THE recent announcement on the rebranding of the Socio-Economic Development of the Indian Community Unit (Sedic) to the Malaysian Indian Transformation Unit (Mitra) is indeed timely.
The unit is focused on addressing development concerns of the poorer sections namely the B40 (low-income) Malaysian Indians.
As one who has been active in the policy development process over the past 20 over years and co-editor of the Contemporary Malaysian Indian book, let me draw some priorities for Mitra over the next two years.
First, the Mitra team will need to review the Malaysian Indian Blueprint 2018 and update the policy thrust to make it consistent with the mid-term review of the Eleventh Malaysia Plan (11MP).
Having a policy document which takes into consideration the Pakatan Harapan manifesto’s special commitment to the Indian community is necessary. This can serve as the framework for action which is based on the inclusive development and wellbeing approach.
Second, adopting a Sustainable Development Goals approach which is comprehensive and with the agenda of “leaving no one behind” will foster greater compliance to the multi-dimensional poverty indicators with a focus on addressing urban poverty and deprivation issues.
Third, Mitra must develop a clear strategy to reach the B40 Malaysian Indians in 38 districts in peninsular Malaysia where 95% of Malaysian Indians live, especially in urban poor neighbourhoods such as high-rise low cost flats, as well as longhouse and squatter settlements, many of which are on former plantation land.
Fourth, it is imperative that Mitra sets up a community consultative committee or council with key representatives from political, religious, social and cultural organisations as well as professional and academic institutions.
Finally, it is important for Mitra and PH MPs in Cabinet and Parliament to review the Cabinet Committee on the Indian Community which is to be chaired by the Prime Minister or his deputy to enhance inter-agency cooperation.
It could be revamped to review all minority concerns or even focus collectively on B40.
There could also be a parliamentary select committee or caucus on minority concerns or poverty and inequality which monitors the delivery of public sector programmes for the socio-economic upliftment of all the vulnerable and disadvantaged communities in Malaysia.
PROF DATUK DR DENISON JAYASOORIA
Principal Research Fellow, Institute of Ethnic Studies, UKM
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