There seems to be an incorrect perception, especially among the international community, that Malaysia is on the road to becoming a developed nation and that “all is well” as far as minority rights and human rights are concerned.
Less attention is given to issues concerning discrimination, victimisation and fundamental rights violations against the ethnic minority Malaysian-Indian community in Malaysia.
Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world where the affirmative action plan is almost exclusively for the benefit of the richer majority community and not for the poorer minorities.
Ethnic minority Malaysian-Indians form about 8% of the population. They were brought to Malaysia by the British over 150 years ago. After gaining independence in 1957, this community became an underprivileged minority and a group of fourth class citizens.
1. KG.MEDAN GENOCIDE
The genocide against the innocent and unarmed people of Kg Medan in 2001 left 100 over killed and/or seriously injured. The Malaysian Human Rights Commission refused to hold an inquiry and the State refused to hold a Royal Commission of Inquiry. The courts and office of the Attorney General refused to hold inquests into the deaths - contrary to article 5 of the Federal Constitution and section 339 of the criminal procedure code. Worst still, no proper compensation was awarded to the victims, although 112.5billionRM was approved in the 2004 budget.
2. UNIVERSITY INTAKE
University intake for Indians declined from more than 10% in 1970 to 5.2% in 2003. In 2004 a meritocracy system was introduced, but it turned out to be “meritocracy without merits”. Hundreds of poor ethnic minority Malaysian-Indian students were deprived of their right to education. Matriculation courses for entry into public universities are almost exclusively for the majority community.
3. MEDICAL SEATS
Medical seats for Malaysian-Indians in the University of Malaya were reduced by 98% from 16 seats in 2001 to only one seat in 2003. This in effect means that almost 1.8 million Indians compete for just one medical seat at this university. When increasing numbers of Indian students opted to study overseas, in June 2005, the state took steps to curb this trend. The medical degrees from the Crimea state university were no longer derecognized, although the reasons for this decision are questionable. The status of medical degrees from universities which accept significant levels of Malaysian-Indian students is also currently up for review.
4. TAMIL SCHOOLS
80% of the 523 Tamil schools (ethnic minority Malaysian-Indian schools) are in dilapidated state with almost no sports, recreational, computer and library facilities, which are accorded to national schools. Although primary school education is compulsory by law, Tamil schools do not receive full government aid. About 95% of Tamil schools do not have kindergartens: 99% of national schools do.
5. HINDU TEMPLE DEMOLISHMENT
In Malaysia, a temple is unlawfully demolished by the authorities every three weeks There have been reported cases of policemen torching, throwing molotov cocktails or simply bulldozing temples.
6. MAJORITARIAN RULE THROUGH CIVIL SERVICE
Discrimination against Malaysian-Indians in employment in the civil service sectors is evident. Figures indicate that Indian participation in the civil service has reduced from about 40% in 1957 to about 2% in 2003. Of this 2%, the majority work in the clerical and industrial manual group. There is no equal opportunity for promotions.
7. NO BUSINESS LICENCES / OPPORTUNITIES
Few or no business or commerical licences are given to Malaysian-Indians, and as a result only 1% of Indians participate in the country’s economic wealth. Moreover, rumours indicate that this 1% is largely the result of the contributions of one state sponsored Indian millionaire.
8. VICTIMISATION BY POLICE
Studies have revealed that Indians form about 60% of innocent people shot dead by the police, 60 % of innocent people dying in police custody, and 60% of detainees in police lockups and detention centres.
9. NO EFFECTIVE LEGAL AID
Of those detained, almost 95% of them plead guilty when they may not necessarity be guilty. Most of the crimes they commit are poverty related. They cannot afford legal fees and there is no effective legal aid system.
