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MIC’s ‘tunnel’ vision for Indian Malaysians

The MIC leadership is in disarray. It might he the oldest Indian Malaysian political party in the country, but today, it has lost its sense of purpose and has been reduced to an outfit that allegedly survives on the lifeline extended by Umno.

Despite the non-direction of the party as far as Indian Malaysians are concerned, its leaders continue to make suggestions that are petty, frivolous and even nonsensical. They lack the honesty, forthrightness and boldness in outlining the major challenges that the Indian Malaysian community might face in the coming years.

A few days ago, Dr S Subramaniam, the president of MIC and the Health Minister, remarked that Indian youths should venture into the filed of information technology to market Murukku (a South Indian ‘twisted’ crunchy snack).

A few years back, one of the MIC’s vice-presidents, M Saravanan, who is also the Deputy Youth and Sports Minister, formed an organisation called New Affirmative Action Movement or NAAM (inappropriately termed as an affirmative action programme) to address the socio-economic problems faced by Indian Malaysians.

NAAM was to identify lands to motivate Indian Malaysian youths to plant and market chilli through out the country. Although there was some initial enthusiasm, the programme faltered when it was realised that the entire project was politically motivated to bolster the political image of Saravanan.

About two or three years ago when G Palanivel was then the MIC president, he also came with a bold idea to urge Indian Malaysian youths to return to the estates to take up jobs that were being monopolised by foreigners. He felt that if Indian Malaysian youths could take up the jobs, the country could reduce its dependence on foreign labour.

He said this without realising that the Indian Malaysian migration from estates to urban areas had begun in the 1970s and it was an irreversible process. Moreover, the close identification of estates with poverty and illiteracy amongst the Indian Malaysians were enough to deter them from ever thinking of moving back to plantations.

There is nothing wrong for Indian Malaysian youths to venture into Murukku marketing through information technology or for them to pursue agricultural initiatives such as chilli planting. But then, there is no necessity for MIC leaders to mention these when Indian Malaysians have proven to be good agriculturalists and fantastic Murukku makers in the country for a long time.

What the MIC leaders need to do is to find out why Indian Malaysians are lagging behind others in the economic and social realms.

‘What they need is a level playing field’

Indian Malaysian youths don’t need advice from their leaders on these petty matters, but what they want is some direction without being subjected to discrimination and marginalisation. What they need is a level playing field.

What these leaders should have done or should be doing is to ensure that Indian Malaysians are not discriminated against when it comes to obtaining licences, contracts and privileges from government and quasi-government agencies. When Indian Malaysians are denied opportunities on the basis of their ethnicity, how is it then possible for the community to make advances in the social and economic realms?

The MIC leaders, by suggesting ill-thought out projects, show their ignorance on the possible challenges and dilemmas faced by the Indian Malaysian community. If a sizeable segment of Indian Malaysians are without citizenship, how it possible for them to take advantage of the advice offered?

No one expects the government to provide flexibility to Indian Malaysians to obtain citizenship or identity papers, but surely there are thousands of Indian Malaysians who have been denied their legal status in the country just because the government is dragging its feet on the matter.

Subramaniam is not able to question Ahmad Zahid Hamidi when he said that Indian Malaysians would not be shown any flexibility in the granting of citizenship. Surely Subramaniam as the leader of the MIC could have asked Zahid and pointed out that issue is not about flexibility but the right of qualified Indian Malaysians to obtain their citizenship.

If foreigners have no problems in sorting out their citizenship papers within a record time, why should the government not act in the interest of the Indian Malaysian community? Anyway what is wrong if some flexibility is shown when thousands of Indian Malaysians have been denied their right to live as citizens?

Why is the MIC so timid? Why can’t the leaders forget their self-interest for once to raise very fundamental questions for the betterment of the Indian Malaysian community? Isn’t it an utter disgrace and shame for the party to keep its silence when a government for all these years has been systematically sidelining the community that has contributed so much to the well-being of the country?

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak might be right when he said at a recent MIC gathering that its leaders should not think of safeguarding their governmental positions by ignoring the plight of their community.

P RAMASAMY is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang and the state assemblyperson for Perai.

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