Malaysian opposition parties, led by former Deputy Premier Anwar Ibrahim, on Wednesday demanded talks with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi over the "brutal" crackdown on anti-government protesters, including ethnic Indians.
"The main issues we want to raise (with Badawi) are the racial and religious tensions affecting this country... And the need for free and fair elections," Ibrahim, who was himself briefly detained yesterday, said while condemning the police crackdown on protesters.
"These are legitimate grievances of the people regardless of whether they are Hindus or Muslims."
Scores of protesters, including ethnic Indians demonstrating against their alleged marginalisation, have been detained by the Malaysian authorities in recent weeks.
Ibrahim, who supported the non-governmental Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) spearheading the protests by ethnic Indians, said Badawi must face issues affecting the nation.
His comments came a day after more than 20 opposition activists were arrested when they tried to stage a protest in front of Parliament here against the extension of the tenure of the Election Commission chief. A senior leader of Hindraf, P Uttayakumar, was also re-arrested yesterday on sedition charges.
The Malaysian capital has been witnessing attempts by groups to hold demonstrations, which are rare in the Muslim-dominated country.
The first major demonstration was held on November 10 by Bersih, a group of opposition parties, when at least 30,000 people assembled and demanded electoral reforms.