ADUN SPEAKS | The political, social and economic development of Indians cannot be measured in static or unchanging circumstances. This is the reason why BN has not been able to bring about far reaching changes for the betterment of Indians in the country.
BN can have the best policies or programmes for Indian advancement, but these cannot be translated into practice simply because the political circumstances that give primacy to race and religion would not allow room for transformative changes.
In the recent seminar "National Consultation on Malaysia's Indian Dilemma" held in Petaling Jaya, a number of papers were presented on the themes of Indian poverty and envisioning the future for Indians. These panel discussions were followed by break-out workshops on transformation of Indian families, the role of the youths and on the future of the community. This seminar was organised under the initiative of DAP's Klang MP Charles Santiago and PKR's state assemblyperson for Seri Andalas, Xavier Jayakumar.
In my closing address I touched on the question on what the circumstances were, that Indians in the country could experience change for the better. In other words, the circumstances under which Indians would be able to address the myriad problems that have been plaguing them for more than six decades, particularly since political independence in 1957.
Essentially, my question was whether Indians as a numerically small community can take advantage of political circumstances that have not been favourable to them in the last six decades and more, particularly in the political milieu of the last four decades where politics of race and religion had acted towards the determent of Indians and other marginalised communities in Malaysia. Thus, if political circumstance are not favourable, even the best of intentions on the part of the political elite in BN could not have far-reaching effects in bringing about economic, political and social transformation of the Indians.
For instance, the Malaysian Indian Blueprint (MIB) might be a comprehensive document for the advancement of Indians, but unfortunately this document cannot be translated to benefit for the Indians, particularly the bottom 40 percent, simply because there is no political will on the part of those who control and manage political power.
Thus, you can come out with great and comprehensive documents for the advancement of Indians, however, if political circumstances are not there for the change and betterment of affected communities like the Indians, then these documents are simply without any use. Sooner or later, they will gather dust in one of the public libraries in the country.
Active role in change
The question of the socioeconomic advancement of Indians must address the question of larger and more comprehensive political change, and how the community can partake in this change. Way back in history, without the Indian Independence Movement during World War II that saw heavy involvement of the Indian rank and file, it would not have been possible for Indians to later participate in trade union activities and political parties in postwar Malaya.
In the immediate aftermath of the Hindraf protest movement in late 2007, it would be unthinkable for Indians to have participated en masse in ensuring the victory of Pakatan Rakyat in the general election of 2008. What was unthinkable for Indians was to some extent achieved following political change in states like Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor.
Without this macro political change with the full participation of Indians, it would be unthinkable for these states to have come within the fold of Pakatan.
Having been under BN for nearly 60 years, things have become ossified so much so that Indians can expect nothing from this regime. The ethnic and religious straightjacket has to be shredded for Indians and others to expect transformation. In the coming general election, Indians have no choice but to give their full cooperation towards unseating BN from national power. And without the participation of the Indians, it would not be possible for Pakatan Harapan to win seats in areas where Indians constitute sizeable numbers.
What I am trying to say is very simple: you cannot expect change for the betterment of the Indian community if the political, social and economic circumstances are static and unchanging. This is precisely what is happening under BN. Najib Razak might promise the "heavens" for Indians, but it is not possible for him to dismantle the hegemonic system that is in place, a system that is so pernicious or evil for the wellbeing and development of Indians in the country.
My argument: Indians or any other community longing for development and change cannot expect them from unchanging and static circumstances. Only when political change comes, then Indians through their participation can play a meaningful role in changing their present dilemma.
I am not saying that if Harapan wins the general election, there will be an overnight transformation of Indians. But I believe that the political and social circumstances will be much more conducive for progressive changes for Indians and others. This was what happened during the mini-political tsunami in 2008, and there is no reason to say that this would not happen during the major tsunami that we might expect very soon.
If Indians fully participate in the efforts of Harapan and if this coalition wins in the general election, then they are in the position to claim later that they were also responsible.
What better legitimacy than this!
P RAMASAMY is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang and the state assemblyperson for Perai.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.