Tuesday April 10 Malaysiakini
Tamil schools, sacrificial lambs
of a political agenda
Prof P Ramasamy
12:17pm, Tue: Of late, discourses on the nature and development
of Indian community in Malaysia have invariably touched on the issue
of Tamil schools in the country. One view is that Tamil schools given
the poor performance of students, their lack of modern facilities, their
location in the interior and others are hindering the progress of the
Adherents of this view feel strongly that Tamil schools
should be gradually phased out in the coming years. Another view examines
the schools' system form a cultural and emotional point of view.
It is argued that since Tamil is rich in meaning and
ideas; some even go the extent of saying that learning and understanding
Tamil might unlock answers for future problems!
The above two positions on the future of Tamil and Tamil
schools is untenable for a number of reasons. The first view that regards
Tamil schools as the source of the problems is a very simplistic and
naive one to say the least.
Tamil schools themselves do not constitute a cause rather
their existence is the effect of how the Indian community has developed
over the years. In other words, the state of Tamil schools and their
poor performance is nothing but a reflection of the political, social
and economic position of the Indian community.
Today, if the community is developed and self-sustaining,
the Tamil schools' system would have been quite dynamic, something like
the Chinese schools. But because the community is poor and deprived
in many ways, the Tamil school system has also suffered as a consequence.
This particular approach rather than examining the political
economy of the Tamil educational system, tends to focus merely on those
effects that have been caused by the interplay of larger societal forces.
Apart from basic theoretical flaws, this approach tends
to underestimate the political dangers in pursuing this kind of reasoning.
Calling for termination of Tamil schools not only deprives the Indian
community of its nationality right to learn and speak the language but
also undermines the deep emotional and cultural attachment the community
has for the language.
Such attachment is no different from what the Chinese,
Malays and other nationalities have for their respective languages.
The question here: why should Indians alone be told to sacrifice their
language and their school system?
Beyond this, the proponents of this view do not have
any scientific basis for the rejection of the Tamil school system. It
is merely an assertion among some sections of the middle and upper middle
class who have a simplistic understanding of the plight of the Indian
community. Some of them do not even the speak the language and are even
shy to admit that they are Tamils in the first place.
The real issue is something else; the colossal failure
on their part not to acknowledge the real problems faced by Indians
having their roots in the racial policy of divide and rule.
The other popular argument is the way the language is
very often exalted to a point of insanity. While Tamils should be proud
of their language, there is not reason to deny the importance of other
languages as well.
Pursuing the kind of argument to its extreme only makes
a mockery of the Tamil language. Tamil is no different from other languages
in terms of its historical greatness. But beyond this, it is merely
a mother tongue to millions of Tamils around the world.
While nobody should deny Tamils the right to learn and
speak their mother tongue, the language itself is not superior or inferior
to other languages. Like others, it has grown and developed in its various
aspects as result of the interaction of various people in the world.
To say that the language has a secret that is waiting
to be unlocked actually contributes to nothing but merely to highlight
chauvinism on the part of some members of the community.
For the Indian community in Malaysia, Tamil language
constitutes an integral part of its existence and identity. No sane
member of the community would want to part with this right, immaterial
of the costs of sustenance.
Rather than blaming the language and its school system,
we should first find out why the community and its school system has
suffered over the years. Is it because of the inaction on the part of
the government or is it because on the inability on the part of the
Indian elite to provide the kind of representation for the community
over the years?
There is really nothing wrong with the language or the
Tamil school system. The real problem lies in the nature and manner
of the un-development of the Indian community over the last 43 years
The non-interest shown by the government in addressing
the fundamental problems of the community is the real reason why
Indians have become marginalised in the country.
The Tamil school system is one particular aspect of this
marginalisation and there are others. Unless and until comprehensive
policies are devised to deal with the whole range of issues, groups
and communities without the power of numbers would have a dim prospect
of progress in the country.
To call for the termination of the Tamil school system
would really mean playing into the hands of racists who have been long
arguing that the vernacular system in the country is the main reason
for the lack of national integration.
