WHEN Pakatan Harapan took over the administration of our country at the federal level and in many states, those of us who voted for it expected some policy shifts towards a Malaysia where issues and solutions would not be seen from racial lines but purely as Malaysian. This policy shift would eliminate the need for a leader from a particular ethnic community to listen to and solve the problems faced by Malaysians of his/her race.
For more than 60 years, Malaysian Indians had brought their problems to the Malaysian Indian Congress. Being in the minority, they, especially those in the rural and less privileged areas, almost always relied on this channel. I think the divide and rule policy practised by the previous government is the root cause of the neglect of the under-privileged Indians in this country. Civil servants needed evidence of such patronage before they acted on applications and queries from the less privileged in the Malaysian Indian community.
Unfortunately, the Pakatan government has yet to announce how it would be handling issues affecting this community from now on. Currently, many are unsure over who would attend to their problems and solve them.
If every Member of Parliament and Legislative Assembly is tasked to listen to all issues from their constituents irrespective of their ethnicity, then this must be publicly announced. Civil servants must also be instructed to provide service to all Malaysians without political endorsement.
There are four ministers of Indian ancestry in the current Cabinet, which is more than at any time in the history of independent Malaysia. Naturally, Malaysian Indians are expecting these four ministers to listen to their problems and solve them.
But these ministers are, rightly, concentrating on their roles as ministers and are solving problems pertaining to their ministries. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Senator P. Waytha Moorthy seems to be still planning his strategies on policies that affect the minority communities. As such, I don’t think he will be able to address the day-to-day problems of Malaysian Indians at the municipal, district or state level. Thus, leaders at the appropriate levels need to proactively play their roles in this respect.
The fact that only the DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) have a multi-racial membership (Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and Parti Amanah Negara are solely for Malays) does pose problems unless they can all work together as Pakatan members at every level. Even in constituencies that have Bersatu or Amanah representatives, Pakatan parties must work together to help solve problems faced by the minorities.
Currently, there seems to be a vacuum in this respect in most places. And many in such areas who have been accustomed to seeking help from their own ethnic leaders are going back to their ethnic-based political parties.
An important example of a problem that is being highlighted in the Tamil press and Tamil social media is the exorbitant visa charges levied by the Indian government recently on Malaysians who wish to visit India. For those who want to visit India only once a year, the amount is extremely high. Many Malaysian Indians were hoping this matter would be brought up with the Indian government for a solution, as citizens of many other South-East Asian countries can get their visas to visit India virtually without any levy.
This issue does not need an Indian minister to address, as the levy affects all Malaysians. The Foreign Affairs Minister could have easily addressed the matter for the benefit of all Malaysians. This would have sent a strong message to the rakyat on how problems would be solved by the new administration.
Unfortunately, this issue has been there for some time now and emotional appeals are being made by many Indians individually as well as through their organisations. But no one in our government seems to be responding.
There is no deputy Education Minister who would be able to respond to problems of the Tamil primary schools and the teaching and learning of Tamil-related subjects. If indeed the Education Ministry is able to address such issues through the present Minister and his deputy, some announcements should have been made by now on how issues relating to Tamil schools and the teaching of Tamil would be handled, and who are the officers in the Ministry who are responsible for this.
The silence on such matters is baffling, and the ordinary Malaysian Indian feels that Tamil schools and the teaching of Tamil are being marginalised by the new administration. Furthermore, the list of advisors announced by the Education Ministry did not have even one ethnic Malaysian Indian. It’s as though the Tamil school matters could be fairly handled by those without any such background or experience.
It is time to prove that our problems can be solved by Malaysians without factoring in our ethnicity.