10. LOWEST PER CAPITA
Studies have revealed that Indians have the lowest per capita income at 1000.00RM per month. The national per capita income is estimated at 14,954RM in the 2004 budget. Therefore, Indians are about 95% below the national average. In reality, many Indian families earn a meagre RM450.00 per month
11. ABUSE OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN
Everyday Indian women and children are victims of abuse. For instance, during an interrogation at Rawang police station, an Indian lady was ordered to perform oral sex on another detainee. Her husband and daughter were stripped naked before her. She was told that her 18year old daughter would be raped. Another 14year old boy was arrested from his house, and while in police custody, ordered to do 150 push ups. When he stopped after 20 he was kicked by police and his leg was broken.
12. LABOUR CLASS
80% of ethnic Malaysian-Indians are laborers, Industrial Manual Group workers, office boys, security guards, public toilet cleaners, general workers, road sweepers, beggars, squatters, criminals, gangsters.
13. ETHNIC MALAYSIAN INDIAN
POOR Indians form 60% of urban squatters and 41% of beggars. About 80% this community is in the poor or very poor bracket.
14. POVERTY AMONG ESTATE WORKERS / LABOURERS
54% of Malaysian-Indians work as plantation or urban underpaid laborers.
15. PATHETIC MONTHLY WAGES
The state has placed a cap of 325.00RM per month on the monthly salaries of plantation workers and of 350.00RM per month for rubber tappers.
16. POOR STUDENTS
200million RM was allocated to assist poor students to continue with their education but it is estimated that hardly 1% of Indians actually benefit.
16. EMERGENCE OF A NEW ETHNIC MALAYSIAN INDIAN CRIMINAL CLASS
Poverty and lack of opportunity leads to high Indian involvement in crime. There is a high incidence of slashings and killings among the Indian community.
The rapid development of large plantations has resulted in the displacement of plantation workers, who are then forced to become squatters. The squats are then in turn demolished to make way for more developments.
18. ORPHANS / OLD FOLKS
The majority of orphanages and old folks homes are filled Indians - a clear indicator of poverty they suffer.
19. SKILLS TRAINING
Access to even the lowest-level skills training institutions are withheld from Indians, which leads to the majority remaining as unemployed or unskilled workers. Even at the NTS Arumugam Pillai Institute, which was built with the help of the South Indian Labour Fund, not one Malaysian-Indian student was admitted in the first round offers.
20. UNCARING INDIAN PROFESSIONALS / BUSINESSMEN.
Indian professionals and businessmen do not care or ignore the real problems befalling on their community, perhaps in an attempt to appear as “multi-racial” or “non racist”
21. NO INDEPENDENT MEDIA
The print and electronic media gives little attention to the discrimination, victimisation and violations of human rights suffered by the Indian community. The media too plays to the majority and prefers to highlight “majoritarian isssues”.
22. LEAST ATTENTION BY THE, OPPOSITION PARTIES NGOS’ AND CIVIL SOCIETY.
As the Indian community is politically, economically and internationally insignificant even the opposition parties, NGOs and civil society groups generally give them little attention.
23. UNDOCUMENTED ETHINC MINORITY MALAYSIAN INDIANS
Despite 48 years of Independence, there are still thousands of Malaysian-Indians who remain undocumented without birth certificates, identity cards, marriage certificates. This in effect precludes and excludes them from even the official primary school structure, sectors of the formal job market and business community.
24. THE MALAYSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION AND THE ROYAL POLICE COMMISSION REFUSE TO REPORT THE TRUTH
The Malaysian Human Rights Commission and the Royal Police Commission have continuously refused to report even the most serious violations of human rights by the state against this community. For example, the Kg.Medan genocide, of the killings of suspects death in police custody and the holding at gunpoint of a human rights lawyer.
25. INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY?
The majority of cases against the state which relate to violations against the Malaysian-Indians are dismissed without a hearing.
26. INDEPENDENT ATTORNEY GENERAL?
The attorney general has shown bias in many instances including, prosecuting lawyers for defending the rights of the Indian community, failing to initiate inquests into custodial deaths and avoiding prosecuting authorities
27. GOVERNMENT BODIES / INSTITUTIONS NOT INDEPENDENT
Almost all government institutions and services are biased in favour of the government and have been known to have engaged in “cover ups” against the people.