As we are more than aware, the real reason for the lack
of racial integration in the country is the racial policy of the BN
regime that refuses to acknowledge the equality of all races in the
Malays hold the trump card for
Dr Ananthan Krishnan
3:48pm, Tue: I admire the audacity of Prof P Ramasamy
for his recent comments in his article OPP3's tasty morsel to fatten
Indian elite (April 7). Truth will bear ample testimony to this platitude,
I cannot but agree to his logical argument, particularly on
the plight of the Indian Malaysians and the effect of capitalistic approaches
on the socio-economic status of the marginalised
predominantly labour community.
Capitalists, to a large extent, can survive if there
is an exploitable, subservient working labour class. Colonial imperialists
created this large pool of menial workers by importing South Indians
of the Dravidian origin, reputed for their servility, a by-product of
the pernicious caste system of the Arya Brahmin clergy.
These Indians were the preferred 'commodity' to maximise
profit and minimise labour cost. Notable among the characteristics of
this group were: unquestioned loyalty to the capitalistic feudal barons,
willing obedience to the orders of the boss, content with what they
earn and non-rebellious nature against the authorities even if the latter
are wrong! Hence the Indians were the perfect models of a working class.
Silenced, oppressed and ignored , these Indians were
trapped in their own niche, relying only on the news and information
dished out by the colonialist, who guarded the precious servility with
undiminished vigour. The British feudal barons ensured these labourers
did not change for the better.
After independence in 1957, the power changed hands from
the British to the Alliance, also led by elites. Capitalism continued
unabated, now controlled by the Umno Alliance feudal barons.
MIC, which became a party to the Alliance, derived its
seminal inspiration from the Indian Congress, a party created largely
by the Indian Aryans (Gandhi was from the Kashtriya class, next to the
all-powerful Brahmin clergy class). MIC's early leaders were from the
professional and business class, hence MIC inherited the feudal-like
class and caste-based culture; even today this culture is discreetly
preserved by the MIC leaders.
There was very little chance for the Indian labour class
to break out from the fetters of feudalism: They did not have the education,
the audacity, or the spirit. Only when labour unions started to become
a potent force, thanks to communism, that the Indians started to demand
for better deals with their feudal barons.
But they were never successful: The RM325 per month minimum
salary for estate workers of the new third millennium bears ample testimony
to this misery.
Racism, feudalism and capitalism were the triple curses
that kept the Indians in darkness. Misled by the fallacy of the high
per capita income of Malaysia, with a few Indian tycoons blowing their
trumpets, the lay Indians remained mesmerised, unable to mount a struggle
against the mighty capitalistic giants who, having tasted the pleasures
of worldly riches and power, never wanted to lose their heaven on earth.
Until now there is hardly any reasonable avenue for the
majority of the Indians to emancipate from the clutches of economic
tyranny of the oppressed culture. Unless racism in politics is abandoned
and there is fair distribution of the nation's wealth to all races,
it will be a bleak future for the Indians.
A three percent stake for the Indians in the OPP3, as
what Prof Ramasamy says, will be a political rhetoric, just to excite
and silence the Indians, giving them the usual false hope, which the
Umno-Barisan Nasional coalition has been doing since independence.
A new worldview, which transcends the primitive limitations
of race and creed, must be created, nurtured and established. Only when
the Malays interact with the Indians, without prejudice, bring them
into the mainstream of politics, will we be able to see a
The Malays hold the trump card for the Indians, they
must shed all negative feelings and fear, mingle and mix, share power,
and engage in the decision-making process with the Indians. This can
only be made possible by a multiethnic Malay-based party.
Thank God the Malays took the bold step to create Keadilan, a ray of
hope for the Indians.
Let the Indians seize the opportunity, strike when the
iron is hot, move in with the new age Malays, build a new multiethnic
political culture and claim their rights, and forge ahead with their
urge to emancipate from the fetters of feudal dominion.
The civilising process supports the cohesion of the peoples
of the world. Racism becomes an evil force in this process. Indians
must discard narrow racism which has hindered their progress and step
ahead with the new age Malays who have decided to embark on the road
to a more advanced multiethnic politics.