we will take steps to address them."

Constructive opposition

Mr Najib said the government would be more careful in future about the way it uses the security laws following anger over the recent detentions of several government critics, including a well-known blogger and a member of parliament.

However, he criticised the tactics of the political opposition which has tried to link him to the murder of a Mongolian translator in 2006.

One of Mr Najib's political associates was put on trial for the murder but was acquitted.

"In a system of democracy you've got to have an opposition and we hope it is an opposition that engages in healthy constructive politics," he said.

"I hope that they will not get involved in the unethical exploitation of any issue just to get more support from the people."

On the global economic crisis, Mr Najib said Malaysia would be hit by some of the problems, but was better placed to cope than many other countries because of reforms introduced following the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s.

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