MINISTER in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim recently lashed out at certain quarters from among the Indian community for constantly criticising the Government over its policies for the community.
He urged the more successful members of the community to help those who were not as successful instead of focusing their efforts on fault finding.
Shahidan also stated that while Indians in Malaysia had a high ratio of academic excellence, there was still a large gap within the social strata of the community itself.
Understandably, when such a statement comes from a person of different ethnicity, the feathers among the Indian community would surely be ruffled.
I, for one, tend to agree with the minister. It is a known fact that Malaysian Indians often see themselves as oppressed and not given the same opportunities that other Malaysians have been given.
While there is no denying that there is growing poverty and social problems among the Indians, particularly in Peninsular Malaysia, the community should never see themselves as being marginalised or oppressed.
It would be fair to say that all ethnicities have their rich and their poor. It would also be fair to say that in Malaysia, the poor of all ethnicities at least still have access to basic healthcare and education.
Let me make this clear — aid and opportunities should never be provided based on a person’s ethnicity.
The success of a community should come from within the members themselves and how they make the most of the opportunities that are already provided.
Having to “survive” on handouts is not something we should be proud of.
The first step to achieving success is to truly unite as a community. We should first look at our own mindset before we point fingers trying to place the blame of our failures.
In his keynote address entitled “The Malaysian Indian in the New Millennium” delivered at the Millennium Conference for Malaysian Indians, Prof Datuk Dr CP Ramachandran pointed out that the wide disparity that existed today within the Indian community here was a reality deeply rooted in the history of Indian migration to Malaysia, euphemistically referred to as “labour” and “non-labour” migrations.
He went on further to elaborate and also cite K.S. Sandhu’s work on Indian migration to Malaysia: “Herein lay the roots of the mindset of the middle-class Malaysian Indians of today.
“A mindset steeped in sublime ignorance and blind arrogance, even to the point of denying the very roots of our common genetic and ethnic heritage.
“A mindset that readily identified with the ruling class to subjugate and lord-over our downtrodden brethren. This same mindset persists today in the way we view ourselves.”
The bottom line is, the Indians in the country are a disunited lot, each one looking out for his own interest.
The problem persists even within the small Indian community in Sarawak.
The socioeconomic problems faced by the Indian community as a whole today are the result of this mentality which has lead to Indians being featured highest in negative statistics such as high percentage of school dropouts and high incidences of alcoholism and gangsterism.
At the same time, Indians in Malaysia constitute to about 15.5 % of professionals in the country and undoubtedly contributed to nation building.
According to Prof Ramachandran, the figure includes doctors (28.4%), lawyers (26.8%), dentists (21%), veterinary surgeons (28.5%), engineers (6.4%), accountants (5.8%), surveyors (3.0%) and architects (1.5%).
Today, there is also a growing number of businessmen from among the Indian community.
Yes, these success stories may have come without the aid of the Government, but the time has come for the Indian community to change their mindset, and move towards being independent.
We can only do this by becoming more involved and adopt a change in mindset.
We can emulate our Chinese brothers, who have all these years realised the importance of knowledge, hard work, toil and sweat needed to become successful in life, without harping on the need for government handouts.
I leave you with this quote from Prof Ramachandran: “We are all Indians. Whatever the precise shade of our complexions or shape of our noses, those outside the community perceive us, as Indians.
“We should not be ashamed of belonging to the Indian community. We have a common value system born in the cradle of the Indian civilisation.
“We come from one of the oldest civilisations in the world and this behoves us to carry ourselves with dignity and distinction.”