THE recently concluded MIC annual general meeting and party elections, especially for the vice-presidents and the central working committee (CWC), showed that there is a lot of dynamism within the party.
Eight people contested for three posts of vice-presidents while 88 aspirants fought for 23 CWC seats.
Party elections are a good avenue to analyse the culture of democracy within the party and to gauge political support among its members.
During the 67th MIC AGM, the newly elected leaders provide a new opportunity for the party to renew its commitment to the people for effective delivery of services as well as the protection of their fundamental human rights within Malaysian society.
There are many urgent tasks ahead. The president, in his speech, had identified the major issues and concerns of the community and called for greater intervention from the Government to address these concerns pertaining to education and scholarships, business development, improving equity ownership and more opportunities in the civil service.
The issue of urban poverty and the plight of displaced plantation communities in urban high-rises and low-cost flats did not seem to be high on priority in the redevelopment agenda. This section of the Indian community is the most needy and most neglected and vulnerable.
It is significant that Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak recognises the shift of support from the Indian community towards the Barisan compared with the 2008 elections.
The Prime Minister in his speech made a clear commitment of delivery to address the urgent concerns.
He indicated that there has been progress since 2009 when he took over the government leadership.
He noted that it is still “work in process”.
He called on MIC leaders to engage with the community with greater intensity and also reveal the services undertaken.
His challenge for the leadership was for them to be at the grassroots winning hearts and minds through effective services.
What, then, are the gaps and how can MIC strengthen its role in society before GE14?
>The MIC leadership must utilise this opportunity since the Prime Minister has given so much attention directly to Indian concerns.
This is a departure from the pre-2008 approach where the focus was community-based. MIC must build on this and work harder for effective delivery and enlarge the numbers impacted through these initiatives.
>The MIC leadership must get the Cabinet Committee on the Indian Community to meet again as this committee is chaired by the Prime Minister. It must be the concern of the whole Cabinet, especially in matters that the Prime Minister has made public commitments.
Many Indians feel that when they apply or go to the front desk of an agency, they will be rejected due to the colour of their skin. This could be only a perception, but it must be addressed through a civil service which is just and fair to all communities irrespective of ethnic, religious or gender differences.
In this context, the PM established three specific teams with a focus on Tamil schools. These should be strengthened and specific targets established to enhance delivery.
> This Cabinet committee must also address the MOU signed with Hindraf in the run-up to GE13.Therefore, the delivery of these is as important as the many fresh requests made at the 67th MIC AGM.
The MIC leadership must adopt a more progressive approach in recognising other stakeholders and partners who are working closely with the PM on similar matters.
> Third, there is an urgent need for a National Social Dialogue Process within the Indian community. The MIC leadership must take the lead to organise such dialogues or request a think tank or university to facilitate this.
> Fourth, the MIC leadership must adopt a human rights approach to inclusive development. A rights framework which is built on fair and equitable access to resources based on human need is essential.
In this context, MIC must join others to make it its national agenda for the Federal Government to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and also the International Convention against Torture.
> Fifth, the MIC president announced the establishment of a political leadership development centre. The intellectual capital is necessary where young Indians are built up with the knowledge and communication tools on contemporary issues and concerns not just affecting the Indian community but the nation as a whole.
Building a new generation of Indian politicians who have a national Malaysian perspective and strong values for human rights, good governance, and inclusive development is of utmost importance.
This is a tall order but Datuk G. Palanivel now has the opportunity and a new team to undertake this task.
It is essential to build the leadership team in the post-party elections period and move on to resolve the real concerns at the grassroots.
DATUK DR DENISON JAYASOORIA