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NEWS UPDATES 20 July 2009

Malaysia ruling party member defects to opposition

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A senior member of Malaysia's ruling Barisan Nasional coalition has quit over its alleged abuse of power and the mysterious death of an opposition leader's aide, reported AFP.

Former health minister Chua Jui Meng, 66, of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), which is the second largest party in the Barisan Nasional, Saturday joined opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's Keadilan party.

"Today I announce that I am resigning as a member of MCA. Now I announce I am joining PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat)," Chua said in a statement late Saturday. Chua had been a member of the MCA for 33 years.

"We see the abuse of power in the use of the federal institutions to harass, persecute and prosecute the leader of the opposition," he added, in reference to Anwar's sodomy trial.

Anwar has rejected the sodomy allegations levelled by a 23-year-old former aide as a conspiracy to derail his plan to topple the government.

Khoo Kay Peng, an independent political analyst, told AFP Sunday that Chua's defection was a "big blow" to the MCA.

"It is a big blow to MCA. Chua is a charismatic leader. His defection will not only help woo votes to the opposition but also build voter confidence for the Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance," he said.

Khoo said the Pakatan coalition has a fair chance to advance its gains in the next polls due in 2011 if the three coalition partners enhance cooperation.

After seizing control of a third of seats in parliament, it is now vowing to unseat the Barisan Nasional coalition -- which has ruled Malaysia for half a century -- in the next general elections.

Chua in his speech also said that the sudden death of a young opposition political aide, Teoh Beng Hock, became the tipping point in his decision to join Keadilan.

"The tragic death of 30-year-old Teoh Beng Hock is the consequence of one such institution going overboard in its action," he added.

Teoh, an assistant to a member of the state cabinet in Selangor, which is ruled by the Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance, apparently plunged from the 14th floor of anti-corruption offices.

His body was found on Thursday sprawled on the roof of an adjacent building, after he had undergone questioning late into the night at the offices of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

The opposition has demanded a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the death.

Police said an initial autopsy confirmed the cause of death was multiple injuries caused by a fall from a high place. They have not ruled out foul play.

Meanwhile, an ethnic Indian activist who was held under a tough security law for mounting an anti-discrimination rally in 2007, launched a political party to champion the rights of marginalised people.

"Human Rights Party is an Indian-based multiracial party. UMNO is our enemy due to its gross injustices against minority ethnic Indians," P. Uthayakumar told AFP.

"We would also struggle against all forms of racial discrimination by the UMNO-led government," he added. Uthayakumar, 48, was freed in May.

Ethnic Indians, who make up less than eight percent of the 27 million population of the mainly Muslim-Malay country, say they fare badly in terms of education, wealth and employment opportunities.

There are already half-a-dozen ethnic Indian-based political parties in the country but most are aligned to the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) which leads the Barisan Nasional coalition in government.



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