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Thursday March 22

Will Indians remain just sweepers and guards?
P Ramasamy

1:42pm, Thu: Of late, a series of incidents in the country have revealed the vulnerability of the Indian community. Today it has
become a common practice to talk of Indians as a minority, weak in terms of their political and economic status, a community afflicted with all kinds of problems, a community prone to engage in most violent forms of conduct and others.

If there is an incident, there is tendency on the part of the Indian middle-class and other ethnic groups to put the blame on Indians in general. For instance, in the Petaling Jaya Selatan episode, an impression was given the racial strife were caused by some irresponsible Indian gang members. In brief, there is growing tendency to view Indians as a problematic
community in the country afflicted with all kinds of political, economic and social ills. A community waiting to be rescued from the clutches of evil by political parties, the government and other welfare-orientated organisations.

Of course, there is growing amnesia on the part of many to disregard the immense contribution of this particular community in making Malaysia what it is. Brought from India as semi-slaves in the beginning of the last century, they cleared the forest, hills and other physical impediments so that modern infrastructure could be built.

Plantations would not have been the mainstay of the Malaysian economy until the 1960s and 1970s had it not been for the
contribution - sweat and blood - of Indian labourers. Thousands perished in building this country to what it is today. After more than hundred years of their existence, Indians remain poor, neglected, patronised and marginalised in a country that was build by them and others.

More than this, they have been subjected to worst forms of discrimination, shunned and pushed to the edge of the mainstream
society. Paradoxically, they are considered a burden to the nation.

Impossible dream

Given the viciousness of racial politics perpetrated by the present ruling regime, Indians by themselves stand no chance to compete and struggle to better themselves. Lacking the historical experience of capital accumulation like the Chinese and unable to obtain governmental assistance like Malays, Indians are basically afloat in a quagmire without the benefit of an alternative leadership.

A leadership that will provide the community with a new political vision, a vision that will take them from the present doldrums so that one day they could emerge proud and dignified. The racial game of Malay hegemony has caused irreparable damage to the human existence of Indians, particularly those who belong to the working class category.

Racial ideology and the everyday practices of racism have virtually made it impossible for Indians to lead decent lives in the country. Denial of decent jobs, licenses, contracts and others have prevented Indians from emerging as a dynamic group. Today, working class Indians can only aspire to become coolies in the private sector, drivers for the rich, security guards, office boys, errand boys, sweepers and others.

Upward mobility in the Malaysian racist society is an impossible dream for thousands and thousands of Indians in the working class categories both in plantations and in urban areas.

No human being would want to put up with injustice and discrimination for long. Indians are no exception, there is a definite
limit to where they can be pushed and bullied. They want no special preference, but existence free from injustice, discrimination and cruelty.

Indians have no hostility towards other races, but would want the latter to respect their nationality rights and vice versa. However, they would not want to put up with present situation of extreme racism for too long. Too much time has been wasted in depending on certain political parties within the government for their salvation.

Inalienable rights

There is growing realisation that an independent political course has to be charted for their future in this country. In the near foreseeable future, Indians will have no choice but to fight for their rights and for their rightful place in the Malaysian society. Whether there are political parties in the opposition that will provide Indians with this new vision, leadership and sense of purpose is difficult to gauge at the moment. If the opposition is genuinely interested in taking up the cause of Indians, then a serious attempt should be made to address their nationality rights.

What is particularly significant today is for the emergence of an alternative leadership for Indians, a leadership that will have to be led by Indians with vision to resurrect the status of the community.

A leadership that will take up the struggle of Indians so that they would emerge as a significant national group in the country fully
endowed with their inalienable rights as citizens, free from discrimination, enjoying full rights like other citizens, right to their
mother-tongue education, full access to jobs, education and others.

In short, an alternative organisation for Indians should start by championing the nationality rights which among other things will seek to dismantle the sources of present racism and injustice in the country.

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Copyright 1998 Kumar Soundrapandian

Saturday April 7

OPP3's tasty morsel to fatten the Indian elite
P Ramasamy

12:12pm, Sat: Malaysia is one country where the government never seems to learn from past mistakes. On the contrary, past mistakes are often repeated in new forms so as to prove that the government has never been wrong.

