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Mitra a welcome move for 'Malaysia Baru'

LETTER | The recent announcement on the rebranding of Sedic – the socio-economic development of the Indian community unit to the new entity Mitra – the Malaysian Indian Transformation Unit is indeed timely and of utmost importance. This was announced by its new director-general S Letchumanan on Dec 22.

Earlier on Nov 19, I made a visit to meet the new DG to be updated on the process and developments since the new government took over at Putrajaya. They were cordial and informative.

I could notice that there was a change of staffing and reorganising of the unit which focused on addressing development concerns of the poorer sections namely the Bottom 40 percent of Malaysian Indians.

As one who has been active in the policy development process for some time over the past 20 over years and as co-editor of the Contemporary Malaysian Indian (2016: Kita-UKM), let me draw some priorities for Mitra over the next two years.

First, the Mitra team will need to review the Malaysian Indian Blueprint (2018) and update the policy thrust to make it consistent with the midterm review of the Eleventh Malaysia Plan. Having a policy document which takes into consideration the Pakatan Harapan manifesto’s “Special commitment for the Indians” is necessary.

This can serve as the framework for action and a policy document which is based on the inclusive development and wellbeing approach of the Harapan government as contained in the mid-term review of the Eleventh Malaysia Plan (page 11-4).

Second, adopting a Sustainable Development Goals approach which is comprehensive with 17 goals and with the agenda of “leaving no one behind” will foster greater compliance to the multi-dimensional poverty indicators with a focus on addressing urban poverty and deprivation issues.

Here more work needs to be undertaken as the mid-term review document is a little weak on this matter and in order for greater inclusion of the urban poor, a review must be undertaken for the implementation by other agencies beyond Mitra to resolve the issues of the B40 community among us.

Third, Mitra must develop a clear strategy to reach the B40 Malaysian Indians in 38 districts in Peninsular Malaysia where 95 percent of Malaysian Indians are living in, especially in urban poor neighbourhoods such as high-rise low-cost flats, longhouses and squatters or former plantation land.

Strengthening partnership and networking with all the federal, state and local authority agencies is necessary to meet the needs of the B40 communities beyond the role of CSO-NGOs via special funding. Specific targeting is necessary especially in the identification and social preparation of urban poor families and communities.

Fourth, it is imperative that Mitra sets up a community consultative committee or council with key representatives from political, religious, social, cultural organisations including representatives from professional and academic institutions. This could also be the monitoring and accountability groups.

It is of utmost importance that necessary and timely information is disseminated. Disaggregated data collection is necessary including gender, age and socio-economic background so as to ensure Mitra's special measures reach the actual target group.

Finally, it is important for Mitra and Harapan MPs in the cabinet and in Parliament to review the cabinet community of Indian concerns which is to be chaired by the PM or his deputy to enhance inter-agency cooperation.

This could be revamped to review all minority concerns or even focus collectively on B40 concerns. There could also be a parliamentary select committee or caucus on minority concerns or poverty and inequality which monitors the delivery and implication of public sector programmes for the socio-economic upliftment of all the vulnerable and disadvantaged communities in Malaysian society.

Wishing Mitra all the best in the New Year.

The writer is principal research fellow at the Institute of Ethnic Studies, UKM and co-chair of the Malaysian CSO-SDG Alliance.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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