Indians banking on Pakatan not to fail them
Dr Mahathir may have been party to earlier problems, but if he wants to improve Malaysia's administration, he needs to be part of the solution as well.COMMENT
By P Ramasamy
The current chairman of Pakatan Harapan (PH) and prime minister candidate Dr Mahathir Mohamad cannot and should not shy away from taking responsibility for the failings of the Malaysian Indian community during his tenure as the prime minister of Malaysia for nearly 22 years.
It is not that he did not do anything for Indians, but the financial and other resources accorded for the development of the Indian community were simply not enough.
Whatever was accorded to the community was hijacked by individuals and groups that had close links with MIC. The Telekom shares accorded t o Maika Holdings is an example.
The current MIC leadership cannot turn around and say that Mahathir failed the community without also putting the blame on their former leader S Samy Vellu for not bravely and honestly addressing the woes of the community. In fact, the entire Barisan Nasional (BN) government during this period must be held responsible for the neglect of the Indians.
At the end of the day, it is not Mahathir alone, but the former MIC leaders including the former president and the current special envoy to South Asia, who must shoulder the blame. In other words, there was failure of the collective leadership. Samy Vellu who once praised Mahathir as a great leader cannot go back on his words just to please Najib Razak.
The BN leadership under Mahathir and Samy Vellu failed to provide the necessary means for the upliftment and progress of the Malaysian Indian community. Since it was collective neglect, it serves no purpose to put the blame on one or tw o individuals for the fundamental neglect of the Malaysian Indian community, a community that has contributed so much in tears, sweat and blood for the development of the country.
Even if Mahathir as the former prime minister diverted funds for the development of the Indian community, a major portion of these funds were never channelled to the needy Indians. MIC must take the blame for this.
Mahathir, as the leader of the present PH coalition, has over the last one year or so spoke about the necessity to obtain Indian support for the coalition. This is the reason why Hindraf has been included as a strategic partner of PH, in hopes that such an inclusion would be able to bring in the much-needed Indian support.
Since Indians have a sizeable presence in about 60 state and parliamentary constituencies in the country, their support could make a difference when it comes to tight contests during the coming general election.
Mahathir, as leader of the prese nt PH coalition which aspires to provide a new political vision for the country, should not shy away from taking responsibility for failing the Indians or any other Malaysians during his term in office.
If he takes responsibility, it will mean courage and fortitude on his part to take ownership of his own failings to ensure that such things will not be repeated if he becomes the prime minister after the 14th general election.
It is not that Mahathir consciously abandoned the Indian community during his tenure in office. The prioritisation of the Malay/Bumiputera agenda forbade any major help, not only for the Indians but also for other non-Muslim communities.
It is not that the entire Bumiputera community benefitted from Mahathirâs policies, either. Given the class bias of pro-Bumiputera policies, it was only natural that the lower segments of the Malay society were not the recipient of economic and social benefits.
While the economic impact on the vari ous communities might have produced different results, the political focus on Malay/Muslim rights at the expense of the rights of non-Malays could have resulted in the polarised situation in ethnic and religious terms.
It was not that Mahathir totally abandoned the Indian community, it was just that their interests were not foremost in the minds of the government of the day.
Furthermore, the feudal nature of MIC, the suppression of the democratic rights of Indians in MIC and the need on the part of MIC leaders like Samy Vellu to maintain a semblance of Indian unity through autocratic means to serve the narrow interests of Umno leaders robbed the Indian community of crucial bargaining power to improve their position.
Whether it was a deliberate omission on the part of Mahathir to have denied Indians their rightful place in the country can be debated. However, deliberate or not, Mahathir or Samy Vellu or other political leaders during this period cannot escape res ponsibility by blaming one or two individuals for Indians taking a backseat in the economic, social and cultural development of the country.
Under PH, Mahathir might be sufficiently reformed to take a broader look at society and decide what is good for it. This is the reason he sought to bring more Indians into the fold of PH. If he becomes the prime minister, he might be well poised to bring about a more inclusive society which is badly need in Malaysia.
A quick glance at the PH manifesto provides some indications that if PH comes to power, the change might be conducive to furthering the aspirations of the Indian community, a community badly neglected by the BN government for more than 60 years.
Mahathir could be party to the problem earlier, but surely if he wants to improve the administration of the country beyond removing Najib, I think he should become part of the solution to the woes of the Malaysian Indian community.
P Ramasamy is Penang deputy chief minister II.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.
Source: Google News