More significantly, one gets the impression that development plans and policies are more intended to satisfy the lust of a few capitalists rather for the improvement of the well-being of Malaysians in general.

The recent introduction of the Third Outline Perspective Plan (OPP3) in parliament by the prime minister is in a way no different from other previous perspective plans. It merely endorses earlier government objectives without recognising some of the dangerous pitfalls of such objectives.

The manner of the plan's introduction without giving the opposition enough time to read smacks of government arrogance and disrespect for the elected representatives in the parliament.

The contents of the development for the next 10 years is but a regurgitation of capitalist solutions that are biased in favour of the
rich and those who have closer connections with the governmental elite.

Foreign scapegoats

Since many of the old objectives have never been met in the country, there has been no attempt on the part of the government
to explain their failure in earlier years. But instead, quite characteristic of the present government, failures of earlier
developmental objectives have been blamed on outside forces. Who are these outside forces and how they spoiled our chances remains a mystery.

We are back to square one now. Objectives hatched in the heat of the New Economic Policy (NEP) have been re-introduced to meet the developmental goals of the next 10 years. Among these objectives, the creation of the 30 percent equity for the bumiputra stands out like a sore thumb.

The basic argument of the government for that particular objective of the NEP, and later the National Development Plan (NDP), not being met is because of the pernicious role of outside forces. Of course, as we are fully aware, no mention is made to examine the internal forces and the role of the government as to why this particular objective failed.

Was it because of the politics of certain political parties, or was it because the government never really intended to create a real
entrepreneurial class of bumiputra in the first place. Or was it because some crony capitalists, by developing a close nexus with
the governmental elite, waylaid the plan?

Capitalist catapult

Despite the hue and cry over the nature of our affirmative action policies, the government seems unfazed. Unlike other countries
where affirmative action programmes are meant to assist the poor and needy, in Malaysia these programmes are meant for individuals and groups who aspire to become capitalists.

Perhaps, this is the reason why the government is continuing to push Malays to take more business and entrepreneurial roles so that they could be constituted within the Malay capitalist class.

Indians who have been largely ignored in development plans in the past were given some recognition recently when it was stated the government would allocate a target of three percent for Indian capital acquisition.

Again, whether this form of affirmative action for the Indian community will help ordinary Indians caught in the vicious circle of
working class existence remains to be seen.

It is really remarkable and yet so sad that it took the government 43 years of existence to recognise that the Indian community needs help. But, tragically, the solution has been sought in purely capitalist terms.

By setting a three percent target for Indian capital acquisition, the government is committing the same folly it did to Malays. There is feeling in high circles that this three percent allocation will somehow magically transform the plight of Indians in the country.

Cronyism revisited

This target is merely meant to appease a small section of the Indian business elite by providing them an affirmative action quota. A handful of Indian economic elite will benefit, but the plight of Indians in the country will remain unchanged for the worse.

Again, like in the case of the Malays, affirmative action for the Indian community is not for the needy and the exploited but for the Indian elite with connections. Another example of cronyism!

Recognition of Indians in the present developmental trajectory is merely symbolic. More specifically, the community as whole and its problems are not recognised but only the need of some Indians for capitalist acquisition.

Beyond this, the present development plan that was ambitiously and arrogantly presented in parliament has nothing in substance for the working class in the country. It does not even pay a lip service to resolve the everyday problems faced by the majority of Malaysians irrespective of their ethnic origins.

Strange belief

There is a strange belief prevalent among the top governmental elite that development policies by taking care of the elite, can take care of the masses.

The most tragic aspect of Malaysian development policies are its racial character. In the past and present, all development policies are predicated on the basis to fulfill ethnic demands and quotas. Without the rejection of racism in our development plans, the government can make no headway in providing its citizens with a sufficient stake in the system.

As long as some ethnic groups feel and think that they are less equal to others, development policies will have no effect in bringing about peace and goodwill among citizens.

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