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Malaysian Indian minister quits over 'betrayal'

Leader of the Hindu Rights Action Force, or Hindraf, Waytha Moorthy has resigned from Malaysia's cabinet in a move seen as a blow to the efforts of the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak to galvanise support from the country's Indian minority group.

Kuala Lumpur: The firebrand leader of the Hindu Rights Action Force, or Hindraf, P. Waytha Moorthy has quit the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The resignation by Waytha Moorthy, who angered Malaysia's Indian community by accepting a cabinet post last year to address the community's social problems from within the government, is seen as a blow to efforts by the Malay-led government to halt a slide in support from the country's sizable minority groups.

Although Waytha Moorthy has not yet publicly confirmed he has resigned, a spokesman for the Malaysian premier confirmed on Tuesday that Prime Minister Najib Razak had received the resignation.

"Waytha Moorthy tendered his letter to the prime minister yesterday," Mr Najib's spokesman told AFP, declining further comment.

While there are a small number of successful Indians in Malaysia, most are trapped in poverty and face difficulties in finding employment, entry into public universities and scholarships.

Hindraf said Waytha Moorthy was quitting over Mr Najib's failure to live up to promises to protect the rights of Malaysia's roughly 2 million ethnic Indians.

"We have now given up any hope of that happening, (after) eight months of trying," Hindraf secretary P. Ramesh said in a statement at the weekend that also accused the government of a "historic act of betrayal."

"We sincerely apologise to (Malaysian Indians) for the hopes we had raised. Hindraf now opens another chapter in our struggle after this."

In 2007, Hindraf staged a mass street protest alleging discrimination against ethnic Indians that drew 8,000 people.

It prompted a police crackdown and the arrest of several Hindraf activists.

In elections in 2008 and last year, minority voters have increasingly rejected the status quo under the Malay-led political coalition Barisan Nasional (National Front) that has ruled for 57 years.

After elections last May where Barisan notched its worst showing ever, Prime Minister Najib brought Waytha Moorthy into the cabinet, pledging to address Indian concerns. 

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