JOHOR BARU: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak urged people of various races to embrace two fundamentals of harmony - work together in a strong bond of friendship and allowing richness of culture to flourish.
The prime minister said the strong bond of friendship would enable the country to overcome any obstacles while the richness of culture would be a force that would portray Malaysia as a culturally diverse country.
Addressing the National Deepavali Open House at Bandaraya Square here, he urged the Indian community to continue to strengthen the strong bond of understanding and cooperation between government and the community that was built over the years through 'nambikei' (trust).
The celebration held by the Tourism and Culture Ministry was attended by Najib's wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel who is also MIC president, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, and Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz.
Najib said cooperation among people of various races would ensure a better quality of life for the present and next generations.
"If the strength of an elephant lies in 'thumbikei' or trunk, the strength of a man lies in 'nambikei' or trust," he said.
The prime minister said the government was committed in fulfilling the pledge made in the 13th general election manifesto to improve the well-being of the Indian community.
He said this could be clearly seen through a number of initiatives such as an additional allocation of RM50mil for Tamil school infrastructure announced in the 2014 Budget.
Najib said RM100mil was also allocated to improve Tamil schools performance and provide skills training for Indian Youths as well as a RM50mil fund for the Indian Entrepreneur Development Scheme (SPUMI) under Tekun Nasional and loans under Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia.
He said many areas in the life of the Indian community were given special attention through various innovative approaches to bring about a positive change to the community.
"For example, from 2009 to 2013, the government has allocated RM560 million for Tamil schools infrastructure development nationwide.
"I am very impressed when informed of the Tamil Schools Future Action Plan that for the past five years the achievement gap among SJKT (Tamil schools) was reduced by 50 per cent while the gap between SJKT and national schools is now less than four per cent," he said.
He said the UPSR National Average Grade for SJKT increased from 2.58 in 2010 to 2.44 in 2011 with similar trends seen in Mathematics achievement from 92.5 per cent in 2011 to 94.1 per cent last year while Science achievement rose to 87.6 percent in 2012.
On entrepreneurship, he said until October this year, more than 19,000 Indian entrepreneurs had received financial assistance amounting to RM227 million, including about 11,000 from Tekun loans amounting to RM137.3 million since SPUMI was established in 2008. - Bernama