28. HIGHEST SUICIDE RATE
Indians have the highest suicide and divorce rates in the country.
29. NO FUNDING FOR NON PRO-GOVERNMENT NGOs
No funding is granted to NGOs which are not pro-government.
30. FEAR FACTOR
This community as a result of years of oppression and suppression is riddled with fear. They are fearful to stand up for even the worst form of violations, victimisation, discrimination and human rights abuses perpetrated against them.
From Azly Rahman: Plea for Malaysian Indians: Read here for more in Malaysiakini
The Indians in Malaysia have all the right to ask for reparation and even most importantly they have the rights as rightful citizens of Malaysia to demand for equality and equal opportunity as such accorded to the ‘bumiputera’.
Every Malaysian must be given such rights.
Failure to do so we will all be guilty of practising neo-colonialism and we will one day be faced with similar issue of reparation; this time marginalised Malaysians against the independent government of Malaysia.
How are we going to peacefully correct the imbalances if we do not learn from the history of international slavery, labour migration and human labour trafficking that, in the case of Hindraf, involved millions of Tamils from Tamil Nadu province?
I once wrote a piece calling for all of us to help the least privileged of our fellow Malaysians - the Indians. The piece called for the leaders to stop fighting and to help each other as well.
I wrote a passage on the need to help each other in the spirit of selflessness and collaboration:
“It is time for the other races to engage in serious and sincere gotong-royong to help the poorest of the poor among the Indians.
The thought that the top 10 percent of the richest Malaysians are earning more than 20 times compared to the 90 percent of the population is terrifying.
What has become of this nation that promised a just distribution of wealth at the onset of Independence?"
Not a Hindu problem
Now we have a better scenario - we have the rights group that is beginning to pull together,-close ranks and demand for their basic human rights that have been denied.
Not only their rights to be accorded places of worship and economic justice, but also the rights to look at history and ourselves and interrogate what actually happened and who actually was responsible for the misery, desolation and sustained abject poverty to which they have been subjected.
It is not a Hindu problem - it is universal problem that cuts across race and religion. If we believe in what religion has taught us about human dignity and the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity, we will all be speaking in one voice rallying for those who demand for their rights to live with dignity.
In Hindraf, I believe there are Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Catholics, atheists, Buddhists, Sikhs, Bahais, Jains, etc rallying for the cause. In other words there are human beings speaking up for peace and social justice. It is the right of every Malaysian to lend support to their demands.
We have let the Indians in Malaysia suffer for too long. We ought to have a programme of affirmative action in place. We ought to have a sound programme for alleviation of poverty for the Indians and radically improve their conditions through political action, education and cultural preservation. We ought to extract the enabling aspects of culture though and perhaps reconstruct the our understanding of the relationship between culture and human progress.
But can the current political paradigm engineer a solution to the problems of the Malaysian Indians, as long as politics - after 50 years - is still British colonialist-imperialist-oppressive in nature?
We have evolved into a sophisticated politically racist nation, hiding our discriminatory policies with the use of language that rationalises what the British imperialists brutally did in the open.
How do we come together, as Malaysians, as neo-bumiputeras free from false political-economic and ideological dichotomies of Malays versus non-Malays, bumi versus non-bumi and craft a better way of looking at our political, economic, social, cultural, psychological and spiritual destiny - so that we may continue to survive as a species for the next 50 years?
As a privileged Malaysian whose mother tongue is the Malay language and as one designated as a bumiputera, I want to see the false dichotomies destroyed and a new sense of social order emerging, based on a more just form of linguistic play designed as a new Merdeka game plan.
Think Malaysian - we do not have anything to lose except our mental chains. We have a lot to gain in seeing the oppressed be freed from the burden of history; one that is based on the march of materialism. We are essentially social beings, as Einstein would emphasise. Our economic design must address the socialism of existence.
Let us restructure of policies to help the Indian Malaysians - they are our lawful citizens speaking up for their fundamental rights. Let us help restructure the lives of the poor before they restructure the lives of the rich.