Malaysian political leaders should encourage Indian Malaysians to work with other ethnic groups to improve their lot rather that having a separate vision for community, says Ronald Benjamin.
It was quite interesting to read an article by Professor P Ramasamy, the Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang, about the tunnel vision of MIC leaders and the subsequent response to the letter by Dr M Saravanan, a member of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC).
To my understanding, both of them have a tunnel vision for the Indian Malaysians as their argument takes an ethno-political slant rather than facing up to the real issues that face Malaysians as a whole.
Any leaders of an organisation who have an ethnic-centred vision for its community within a class structure are shooting themselves in the foot, because a society that has become ethnically conscious, as reflected in the social-economic demands, would not able to go far if there is a lack of collective struggle that goes beyond ethnic sentiments.
All ethnic groups within a class structure have to work out collective strategy that opposes injustice and comes up with solutions that work for the common good of the nation. Prominent Indian Malasyian politicians have been hoodwinking the Indian Malaysian community for a long time with a narrow ethnic-centred vision that has not produced the desired results.
What is interesting here is that Professor Ramasamy’s mode of social justice revolves around the injustice of Umno hegemony while Dr Saravanan tries to express positive vibes on the programmes that have been put forth for the Indian Malaysian community by the MIC that according to him are showing some results.
The question is, would the end of Umno hegemony alone bring about justice to Indian Malaysians? What about the private sector? Does ethnic discrimination take place even in the private sector? There may be different salary payments for the same jobs done by workers of different ethnic backgrounds.
In terms of the managerial function in organisations, there are certain positions subtly reserved for a certain ethnic group. Politicians do not bring this real issue to the public because their constituencies are made up of this ethnic group who form the backbone of their supporters.
If there is Malay hegemony in certain sectors, there is also Chinese hegemony in certain sectors. People are sometimes paid not based on merit, but on certain ethnic prejudice.
The question is, why is there silence when discrimination takes place in the private sector? Why is there a lack of research done to ascertain the extent of this? Have Professor Ramasamy and Dr Saravanan done any research on this subject?
Saravanan’s thinking that entrepreneurship or business alone will resolve the Indian Malaysian problem is a kind of tunnel vision that is laughable. As in all communities, not every individual is entrepreneurial.
To date, I have not seen a single MIC member or so-called professors who work within the framework of the Barisan National ideology speaking about the narrative of ordinary Indian Malaysian workers who work in factories, hotels, and restaurants as well as contract workers who work for unscrupulous agents.
Quite a number of contract workers are paid very low wages without Social Security Organisation (Socso) and Employees Provident Fund (EPF) deductions.
This brings about a larger question of the type of economic system the political elites in Malaysia have embraced – which has allegedly enriched a few and weakened the purchasing power of the middle class with taxes like the Goods and Services Tax (GST) that have brought about an increase in the cost of living.
Larger issues not part of the political struggle?
What about the environment? Are not Indian Malaysians also affected by environmental pollution that affects their health? These are larger issues that not been part of the political struggle of either Professor Ramasamy and Dr Saravanan.
Both of them have not addressed the unjust neo-liberal economic system that has tilted wealth and power to wealthy elites of all ethnic groups who are linked to the current Barisan National ruling regime that has marginalised the working class.
Professor Ramasamy and Dr Saravanan should instead encourage the Indian Malaysian community, the majority of whom are from the middle and working class, to work with other ethnic groups within the class structure to improve their lot rather that having a separate vision for the community that would not work in the current political, economic and social structure that has been ethnically constructed within a context of an unjust neoliberal economic system.
We have break the old mould and replace it with a new social-economic mould that addresses issues as Malaysian issues which have depth, substance and in a holistic manner, rather than irrational sentiments of Indian, Malay or Chinese issues. This requires a broad understanding of power structures and social-economic injustice which have global as well as domestic roots.
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