In the recently concluded 'Oturmei Ponggal' event at Dataran Merdeka, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak rolled out a list of so-called ‘pro-Indians' policies, eying the community's vote in upcoming 13th general election.
Among all the announcements given that night, there is one announcement that got the attention of most Malaysian Indians. It is Najib's announcement that he will increase the Malaysian Indians' equity to three percent.
This statement came from the sixth prime minister of the country that claimed its independence some 55 years ago.
For the past 55 years, the country has been ruled by only one coalition called Barisan Nasional, which Najib is currently the head of now. And Najib's announcement itself is evidence that BN had failed in increasing the equity of Indians for the past 55 years.
In short, Najib is saying that he will resolve this issue which has been left unattended for some 55 years within another five years, if he is given the people's trust or 'nambikei'. Before giving this election promise, can Najib tell the Indian community in Malaysia, why the Indians' equity did not increase in the past 55 years?
Why did the community not see any improvement in terms of equity, although there were 10 'Malaysia Plans' that had been implemented so far? How did the National Economic Policy (NEP) that Najib's father, Abdul Razak Hussein minted long ago, failed the Indian community, since the main objective of the policy is to end the economic inequality among the multiracial Malaysian society?
The only answer for all these questions is that the Barisan Nasional government did not have the political will to address the woes of Malaysian Indians for the past 55 years. All of a sudden, the current prime minister is promising to increase the equity from the current 1.2 percent to three percent. This magic number of ‘three' still remains as the unachieved target when it comes to the Indians' equity for the past few decades.
This certainly proves BN's lack of seriousness in addressing the issue. One would definitely wonder on how Najib would increase the Malaysian Indians' equity to three percent in the next five years, since it has been an unachieved target for the past few decades? And if Najib can increase the Indians' equity in the next five years as he claims, what steps has he taken in the past four years of his term as the prime minister?
‘Najib's not really serious about it'
If Najib is really serious about it, he should have taken some pro-active measures to increase the Indians' equity in the past four years of his term as prime minister within the portfolio of finance.
It is an undeniable fact that Najib had not lifted a finger on the issue of Indian equity during his four-year term as prime minister and finance minister, and now all of a sudden, when we are two months away from the general election, he's promising to bring an overnight change in regards to Malaysian Indians equity?
I am sure that a lot of pro-BN ‘economists' will dispute my argument and say that what Najib is saying is definitely achievable in five years with a strong mandate from the people. What are the mechanisms that Najib's government is going to implement to achieve the target, if Najib's promise to increase the Indians' equity is workable? In the 80s, they started Maika Holdings with the objective of achieving the target.
There were millions of government-linked corporations' (GLC) shares allocated to the company, which was an investment arm of BN's main component party, MIC. After that, there were number of allegations came about the mismanagement of the company which failed to achieve the formation objective. In fact, it was a known secret that all those GLC shares which were allocated to Maika Holdings were hijacked by certain individuals for their own benefit.
Does Najib have a plan to form such a company to fulfil his promise to the Indian community to achieve the three percent equity target? And will it be once again under the supervision of MIC? Or will it be controlled by Najib's newly-found ethnic Indian political friends, like those of the Makkal Sakthi Party? Or perhaps through his good friend Kenneth Ishwaran's Chambers of Commerce?
Does Najib have a plan of creating an Indian version of Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhari to achieve the target? It should be noted that there are few ethnic Indians in the list of Forbes' Malaysia's 40 richest men, all having the collective wealth of USD$5.24 billion. Anandhakrishnan, Tony Fernandes, Vinod Sekhar, Gnanalingam and Kasi K L Palaniappan are the elite five in the Forbes' list.
So if Najib has plans to ‘create' an Indian version of Syed Mokhtar with the wealth matching these five men, it is still not enough to achieve the target. So what exactly are Najib's plans in this case? Or does Najib really believe that his on-off 1Malaysia People's Aid (BR1M) of RM 500 to the majority-Indian households will solve the financial woes of the community, and together increase the community's equity?
Najib should not just talk, but should outline the mechanisms as well. Talk is cheap, Mr PM.
Anyhow, is the prime minister not aware that his recent announcements - in regards to the Indian community - are a bit too late after BN had failed the community for the past five decades after gaining the community's undivided support? Does he really believe that Malaysian Indians will fall for his sweet promises again?
The Indian community's contribution in the nation-building of Malaysia is undeniable, yet the community was denied the basic fundamental rights as citizens of the country. There are thousands of ethnic Indians who were born on this soil and are denied their rights for citizenship, and consequently, education and employment. These were the achievements of BN for the Indians in the past fifty years. Now the Indians are more than aware of their conditions in this country under BN's rule.
Therefore, the Indians will definitely not fall for Najib's promise of a drastic increase of the three percent equity, but will instead root for the alternative front, that is Pakatan Rakyat in the coming general election.
SATEES MUNIANDY is the research and development bureau chief of Democratic Action Party Socialist Youth (Dapsy) Malaysia.