Malaysiakini Letter

My reply to Prof Ramasamy on ‘tunnel’ vision

M Saravanan  |  Published:  |  Modified:

I write with reference to Professor P Ramasamy’s article in Malaysiakini entitled ‘MIC’s 'tunnel' vision for Indian Malaysians’. First and foremost I wish to state here that I have the utmost respect for Professor Ramasamy as the Deputy Chief Minister II for Penang, chairperson of the Penang Hindu Endowments Board and a fellow researcher.

As Prof Ramasamy has correctly pointed out, MIC is the largest Indian based representative party in the federal government today and MIC has been around for more than 70 years. Admittedly, what started as a platform to empower and educate the Indian Malaysian community has now slightly wavered.

However, I do not agree with Prof Ramasamy that MIC has reached a point of no return. MIC may have wavered but eventually it will regain its consciousness and return with a vigour. After all, this was the party responsible for influencing much of the identity construction of Indian Malaysians in Malaysia since 1946 as affirmed by Kailasam A in his 2015 paper ‘Political Expediencies and the Process of Identity Construction’.

The MIC’s comeback has been demonstrated by numerous programmes organised and run by MIC which has been beneficial to the Indian Malaysian community at large.

In the sports arena, the Malaysian Indian Football Association (MIFA) has done a very good job in attracting young Indian teenagers towards football and encouraging them to play in the 2017 Malaysian Premier League. This indirectly has helped reduce the social ills such as crime and gangsterism in the Indian Malaysian community because schools have now become breeding ground for crime.

From the business perspective, the Secretariat of Empowerment of Indian Entrepreneurs (SEED) has helped small and medium enterprises to kick start their businesses with assistance from SME Bank and Tekun loans.

For citizenship issues, the Special Implementation Taskforce for the Indian Community (SITF) has been established and they have been holding roadshows throughout the nation to assist those Indian Malaysians who need help with registration of MyKad. All these initiatives are commendable.

Of course I do not deny that MIC has been plagued by various problems in the past which would be academic to repeat here. After the two general elections, MIC needs to make people believe again that it is relevant for the future of Indians. It is submitted here that under party president Dr S Subramaniam, the assumption that MIC is a label for incompetence and inefficiency is slowly being dispelled.

Under the leadership of the current president, there have been specific strategies and plans to attract highly educated Indian Malaysian professionals to lead the MIC in the near future.

I believe when Dr Subramaniam advocated for youths to sell Muruku Online, he meant that E-commerce is an area for Indian Malaysian youths to explore. He is absolutely right and far-sighted. E-commerce is stronger and faster today than it has ever been. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) in its 2015-2016 Outlook for Consumer Products in Asia reported that convergence and Innovation in E-commerce is set to dominate the marketplace selling.

New opportunities emerging

As technology changes business-to-consumer transactions, new opportunities for youths and businesses are emerging. These opportunities range from food transactions to simple daily chores being outsourced through the e-commerce platform. I believe that this idea should be further developed by Yayasan Strategik Sosial (YSS) or its like and an e-commerce platform for Indian Malaysian youths should be created. I believe that is the actual vision of the president.

In fact, we can go a step further and introduce S-Commerce (Social Commerce) to supplement E-Commerce. In a 2016 study by Noor Azuan Hashim from University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) entitled ‘Riding the waves of Social Commerce’, face-to-face surveys were conducted involving 105 Malaysian entrepreneurs who had access to social media.

The findings revealed that most entrepreneurs in this study believed that social commerce is the future way of doing their businesses. In fact, they believed that every entrepreneur needs to engage with social media as they would not only allow the entrepreneur to discuss his products and services with other people but also assist him to make vital and critical business decisions. Therefore Prof, it may be easy to dismiss these sorts of noble visions if it is not spelt out clearly.

Similarly, it is also easy to dismiss the efforts done by MIC grassroots that constantly goes unnoticed by opposition members. There is a silent majority of MIC members who have been conducting socio-economic programmes for the rural community without much publicity and fanfare.

For instance, as an MIC member myself, I run a free legal aid clinic in Hutan Melintang, Perak and I always emphasise, let it be for Indians, Chinese or Malays to have knowledge of their rights and liabilities. I explain to them about the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and the need to safeguard their rights enshrined in the Constitution.

I believe this sort of an empowerment of rights can help reduce the incidences of deaths in police custody, indulgence in criminal activities and issues of unemployment among the Indian Malaysian community that we are currently experiencing.

I have also spoken about issues of Technology, Finance and Economic Empowerment in my weekly seminars for the Indian Malaysian community in Hutan Melintang, Perak and all this is being done under Dr Subramaniam’s leadership.

On a separate note, opposition state representatives have constantly used unavailability of funds allocation by the state government or their own parties as a reason not to conduct socio-economic programmes. I do not receive any particular allocation from anyone and I do my best not to burden the party with constant budget requests. With my limited resources, I am able to do a minimum of one or two Indian Malaysian socio-economic programmes per month in rural Perak.

It is indeed a question mark as to why certain Indian Malaysian state representatives from the opposition party could not conduct good programmes for the rural communities when they are given salaries to do so? With all due respect Prof, is this not a form of neglecting the Indian Malaysian community, too?

DR M SARAVANAN, PhD, is a member of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) in Hutan Melintang, Perak.

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