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Jan 16, 2008

The broad view of the problem

A superb comment taken from Lim Kit siang's blog HERE
Jeffrey Says:
Today at 01: 01.16 (39 minutes ago)

Samy Vellu to go in repentance to the Cabinet for marginalisation of Indians? I expect if he really had the guts to say the truth, he would sooner would ask the cabinet/govt of Malaysia dominated by UMNO to repent first instead. As you said, after three decades he is the sole Malaysian Indian Minister in Cabinet, so what voice has he got?

As I said in earlier threads, roughly the elite 20% here control more than 51% of the nation’s wealth; 40% are middle classes and balance of 40% are the down trodden poor of all races (Malay, Indian Chinese in Peninsula) and various groups in East Malaysia.

The 40% bottom rung of all races are neglected by the representatives of UMNO, MCA and MIC in government. Of this UMNO takes the bigger blame since it has dominant say in government policies including NEP, shutting up the rest depending on its little mercies in distribution of crumbs of patronage, whether govt positions or contracts….

The small men are not looked after in overall macro picture of the rural urban drift occurring world wide but in Malaysia there are certain exceptional features:-

- The position of poor rural Malays in this drift is buffered by the FELDA/FELCRA schemes; many stayed behind because they were given agricultural lands which later made them prosperous when they appreciated in values due to development. Those who left countryside and came to towns were employed/absorbed in civil service GLCs controlled by UMNO govt. Even Mat Rempits are given some jobs and perks by govt.

- Although there are also poor Chinese, many Chinese were, in the beginning, not working in countryside (as in padi fields like Malays or rubber plantations as the Indians) but smaller towns in which they owned properties and did some business and had a bit of assets. For those who didn’t, when they drifted to the cities they could still rely on their entrepreneurial culture and habits to eke out a living, for example doing small businesses or peddling VCDs (like Chua Soi Lek DVDs)!

Historically and culturally the Indians had a problem because during Colonial times they were indentured labour, they did not own lands (unlike Malay of their paddy fields and small holdings and Chinese some properties in small towns or small holdings in outskirts).

After independence many Indians still worked in rubber plantations handed down by British but rubber industry phased off in the 1980s and was superseded by palm oil which by then the Malay dominated govt and corporates took control of large tracts of estates taken over from British Sime Darby/Guthrie etc….The Indian workers were displaced from their traditional livelihood at the estates by housing development expanding out from the cities and from advent of cheap foreign labour coming in….

In early 1970s, 80% of Malaysian Indians were still in rural plantations with 20% in cities however now it is a reversal of 80% in the cities/towns with 20% in the plantations/rural areas (Statistics advised to me by senior civil servants).

Amongst the races, the Indians experienced the greatest shift in rural and urban drift and reversal of population and thereby suffered the greatest dislocation and the sharpest pains of adjustment. Their education in plantations did not equip them the skills to prosper in the cities; unlike Malays they had no FELDA/FELCRA’s land schemes to give them a reason to stay back and something to prosper. Unlike the underclass Chinese counterpart who could rely on their cultural entrepreneurial sense to do, for example, VCD business (legal or illegal) in the cities, the Indians evicted from plantations did not have this interest or background. Other Indians dominating civil service in the past (something like 30% at the time after independence) now dwindle to something like 5% in the Civil service when more and more Malays were taken in. So what does one expect these underclass dislocated Indians to do in the cities when they could not eke out a decent living and not given jobs by both Malay and Chinese owned businesses, whether due to lack of skill or prejudice?

Many turn to gangsterism and crime; others loiter around in despair and that is why even though Hindraf organizers had little skills in organizing demonstration, they were surprised that they could rally suddenly so many (30,000?) demonstrators at the moment’s notice!

This phenomenon of rural urban drift, dislocation when many were displaced from the estates happened in span of last 20 – 30 years. No one (other a few academics) had the prescience to take notice to address the potential sociological problem looming ahead for Malaysian Indians.

In these decades, they were neglected by, of course, MIC leaders & Samy Vellu but they were also neglected by UMNO, MCA, Gerakan, DAP and other opposition parties - just about everyone forgetting or unaware of their plight. If there were some in MIC who did, what voice have they got in the government? How many Indian Ministers had been appointed?

UMNO, MCA, Gerakan elites were more interested in developing corporate wealth in the cities (MIC, Maika Holdings, MCA Multipurose, the cooperatives, UMNO North South Highway via UEM, Renong etc!

The particular circumstances of the Indian Community and plight of itsd underclass have been exacerbated by failed government policies; the NEP/FELDA & FELCRA by passed this group that unlike the Chinese underclass do not take so easily to alternative of small businesses in the towns and cities….A culture of Corruption pervading kept the tap of foreign labour open and flowing into the countryside and palm oil plantations to displace some more this group.

Commenter Anba above said the nearest to the truth, that if one wants to blame Samy Vellu, then apportion blame too to the likes of V.T. Sambanthan, Tan Siew Sin, Dr Mahathir and the various PMs for failed government policies and the NEP that instead of restructuring wealth to help the underclass of all races, aggravated the income disparity gap hurting the Indian underclass most extensively, without buffer of land schemes available to Malay underclass and business opportunities to the Chinese underclass.

The rest of Indians (not from rural plantations) are not that marginalized in the comparative sense when one recalls Indians are well or over represented in the professions especially that of law and medicine and amongst the rich there are the likes of Doshi, Gill in the past, Ananthan Krishnan and Tony Fernandez of the present!

Whilst focusing on underclass of Indians brought to attention by Hindraf, we are forgetting another real underclass – the various communities huddled in villages and rivers in Sabah and Sarawak…..

What I have commented here are generalisations taking the broad view of the problem.


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