Malaysian Indians' political party rejects merger proposal

Singapore, May 28 (IANS) Malaysian political party Indian Progressive Front (IPF) has shot down a proposal to merge the party with the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC).

IPF president M. Sambanthan said that, while his party was ready to help the Indian community in the southeast Asian nation, it was difficult for him to envision dissolving his party for the sake of a merger, the New Straits Times reported Tuesday.

"We can join MIC when it comes to solving problems faced by the community, but we have been struggling for the past 23 years and will not give up our own identity," he was quoted as saying.

MIC president G. Palanivel had said that his party would discuss merger with political parties representing Indians in Malaysia or those with a large number of ethnic Indians as members.

These parties include the IPF, the People's Progressive Party (PPP), the Malaysian Indian United Party (MUIP) and the Makkal Sakthi.

Palanivel had said that the issue was raised during MIC's central working committee meeting May 24.

MIC is one of the three major constituents in Malaysia's ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, the other two being the United Malays National Organisation and the Malaysian Chinese Association.

Formed in 1946, MIC is one of the oldest political parties in that country.

According to the MIC president, the idea behind such a merger is to serve the interests of the Indian community in Malaysia for the 14th general elections in that country.

The MIC won just four parliamentary seats in the 13th general elections held May 5, the same number it had prior to the polls, and five state seats, down from seven it had earlier.

IPF president Sambanthan, however, said that he was open to a meeting with Palanivel to hear the latter's ideas to serve the interests of the Indian community.

The MIC has 500,000 members while the IPF has 135,000 members.

Meanwhile, the MUIP and the Makkal Sakthi said that they were open to the idea of a merger with the MIC.

"We'll wait and see what Palanivel proposes, but for the sake of the Indian community and the country's development, nothing bad can happen from us merging together," MUIP president S. Nallakaruppan was quoted as saying.

Makkal Sakthi president R.S. Thanenthiran also welcomed MIC's proposal but said Palanivel's proposal should include prioritising the welfare of the Indian community.

Ethnic Indians comprise a little over seven percent of Malaysia's total population of nearly 30 million.

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